Things Fall Apart Essay Questions and Notes for Grade 11

Things Fall Apart Essay Questions and Notes for Grade 11:

Questions and Answers

Essay Question:

Question 1:

In a carefully planned essay of 350–400 words (11⁄2–2 pages) in length, critically discuss to what extent the title of the novel is reflected in Okonkwo’s life and the lives of the villagers.

Short Question:

Question 2:

Read the extracts below and then answer the questions that follow:

Okonkwo’s prosperity was visible in his household. He had a large compound enclosed by a thick wall of red earth. His own hut, or obi, stood immediately behind the only gate in the red walls. Each of his three wives had her own hut, which together formed a half moon behind the obi. The barn was built against one end of the red walls, and long stacks of yam stood out prosperously in it. At the opposite end of the compound was a shed for the goats, and each wife built a small attachment to her hut for the hens. Near the barn was a small house, the ‘medicine house’ or shrine where Okonkwo kept the wooden symbols of his personal god and of his ancestral spirits. He worshipped them with sacrifices of kola nut, food and palm-wine, and offered prayers to them on behalf of himself, his three wives and eight children.

So when the daughter of Umuofia was killed in Mbaino, Ikemefuna came into Okonkwo’s household. When Okonkwo brought him home that day he called his most senior wife and handed him over to her.

‘He belongs to the clan,’ he told her. ‘So look after him.’

‘Is he staying long with us?’ she asked.

‘Do what you are told, woman,’ Okonkwo thundered, and stammered, ‘When did you become one of the ndichie of Umuofia?’

And so Nwoye’s mother took Ikemefuna to her hut and asked no more questions.

As for the boy himself, he was terribly afraid. He could not understand what was happening to him or what he had done. How could he know that his father had taken a hand in killing a daughter of Umuofia? All he knew was that a few men had arrived at their house, conversing with his father in low tones, and at the end he had been taken out and handed over to a stranger. His mother had wept bitterly, but he had been too surprised to weep. And so the stranger had brought him, and a girl, a long, long way from home, through lonely forest paths. He did not know who the girl was, and he never saw her again.

  1. Briefly relate how Okonkwo’s visible prosperity (line 1) is the result of his upbringing and single-mindedness.
  2. Describe Okonkwo’s character as it is revealed in lines 1–11.
  3. Explain why Ikemefuna was brought to Okonkwo’s household.
  1. Refer to lines 15–19. What do you understand about the relationship between Okonkwo and his most senior wife (line 14)? (3)
  2. Ikemefuna could not understand what was happening to him or what he had
    done (lines 20–21). To what extent does Ikemefuna’s bewilderment reflect
    the way in which Okonkwo expects his wife to accept his decision? (3)
  3. Explain how the lonely forest paths (line 26) that Ikemefuna walks on his
    way to Umuofia are an ominous sign.

Watch: Things Fall Apart | Essay Topic Breakdown

Things Fall Apart | Essay Topic Breakdown

Things Fall Apart Book Summary

Things Fall Apart is set in a fictional group of Igbo villages called Umuofia, around the beginning of the twentieth century. The first half of the novel is dedicated to an almost anthropological depiction of Igbo village life and culture through following the life of the protagonist Okonkwo. Okonkwo is the greatest wrestler and warrior alive in the nine villages and beyond. He has dedicated his life to achieving status and proving his strength to avoid becoming like his father Unoka – a lazy, improvident, but gentle man. Weakness is Okonkwo’s greatest fear. After men in another village kill a woman from Umuofia, a boy named Ikemefuna is given to Umuofia as compensation and lives in Okonkwo’s compound until the Gods decide his fate. Ikemefuna quickly becomes part of Okonkwo’s family; he is like a brother to Okonkwo’s son Nwoye and is secretly loved by Okonkwo as well. Over the next three years, the novel follows Okonkwo’s family through harvest seasons, religious festivals, cultural rituals, and domestic disputes. Okonkwo is shown to be more aggressive than other Igbo men and is continually criticized and rebuked by the village for his violence and temper. When the Oracle of the Hills and Caves decides that Ikemefuna must be killed, Okonkwo is warned by a respected elder to have no hand in the boy’s death because Ikemefuna calls him ‘father’. However, afraid of being thought weak, when Ikemefuna runs to Okonkwo in hope of protection, Okonkwo delivers the fatal blow. Ikemefuna’s brutal death deeply distresses Nwoye who becomes afraid of his father. 

At the end of Part One, Okonkwo accidentally kills a clansman at a funeral after his faulty gun explodes and is exiled to his motherland, Mbanta. During his exile, British missionaries arrive in Mbanta and establish a church. Nwoye, disillusioned with his own culture and Gods after Ikemefuna’s death, is attracted to Christianity and is an early convert. This is a heartbreaking disappointment to Okonkwo. When Okonkwo and his family return from exile after seven years they find that the missionaries and colonial governors have established Umuofia as the center of their new colonial government. Clashes of culture and morality occur, and as the British make the Igbo more dependent on them through introducing trade and formal education, the Igbo way of life is continually undermined. When a Christian convert unmasks an egwugwu during a tribal ritual, a sin amounting to the death of an ancestral spirit, the egwugwu burn down the village church. The men who destroyed the church are arrested and humiliated by the District Commissioner, and Okonkwo beheads a court messenger at a village council in rebellion. When none of his clansmen rise with him against the British, Okonkwo realizes his culture and way of life is lost and commits suicide in despair. Suicide is a crime against the Earth Goddess, Ani, so Okonkwo is left to rot above ground in the Evil Forest, like his father Unoka – a shameful fate he spent his life desperate to avoid. The final paragraph, written from the perspective of the District Commissioner, reduces Okonkwo’s life to a single sentence about his death in his planned book The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of The Lower Niger. Achebe has filled an entire novel with evidence of the complexity and sophistication of Okonkwo’s individual and social life and the District Commissioner’s casual dismissal and belittling of him causes us to flinch with horror and dismay. This is a metaphor for the reduction of Igbo culture in the eyes of its colonizers. 

The title gives away the plot of the novel and anticipates the collapse of Okonkwo and his society. Things Fall Apart is about the connection between the tragic downfall of Okonkwo, who fate and temperamental weakness combine to destroy, and the destruction of his culture and society as the Igbo way of life is assailed by forces they do not understand and are unprepared to face. 

Things Fall Apart Character Analysis

Okonkwo

Okonkwo is a man who values masculinity, strength, and respect above all else. He is seen as a leader within his clan and his family, which includes three wives and a number of children. A man of action, Okonkwo overcomes his poor background and achieves great success. Unoka, Okonkwo’s father, was lazy and a poor provider, and Okonkwo is driven to be everything his father was not. Okonkwo’s rigidity causes great harm, first within his family—the killing of Ikemefuna and the rift with Nwoye—and then within society. Okonkwo is unable to adapt when the white man/missionaries come to his village. He commits suicide rather than adhere to the rules of the changed society.

Unoka

Unoka is viewed by Okonkwo and the clan as lazy, although he was also a gifted musician and a gentle man. Rather than working, Unoka preferred to play his flute and drink wine. He was seen as a coward because he was afraid of war. He had poor harvests because he was unwilling to put in the effort to care for the land. When Unoka died, he was in debt to all of his neighbors.Okonkwo cannot see his father’s good qualities and hates him. He lives his life with the intention of avoiding anything his father enjoyed.

Ikemefuna

Ikemefuna comes to the clan as a form of payment for a murder that one of his tribesmen committed. The elders place Ikemefuna with Okonkwo, who puts his first wife in charge of the boy. Ikemefuna misses his family but comes to feel at home in Umuofia. He becomes popular within the family, particularly with Okonkwo’s oldest son, Nwoye. Okonkwo is also fond of Ikemefuna, though he does not reveal his feelings and eventually participates in Ikemefuna’s murder.

Nwoye

Nwoye seems to have adopted some of Unoka’s traits, which upsets Okonkwo. Okonkwo worries that Nwoye will grow up behaving as his grandfather behaved. Because of his concern, Okonkwo is even harder on Nwoye and beats him regularly. Nwoye begins to change under the influence of Ikemefuna. When Ikemefuna is killed, Nwoye retreats into himself and is cut off from his father. With the arrival of the missionaries, Nwoye revives. He breaks away from his father and becomes a Christian convert.

Ekwefi

Ekwefi is Okonkwo’s second wife. Ekwefi was attracted to Okonkwo when she saw him defeat Amalinze the Cat in wrestling. She could not marry him because he was too poor. After he achieves success, she leaves her husband and goes to Okonkwo, who takes her in with no questions. She is particularly close with her only child, Ezinma. After losing nine children, Ekwefi was a broken woman. When Ezinma lived beyond infancy, Ekwefi rejoiced. She treats her daughter more like an equal than a child. The loss of children has also created a connection to Okonkwo, who accepts behaviors from her that he does not from his other wives. He shows her more care and concern.

Ezinma

Ezinma is the only child of Okonkwo’s second wife, Ekwefi. She is particularly close to her mother. Okonkwo also favors Ezinma. He feels a connection to her and appreciates her boldness. Her behaviors and attitude make Okonkwo wish she were a boy. Ezinma feels a similar fondness for her father.

Obierika

Obierika is the closest thing Okonkwo has to a confidant. Like Okonkwo, he has achieved status within the clan. He has multiple wives and children. He marries off one daughter, and his son is a wrestling champion. When Okonkwo is forced to leave Umuofia, Obierika cares for his land and property.Unlike Okonkwo, Obierika is more nuanced in his thinking and is able to express himself. He rebukes Okonkwo for participating in the murder of Ikemefuna, tells him to have patience with his children, and cautions him about the power of the missionaries. When Okonkwo dies, Obierika speaks up on his behalf and calls him a great man.

Sources

https://www.sparknotes.com/lit/things/a-plus-essay/

https://www.vcestudyguides.com/blog/things-fall-apart

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