A book to read: Things Fall Apart

I’ve had the great pleasure this week of reading Chinua Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart. It is a wonderful novel. I have particularly enjoyed the portrait it paints of Ibo social and spiritual life before contact with European missionaries.

In the last part of the book, the white  missionaries arrive and we learn why the novel bears the title it does. I won’t go into more details, but I did want to share one brief passage.

Here is Achebe’s description of the missionary’s first message to the people:

The man was also their brother because they were all sons of God. And he told them about this new God, the Creator of all the world and all the men and women. He told them that they worshiped false gods, gods of wood and stone. A deep murmur went through the crowd when he said this. He told them that the true God lived on high and that all men when they died went before Him for judgment. Evil men and all the heathen who in their blindness bowed to wood and stone were thrown into a fire that burned like palm oil. But good men who worshiped the true God lived forever in His happy kingdom. “We have been sent by this great God to ask you to leave your wicked ways and false gods and turn to Him so that you may be saved when you die,” he said.

It brings to my mind some of the things recorded in the Book of Acts. It speaks of God’s universal lordship and of judgment. I think of Paul in Athens. In the novel, Jesus Christ comes up later, leading to an amusing account of what happens when the missionaries try to explain the Trinity to the Ibo.

If you get the chance to read the book, I think you will be blessed by Mr. Achebe’s gifts.

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4 thoughts on “A book to read: Things Fall Apart

  1. I read this book a few years ago and enjoyed it too. (I was hoping to teach 12th grade English, and it is a book frequently on 12th grade reading lists.) It is a great idea to read what today’s students are reading. Another book I’d recommend is A Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. It is a dystopian vision of a society that oppresses women and seriously misinterprets Christian scripture. Sadly, it is a book that many high school readers cannot adequately appreciate because they are not familiar enough with scripture to understand the Biblical allusions. I found this book more memorable than Okonkwo’s.

    Another book rereading as an adult is George Orwell’s 1984–newly relevant in this era of NSA spying etc.

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