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Background Info for Things Fall Apart

Background Info for Things Fall Apart. (More than you ever wanted to know. It’s good for you; it’s like eating your vegetables). Chinua Achebe (Albert Chinualumogu Achebe). Born November 16, 1930 in Nneobi, Nigeria (an Igbo village)

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Background Info for Things Fall Apart

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  1. Background Info for Things Fall Apart (More than you ever wanted to know. It’s good for you; it’s like eating your vegetables)

  2. Chinua Achebe (Albert Chinualumogu Achebe) Born November 16, 1930 in Nneobi, Nigeria (an Igbo village) His parents were converts to the Protestant Church Mission Society His parents instilled the values of both the traditional culture of the Igbo people as well as Christianity in their children.

  3. Achebe-Education Achebe spent his childhood in Christian and grammar schools where he was often the top of his class. In these schools, students were forced to learn and use English. English was to become the unifying language of Nigerians. Achebe thought that this was oppressive because it forced the native languages of people to become extinct. He was once punished for asking another boy to “pass the soap” in Igbo.

  4. Achebe- cont. Achebe attended University College of Ibadan, where he studied English, history, and theology. It was here that he ditched his Christian name of Albert and embraced his indigenous name of Chinua. He graduated from college in 1953. Achebe's first novel, Things Fall Apart, appeared in 1958. The story of a traditional village "big man" Okonkwo, and his downfall has been translated into some 50 languages.

  5. Achebe-cont. After graduation, Achebe took a job with the Nigerian Broadcasting Company which allowed him to travel all over Africa and America. He also worked as a teacher at US and Nigerian universities. In 1990, a car accident left Achebe paralyzed from the waist down. He is confined to a wheelchair. During the 1990s, he was a professor at Bard College in New York.

  6. Nigeria-Ibo The novel Things Fall Apart appeared in 1958, but the setting of the story is 19th century Nigeria. The main character, Okonkwo, belongs to the Ibo (Igbo) people. Their language is unique: It is derived from a group of languages commonly found in West Africa, the Kwa languages. It is based a lot on pitch, vocal inflections, and context when defining the meaning of a word. A single word can have numerous meanings depending on these factors. Idioms and proverbs play an important role in the Ibo language. Someone who does not use them in speech is considered a novice at speaking the language.

  7. Nigeria-Ibo cont. The Ibo people live in villages containing anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand people. There is no specific leader of these villages. Decisions are made by a large group of people representing the whole. There is also a set group of elders whose wisdom is often called upon and highly respected.

  8. Nigeria-Ibo cont. The Ibo people are very religious and are polytheistic (they worship many gods). The supreme god is named “Chukwu” Then there are the lesser gods: “Umuagbara” And below them, the spirits of dead people: “Ndi Ichie” Each village has priests and priestesses who help in all spiritual matters, conducting ceremonies and rituals. And since the Ibos believe that everything in life is controlled by higher powers, there are also diviners in a village that attempt to predict the future.

  9. Nigeria-History The Portuguese were the first Europeans to begin trade in Nigeria (1400s). They named their post Lagos. In the 1800s, the British also began trading on the Niger coast. Many native Nigerian groups were affected by the trading of slaves. On January 1, 1901, Nigeria became an official protectorate of the British Empire.

  10. Nigeria-History Nigeria was administratively divided into 3 provinces: northern, southern, and Lagos. Western education, economics, and culture spread more quickly in the south than in the north. Slavery was not officially outlawed in northern Nigeria until 1936. On October 1, 1960, Nigeria gained its independence from Britain.

  11. Nigeria-History Since gaining its independence, Nigeria has undergone civil war, multiple military coups, and corruption during the oil boom of the 1970s Democracy was finally reinstated in 1999 with the election of a new president Ethnic violence over control of oil is still a prominent issue in Nigeria.

  12. Proverb • Definition: a simple and concrete saying popularly known and repeated, which expresses a truth, based on common sense or the practical experience of humanity. They are often metaphorical.

  13. Proverb-Examples • A stitch in time saves nine (if you take care of a problem while it's small you won't have a bigger problem to deal with later) • Don't count your chickens before they're hatched (don't start making plans for something until it is a reality, rather than a pleasant speculation)

  14. Proverbs • Can you name any proverbs?

  15. Key Characters • Okonkwo • Unoka: Okonkwo’s father • Nwoye: Okonkwo’s son • Ikemefuna: boy from another village given to Okonkwo to look after • Ezinma: Okonkwo’s daughter • Ekwefi: Okonkwo’s second wife; Ezinma’s mother • Obierika: Okonkwo’s friend

  16. Key Characters Continued • Chielo: woman by day; Oracle of the Hills and Caves by night • Mr. Brown: first missionary • Mr. Smith: Mr. Brown’s successor • District Commissioner: umm, this one is self-explanatory • There are many more, but this is a good start

  17. Key Terms • Umuofia: Okonkwo’s village • Mbanta: village of Okonkwo’s mother • Agbala: a god (don’t pay attention to the back of the book on this one) • Chi: personal god • Egwugwu: impersonator of ancestral spirit • Ogbanje: a changeling; child who dies and returns to be reborn • Iyi-uwa: a special kid of stone from an ogbanje • Obi: head of the family’s living quarters • Osu: outcast • Iba: fever

  18. Terms Continued • Palm Wine • Yams • http://learner.org/courses/worldlit/things-fall-apart/watch/ (stop at 11:10)

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