Similes in Things Fall Apart

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  • 0:02 What Is a Simile?
  • 0:37 Like a Bush-Fire
  • 1:23 As Slippery as a Fish In Water
  • 2:02 Corn Grains in a Bag…
  • 2:42 Like the Desire for a Woman
  • 3:19 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: Bryan Cowing

Bryan is a freelance writer who specializes in literature. He has worked as an English instructor, editor and writer for the past 10 years.

In the story ''Thing Falls Apart'', Chinua Achebe uses vivid language to make the story come alive. One way he achieves this is by using similes. In this lesson, we will look at some important similes from the novel.

What is a Simile?

If someone gives you really good instructions, you might say the instructions were 'as clear as crystal'. Since a crystal is see-through, you are saying that the instructions were extremely clear or easy to understand. This is an example of a simile, is when someone compares two things using the word 'like' or 'as'.

In Things Fall Apart, similes enhance the storytelling and expand the reader's understanding of Okonkwo's world. Once you get the hang of similes they will be easier to find in life and literature.

Like a Bush-Fire

One of the first similes in Things Fall Apart is when the narrator is describing Okonkwo's rise to fame. Okonkwo becomes famous after defeating a man named Amalinze (AKA 'the Cat') in a wrestling competition. The narrator explains ''That was many years ago, twenty years or more, and during this time Okonkwo's fame had grown like a bush-fire.''

This phrase functions on a couple different levels. The most basic function is to make it clear that Okonkwo rose to fame rapidly, like how a bush-fire spreads rapidly. Also, a bush-fire is destructive and violent, so the comparison immediately paints Okonkwo as an aggressive and maybe dangerous person.

As Slippery as a Fish in Water

Achebe uses another vivid simile when describing the match between Okonkwo and Amalinze. ''Amalinze was a wily craftsman, but Okonkwo was as slippery as a fish in water.'' This simile uses 'as' to compare the wrestler to a fish. This simile is a good example of how comparisons can be more concise and more interesting than straight explanation.

Instead of telling the reader that Okonkwo moved quickly and was hard to get a hold of, Achebe gives the reader a visual image and makes the writing more interesting and engaging than simply spelling out Okonkwo's movements.

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