Things Fall Apart: Chapter 1 Summary

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  • 0:04 Okonkwo
  • 0:20 Chapter Summary
  • 2:24 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: J.R. Hudspeth

Jackie has taught college English and Critical Thinking and has a Master's degree in English Rhetoric and Composition

Chinua Achebe's 'Things Fall Apart' is a classic novel about the people of a Nigerian village, focusing on their lives and the changes they must endure after the British come to claim the land as their own.

Okonkwo

The first chapter of Things Fall Apart introduces Okonkwo, the main character of the story. Most of the story is told through Okonkwo's perspective, though occasionally we get the perspective of other characters, like Okonkwo's family and friends, in other chapters.

Chapter Summary

We first learn of Okonkwo's high-standing in the village of Umuofia. This is explained through the story of Okonkwo's wrestling match against an unbeaten wrestler, Amalinze; Okonkwo becomes the first man to defeat Amalinze, initiating the growth of his fame throughout the many villages in the area.

Things Fall Apart starts by introducing the main character, Okonkwo, a driven and impatient man.
ThingsFallApart

We learn about Okonkwo's looks, and, much like his attitude, they are masculine and intimidating. Okonkwo is extremely driven to be successful, and he has a lack of patience for both laziness and failure as a direct result of his father, Unoka, who was both lazy and low on the social scale in the village. Unoka preferred to play his musical instrument and sing rather than being interested in physical possessions and social standing. He preferred to focus on his own spirituality and happiness.

Because Unoka didn't work to build his possessions, his family often didn't have enough to eat. Yams, the staple crop of the village, took plenty of work to farm. He was also in debt to numerous members of the village. One story tells us of an acquaintance of Unoka named Okoye. Okoye calls on Unoka, and they have a pleasant talk together that reveals the village's dependence on yams as a food source, in addition to Unoka's dislike of war and violence.

Chinua Achebe, author of Things Fall Apart.
ChinuaAchebe

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