Things Fall Apart Setting

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Coming up next: The Village of Umuofia in Things Fall Apart

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  • 0:01 Nigeria, Before Colonization
  • 1:55 Nigeria, After Colonization
  • 3:38 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

The unique setting in 'Things Fall Apart,' by Chinua Achebe, is one of the many things that has made the book a classic. The book gives us a taste of life in Nigeria both before and after the English come to colonize the land and take it away from the natives. Read on for a brief summary of the setting in 'Things Fall Apart.'

Nigeria, Before Colonization

The action of Things Fall Apart occurs in two places. Most of the action is set in Umuofia, a village of Igbo people in the African country of Nigeria. There are a number of Igbo villages in the area. At one point, the main character Okonkwo and his family briefly move to Mbanta, another Igbo village in the same region.

Most of the novel centers around the lives of the Igbo people, and their environment is a particular focus for author Chinua Achebe. The farmers depend on heavy rains of the spring and late summer seasons to help grow their staple crop of yams. The amount of yams a man has is how wealth is measured, much like how most societies today measure wealth through paper money. The economy of the Igbo people is based on agriculture. Achebe tells the story of one planting season with bizarre weather that ruins a whole crop of yams for the village, which drives one farmer to take his own life.

Beyond the environment, the village itself has its own cultural and social norms. As the reader learns more about Okonkwo and the village, it becomes clear that the society has its own distinct religion. This religion is polytheistic, which means it has many different gods. Society also encourages polygamy as a show of economic strength. Rich men are encouraged to take many wives, and Okonkwo sees doing so as a sign of power within the society. Many of these practices are different from the practices of many Western countries, but they combine to create a society rich in culture and history.

Okonkwo's story occurs roughly in the mid-1800s, just before the British come to colonize the land. The Igbo villages are isolated from other nations in the forests of Nigeria, so their society has developed a bit differently than the societies of Europe or Asia, which have had more contact with one another by this point. Technologically, the Igbo are at a different place than other places in the world. For example, guns are rare, and the Igbo people are unfamiliar with items like bicycles or shoes.

Nigeria, After Colonization

In the mid-1800s, many countries, such as England, France, Germany, Belgium, Spain, and the United States, were interested in the colonization of other lands. Colonization is when another country comes into an area with indigenous people already living there and takes that land for themselves. Colonial powers rule over that land and its people, and they inevitably change the way of life there. When the English arrive in Nigeria, they hope to colonize the land.

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