Reflect and Locate Chinua Achebe’s Post Colonial Novel, Things Fall Apart

Let’s enjoy this informative interview with Nigerian author Chinua Achebe that was recorded fifty years after the publication of his novel, Things Fall Apart. View this interview and take notes on a few items. First note what was Achebe’s first motive to write this novel. “What needed to be done,” according to Achebe? Also reflect on the universal themes that Achebe discusses.

We’ll then discuss during another day in class Chinua Achebe’s influence on Novelist Chimamanda Adichie. What motives do they share? Do you realize that they are writing in different eras? While we only have a short period of time to discuss the summer reading, we will focus on how Achebe uses elements of modernism (remember your spring term in English III?) to create a post colonial story. We’ll also be mindful that he influences other African authors today. Do you know of other authors besides Chimamanda Adichie who pay tribute to Achebe’s influence? 

Homework: To start a conversation for class on the blog, comment below and reflect on the value of Chimamanda Adichie’s lesson of moving beyond one story. What is the most important part of her TED talk that informs your opinion. Compose this comment in 4-6 sentences in Standard English in a word document so that when you paste your comment below, you have proofed your prose and performed a spell check.

Here’s a great way to locate what we mean in an English classroom when we discuss issues of post colonialism:

Again, what other African novelists besides Chimamanda Adichie have taken up Achebe’s role and have tried  to tell  the story of their generation? Please research and post a thoughtful comment in Standard English below this post.

About Bill Sullivan

I am an English teacher working with great students at Suffield Academy. I also teach seniors in various project-based learning environments. Some of the #PBL topics included global issues, such as Pandemics, Climate Change, and Water; more recently I have asked students to research and identify topics important to our school community and their generation. We curate these topics with a #StudentCenteredPBL. For the past eleven years, I also created a driving question for a class to research a local history mystery and present their findings in a community program partnering with our local historical society. These topics encompass researching the lives of enslaved individuals who were contributors to the foundation of our community.
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37 Responses to Reflect and Locate Chinua Achebe’s Post Colonial Novel, Things Fall Apart

  1. Shane Pornprinya says:

    The most important part of Chimamanda Adichie’s TED talk is that the danger of single story is that they are incomplete. Single story creates stereotypes that show only one perspective of a person, place, or thing as if it was the whole narrative. This limited outlook highlights our differences rather than similarities; and when people are exposed to a single story, it creates a polarized world where different ideas seem foreign and wrong. I had experienced this problem first-hand when I was an exchange student in Virginia. Most of my friends thought that, because Thailand has a King, Thailand is a country stuck in the Medieval era with an absolute monarchy when the reality is the opposite. Their incomplete stories of Thailand prompted them to ask questions like “Do Thailand have cars?”, and “Do you live in little huts I’ve seen on the internet?”. As a result, I, like many African novelists such as Chinua Achebe, Chimamanda Adichie, and Mariama Bâ, tried to tell different sides of our stories to help others form a complete picture of our culture, country, and lives. Telling multiple stories will highlight our similarities and create a more open, and tolerant world.

  2. tannerm1516 says:

    Chimamanda Adiche’s take on the single story is very eye opening, and I believe the most important take away I had was that the single story robs people of dignity, and emphasizes how we are different not similar. This really stuck with me, and as I use that to consider many other cultures and stories I have heard I begin to see how prevalent it is. We always seem to be comparing ourselves with stories containing our strengths and others weaknesses. However, we so often forget to mention others strengths and our weaknesses. This is very important as the stereotype formed from single stories does not entail enough information to form opinions, and without both sides to any story we often judge too harshly.

  3. Nadezda says:

    Be aware of single stories because you will never be able to see a full picture of a certain situation. A single story is nothing but the beginning of ridiculous and untruthful stereotypes about countries, people or nations. Our similarities are proportional to our differences, meaning that we are different but at the same time we have more in common than we think we do. In order to see a bigger picture the least be can do is to see more than one perspective on a single situation and the most is to see it ourselves. With each new perspective or point of view we open up a window to see the truth. There is much more behind every story, stereotype or rumor that we hear.

  4. a.haay says:

    My favorite part of Chimamanda Adichie’s talk is when she says that stereotypes are just a single story. I have never quite thought of stereotypes as just one story, or one example being the poster for all assumed to be similar. It is mind opening to me because it has given me a different perspective about other cultures and groups of people. I think with this perspective it is now easier to decipher who a person or culture really is, and not just who they are believed to be. This outlook can help you not only see the bigger picture, but also the details within.

  5. 17ahc says:

    In Chimamanda Adichie’s speech she explains how there is more to a story than your common fairy tail. Adichie discovered that there were Nigerian stories being written in which she could relate to and inspired her to continue writing, not about the happy endings that she had been previously, but in stories she could tell in her authentic voice. While listening to her TED talk Adichie states “…how impressionable and vulnerable we are in the face of a story…”. This statement shows the listener that when Adichie was younger all the fairy tails she had been reading influenced her to write stories like them. Then by discovering Nigerian tails Adichie was then able to find her authentic writing voice.

  6. Isabelle Ricke says:

    Chimamanda Adiche’s makes an amazing point in her TED talk. She says that it’s not that the one story you hear is wrong it’s just that it is not the whole story. Most people, when they hear one story they assume it’s true and that nothing else matters. Chimamanda makes a large point about not judging people by just one story and focusing on all of the stories. Chimanmanda even states how she has found herself judging others based on just one story, but that ever since she has tried very hard not to do so. Trying to find out all the stories is an important skill to have because it helps you understand people and who they are better.

  7. Lea says:

    In my opinion Chimamanda Adichie makes some very good point in her TED talk. I think one of the most important takeaway from the speech is when she talks about stereotypes. As Chimamanda Adichie sais “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete.” She makes the listener understand how important it is to look at the bigger picture and to seek alternative stories.

  8. Maggy says:

    Chimamanda Adiche emphasizes that it is important to look at one topic, discussion or problem from every side. She proved this point by talking about the immigration situation in the US. In America, the only side that is talked about is the American point of view. She pointed out that if she had approached that topic from Mexicans side as well as the American side, she would have approached the situation completely different. This is also a very important lesson in everyday life, if a conflict arises it is important to look at the situation from both sides.

  9. jerryt17 says:

    I cannot agree more with Adichie. She has puts words to an impression I’ve always had about mass media narratives, stereotypes and the innocence of being vulnerable to a single story. In such an eloquent and kind way, Adichie effectively delivered her call for people to have an objective perspective on all the matters we take in from others. Holding the unbiased views is the most important thing when we are discovering and beholding the world around us. Lastly, we should all be aware of where we get these single stories from.

  10. Ashley Sarris says:

    The most important part of Chimamanda Adichie’s Ted talk is the message. She tells many stories to prove this message of the importance to tell multiple viewpoints in literature but the most important one to me is her realization when she goes to Mexico. After being the victim of generalization by her roommate in college, she goes to Mexico and finds herself being shocked by the breaking of the generalization around her. After realizing the lack of stereotypical Mexicans and noticing how normal their lives are, she felt shameful of her assumptions. This story is very important because even people that feel generalized at times can fall into the trap that everyone else does. Hearing one side of the story through literature and media is the main cause of this.

  11. robj1313 says:

    In Chimamanda Adichie’s TED talk she forces the listener to think about how they view things. How stereotypes go a long way, especially when you know very little on the topic. She believes that to really get to know something, you must learn about it in more ways than one. Rather look at the bigger picture, as opposed to focusing in on the one story. Keep an open mind, take away the little details, and try to learn both sides before you judge too harshly,

  12. Tyreek Scott-Grayson says:

    In Chimamanda Adichie’s TED talk she explains how there is a deeper meaning to everyones story. She says that we should not make ones story become their only story. Everyone individual has multiple stories that makes them who they are. If you were to limit them to one story you are taking away the knowledge of actually getting to know that person.

  13. beccacollins says:

    Chimamanda Adichie’s TED Talk really emphasized on how that there is not ever just one single story but rather multiple stories from different points of view. I think this is important because it also shows how social media works pretty much. Usually we only one perspective on a story, and most of the time it is a negative one. So then we assume that there is no other point of view and only make or thoughts and judgements based on that single story that we know.

  14. riley1617 says:

    Chimamanda Adichie’s Ted Talk revolved a lot about moving beyond the one story. She tells us that in any story, getting one point of view does not create a full story. This one point of view is where stereotypes are coming from. As Lea quoted in her comment, Chimamanda stated “they are untrue, but that they are incomplete.” In order to make a story complete, she said to receive stories from people in different countries, from both sides. A good example of a bias story would be history books. History consists of facts, but it usually has more than one side to the story. History books throughout the world are all different because of the Bias.

  15. Jackson Bischoping says:

    In this video the topic of a single story is discussed. The problem with a single story is that the people who read them only get on behalf of what is going on or a single side of a problem. Because of this the other side doesn’t seem to have a purpose and are misunderstood. This style of writing can also cause stereotypes for certain people. She also enforces how stereotypes go a long way and that they are made in single stories.

  16. Ryder Mosby says:

    Chimamanda Adiche successfully backs up her statement about a single story or stereotype because one cannot see the entire picture. Nadezda put it perfectly when she states our similarities are proportional to our differences and I think people should recognize that more often. Just because two people or even two nations have a certain sum of differences does not mean they have nothing in common. Another aspect of the talk I appreciated was how she mentioned some people are portrayed more proficiently than others in popular literature, which gives people a predisposed opinion on something that may not be true. It is an easy trap to fall into and with all of the social media controversy surrounding racism and sexism these days, it is nearly impossible to enter a situation without a bias.

  17. caseykap says:

    In my eyes the most important part of Chimamanda Adichie’s lesson of moving beyond one story was in the very beginning of the TED talk when she talks about the impressionability and vulnerability in people when they see the cover of a story. When she talked about the books she read and how she couldn’t identify with who they were about then finally reading African books it compares to when she was growing up and meeting her house boy’s family and then her roommate at her university in the United States. She saw from what her roommate’s reactions were to her being from Nigeria exactly the way she acted in a new form by thinking that Fide’s family was just poor people that couldn’t do anything.

  18. Bryce Butler says:

    To me, the most important part of Chimamanda Adichie’s lesson in her TED talk was the fact that not everyone’s story is exactly what you see on the surface. She talks about her first experiences with her American roommate in college, and how their first interactions were based off of what her roommate expected them to be. She mentions that the American girl already had a perceived notion of how Chimamanda would be like, before even meeting her. From this, I learned that everyone’s story of course is different, but also that a person’s story is not only what you see on the surface. Everyone’s story is different, and stereotypes to not define an individual’s single story.

  19. Isabelle Ricke says:

    Things Fall Apart is an example of a one-sided story. The reader only learns about Okonkwo through one point of view and they only tell one story of his life. The small bits and pieces are left out. This is not helpful because then the reader does not know every detail. Things Fall Apart does tell more than just one story, but it does not tell all the stories. If the author were to add every detail of Okonkwo’s life then the reader could have a full understanding of what his life was like.

  20. jerryt17 says:

    Things Fall Apart focuses on the heroic journey of Okonkwo, which unsurprisingly leads to the one-side story. In order to have a sophisticated and comprehensive understanding of the characters from the book, we need to scrutinize all the trivial facts about their personalities and behaviors. Things Fall Apart does not present the story in a multifaceted method; consequently, the story is delivered in an incomplete perspective that is sort of biased. However, the story truly reflects the emotional feelings of the author. On top of that, we are beholding the African history at a more authentic standpoint.

  21. David E says:

    The critical theme or idea I got from Chimamanda Adichie’s was that, only one story creates false and usually poor assumptions about individuals. They are one sided and only show a perspective from one angle. This can lead to things like stereotyping and even racism. Chimamanda tries to show a point of reason, by not always just following a one-track story. The main idea is that you shouldn’t allow one story to determine what your overall opinion is on something. At the end Chimamanda tries to reinforce her belief in not judging someone by others and learning yourself what someone is like.

  22. robj1313 says:

    Chimamanda Adichie reminds us that when you do not know both sides, stereotypes always come into play. Especially when it comes to writing, the entire character would be based off of the few things that you know, and therefore those few things become your whole character. This is why one-sided story is so dangerous, because then you begin to judge people before you know the first thing about them.

  23. Jae Woo Lee says:

    The most important parts in Chimamanda Adichie’s lesson are about how she started to approach the stories from outside Nigeria and her personal opinion towards single story.
    Adichie said that she got a cultural shock when she read books from outside of Nigeria. Since Adichie had never left Nigeria in her childhood, she had no experience to learn more about the world.
    Adichie’s opinion towards single stories is that she agrees single stories are mainly based on authors and have stereotypes in the stories. Also, it can damage others’ personal thoughts.

  24. Maddie Kauffman says:

    I really enjoyed Chimamanda Adichie’s speech. I had never thought in the way she did. Single stories are just what the media says or what the books we read say. They are all stereotypes. I believe that people should never make assumptions about a place or a person without experiencing it themselves. when she told the short story about the student going up to her saying how sorry they were about how fathers in Nigeria beat their children and she came right back with bringing up American Psycho, really opened my eyes because I had never thought so differently like that. I just thought what society made me think, never going out of my comfort zone. Chimamanda truly made me realize that all places in the world have stereotypes and that we should demolish those single stories.

  25. riley1617 says:

    In this speech, Chimamanda talks in a point of view most people would not think in. When someone is reading a book or newspaper, they are intrigued by the story, not the bias reading they have in front of them. The speech really highlights the fact that any writing needs to be done in different points of views which is very interesting to me, but at the same time makes perfect sense.

  26. Jackson Bischoping says:

    The dangers of single stories are shown all over things fall apart. The fact that it is told from the perspective of a native means that they will automatucally discriminate against the whites and their religion. It makes it seem like the white people are obviously the evil people but even some of the tribe he is in sides with them and they help each other understand their individual religious beliefs.

  27. Sergey Morozov says:

    Coming to the United States for the first time back in 2011, I bristled, preparing to stand up to rude, egoistic, and insensitive Americans. Russian media portrayed the American people as the very opposite to us, and so I expected to see aggression and be followed by stereotypes based on our Soviet past and New-Russian present.

    How big of a surprise for me it was when I met… People. Kids just like me, fascinated by video games, sports, and that really cute girl Emma that sat at the lunch table across the room from us. Sure, they weren’t perfect and cared for troops I didn’t really care for, but they also taught me rules of softball and some hilarious swears. Isn’t this the clearest gesture of peace?

    Chimamanda Adichie presents a point that not only I can agree with — but also personally reflect to. A Single Story is a great and scary power. Power, that led Nazis to the extermination of 6 million Jewish people and 27 million Soviet people. Power, that made the angry crowd savagely attack the Little Rock Nine. Power, that made me think of Americans as of a nation of a single personality.

  28. Nick Yan says:

    One great issue Adichie brought out was the power of word and language. I was shocked by how stories can give an almost opposite image to people and how people just easily trust blindly. It is really common to see people tell a story but not the whole part, and one notable example is media. Media like to use wordplay to make people believe what government want them to see because the majority of people trust all the information they get from others.
    It is scary to me that how people around the world see each other differently based on the stories told by others but not look at the truth directly.

  29. LJ says:

    The speaker makes a valid point here on discovering one’s own culture and not being influenced totally by where you live in the immediate area. If Chimamanda Adichie had continued down the path of reading only the white European stories, she could’ve been outcast from her own people, which is not a good experience to live in. Also, this brings in the point of UNDERSTANDING and having access to learn other people’s ways of life, and how that is important for the human races’ survival. If different walks of life were not mixed and taken into part for the world as a whole, then the homogenous nations would do nothing but wage wars of ignorance and misunderstanding.

  30. beccacollins says:

    Things Fall Apart is a perfect example of just how dangerous it can be that we hear or see one single story rather than multiple views. Like in the second part of the story, we are only seeing how the white people were considered bad and mean to the village. But, maybe if we saw the story from one of the white peoples view or as someone who supported them in village’s view, their perspectives would be a lot different.

  31. tannerm1516 says:

    The concept of a single story and how inaccurate it can be is shown in Things Fall Apart. The stereotypes of the white men show only a single story and this gives the reader only negative images of them. Without understanding both sides we aren’t able to form full opinions on them or their objectives. Onkwonwko also is only acknowledging his side of the story, by shutting himself off from others perspectives he prohibits himself from understanding all sides of the story.

  32. Tyreek Scott-Grayson says:

    China Achebe’s Things Fall Apart is a novel that shows the two perspectives of the pre-colonial west Africa. In Chimamanda Adichie’s TedTalk and her discussion on how a single side of a story can dampen the wholistic view of a topic, we learn that it is important to show more than one side of a story because there is more than one perspective that can have different views to the subject. This novel is an example of the how there is more than one point of view to a situation (the Ibo’s thinking that the English are taking their culture away, while the English think they are saving the tribes from false Gods).

  33. Nadezda says:

    Okonkwo is an aggressive and violent man. This is what people in the tribe know about him, this is what people think of him without even talking to this man. How can people be so judgmental towards other people having absolutely no idea that the person is like in real life. If not certain situations, such as Okonkwo taking care of Ezinma or showing (trying to so hard) and expressing love (or something close to love) to his youngest wife Ekwefi. This is the side of Okonkwo that we would not be able to see without different perspectives on Okonkwo throughout “Things Fall Apart”.

  34. caseykap says:

    In the Danger of a Single Story, Chimamanda Adichie talks about how she learned to use where she came from as her way to write. She touched on it many times that if we only listen to one thing or story about someone else, or a country then we jeopardize a serious misinterpretation. This perspective from her taught me to not judge a book by its cover (as did many other lessons in my life) but the way she showed and gave examples of her thinking her house boy’s family was just going to be people who couldn’t do anything special and how she experienced from her roommate first hand the stereotypes that were made about her herself. In Things Fall Apart almost all of the characters are not stereotyped which Chimamanda talks a lot about and uses many examples which showed me that whatever I had thought I had known about people from Nigeria I didn’t.

  35. Caleb Wurster says:

    I find it interesting that even the speaker, Chimamanda Adichie, had made the mistake of allowing single-minded stories shape how she viewed Mexicans. It is unfortunate, but true, that we allow ourselves to view whole countries of people in a single way; we set mental standards and generalizations that don’t allow us to see everyone for what they truly are: unique. No matter what country someone might be from, and the stereotypes that might come with that country, everyone is unique and it is incredibly demeaning and ignorant to make sweeping generalizations about them.

  36. liz sacco says:

    Chimamanda Adichie makes the power of a story undeniable. She demonstrates that from a single story, only one conclusion can be drawn and that conclusion does not wholly represent a people, it represents their stereotype. One of the most important things she makes clear is that even though there may be more than one physical story- whether it be a multitude of articles, novels, or other texts- these can still be drawn together to reflect a mere single story. The mass can be condensed to one and the one does not represent anyone. The what if’s of the speech illustrate an ideal world- one where people take the time to discover the abundance of characteristics about each culture. She is describing a world she is making. If you do not tell your own story someone will tell it for you, accurate or not. She is simply yet defiantly ensuring her story’s accuracy.

  37. Chimamanda Adichie talks a lot about single minded stories. Single minded stories effect how people think and are often the cause of stereotypes. With single minded stories we learn only one perspective of a group of people rather it be a race or a tribe. And this leads to a lack of knowledge and ignorance which never benefits anyone.

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