AS English Literature – Wider Reading – Novel: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe – Context and background

By the start of January term, you must have finished reading Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.

Click here for pdf version of things-fall-apart

This pdf (above) can be downloaded an emailed to a tablet or phone.  If opened in iBooks, then notes can me made onto the tablet and saved/backed-up.

Below is a University Resource Booklet for Teachers.  We will use some of its resources, but if interested in extending your research, I recommend downloading, or reading it as it helps capture the context and significance of the novel.

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Before you start reading, or studying the course, please try to understand the key background context of the book’s writing.

1. It was published in 1958. Nigeria gained independence from the UK in 1960. It is set in 1890s BEFORE the country was colonised.

2. The work is hugely acclaimed across the world as the first African Novel written in English to present a “post-colonial” view of pre-colonial Africa.  It attempts to reveal the struggles caused by colonisation, religion, Western education and the struggle of identity and what is means to someone forced to change their culture.

3. Achebe has frequently presented his disgust at the presentation of Africa in late 19th and early 20th Century novels.  The Victorian perception of Africa as a land of savages needing to be educated or converted by Missionaries is frequently documented but presents the White European as superior to the African. 

4. In 1890 Joseph Conrad, a Polish author who settled in England and wrote in English, worked as a captain on a boat on the Congo river in Africa.  He published a novel “Heart of Darkness” in 1902.  The novel is about a river captain’s stories of working in Africa.  Conrad described the plot as: “a wild story of a journalist who becomes manager of a station in the (African) interior and makes himself worshipped by a tribe of savages. Thus described, the subject seems comic, but it isn’t”.  Achebe has frequently voiced his objection to the way Africa is presented by Conrad.  It is interesting that he chose to set his book at the same time Conrad was working in the Congo and learning the background for his novel.

4. Gender, Race, Religion, Coming of Age, Age, Social status are all struggles presented


Below is an essay written by Chinua Achebe about his view that Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is a “racist” presentation of Africa.

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Click below to download the full scheme of work

Download (ZIP,, 34.84MB)


(C) Bishop Justus Church of England School

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