Book 16: Things Fall Apart

Things Fall Apart marks the first time in this project that I’m reading a book I’ve read before.

My school has a common class that all freshmen have to take. It’s called Paideia. That’s Greek for education or knowledge. I think. I don’t know. All I know is that the class is supposed to help us bond through discussion and help introduce us to the “learning COMMUNITY” that is Luther College.

What it really did was bond us by demonstrating the truth of the phrase “Misery loves company.” For a year, all 600ish of us read the same books, took the same quizzes, wrote the same papers, and hated the same things. Nothing bonds two college freshmen like meeting eyes across the study lounge over the infamously unreadable I, Rigoberta Menchu. 

Anyway, Paideia was supposed to introduce us to the liberal arts education. We learned the basics of college-level paper writing, peer review, and discussion-based classes. It was actually kind of fun. But it was also the one thing we all loved to hate. If you want to bond people, give them a common enemy. Except I should end this rant down memory lane by saying that I actually did like Paideia. It wasn’t that awful.

So, Things Fall Apart was one of the books we read. I remember it was one of the less popular ones, at least in my section. My biggest memory reading and discussing Things Fall Apart was arguing with my professor about the Yeats poem from which the title comes.

I insisted that we had to consider the political unrest in Ireland when we analyzed the poem. He was all, “But it has nothing to do with that.” I tried to say that historical context is important. I don’t know why I’m still frustrated that he wouldn’t believe me, but I am. A bit.

Anyway. As I remember, Things Fall Apart is one of your basic imperialist (or, more accurately, I guess, anti-imperialist) novels. Without reading the back of the book, it’s about this strong guy named Okonkwo who lives in Nigeria, and then there are European missionaries and the tribal structure of his village is threatened and things happen and it doesn’t end well.

As I so eloquently summed it up in a Paideia paper:

“The goal was to explain to a dominant domineering culture how it didn’t feel good to be undermined.”

I also thought that Chinua Achebe was much more successful in “explaining this to ignorant white cultures” than Sherman Alexie was with Reservation Blues (another book we had to read).

So, here goes Things Fall Apart round two. Maybe I’ll get something more out of it. Or maybe I won’t and you’ll get to watch me struggle to write a negative review without sounding like a racist, imperialist pig.


6 responses to this post.

  1. Wait, Dvojnchka, who was your Paideia professor? I had PSch. (as you know). I’m pretty sure we never had to read the original Yeats… You’d think we would have? (Also, I definitely made the hand motions to “COMMUUUUUUNITY.” Thanks for that. :) )


    • I had Matt Simpson.

      And weeeeeird. We read the original Yeats. I think we got a handout and talked about it for one class or something. I definitely remember talking about it though, because I really like that poem.


      • I knew that. I just couldn’t remember. And, huh. Yeah, I don’t think we read the Yeats. But I mean, I don’t remember much of that class, other than Copenhagen was awesome and we talked about China a lot. :)

  2. Posted by solo on September 23, 2012 at 9:12 am

    I didn’t mind this book so much. Rigoberta on the other hand… The hardest thing about this one, I think, was that Okonkwo was sympathetic but also a TERRIBLE human being. My least favorite “we shouldn’t send missionaries to Africa” book was The Poisonwood Bible. There was a kid in that class whose dad had been a missionary to Eritria and who had grown up there as a result. Awk. Ward. Fuck that book.


    • I don’t mind it this time round, really. It’s just that there are other things I’d rather be reading.

      Also. I’ve not read The Poisonwood Bible, but I’ve been told to. I even own a copy.


    • Guys, did I tell you that we found Rigoberta in the Nobel Peace Prize Museum Bookstore in Oslo? We found Rigoberta in the Nobel Peace Prize Museum Bookstore in Oslo. Uff.


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