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Things Fall Apart Essay Questions

written by: Trent Lorcher • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 1/17/2012

These Things Fall Apart Essay questions will help you analyze major themes of the novel.

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    My Favorite Essay Themes

    Question 1) What role does the District Commissioner play in the novel?

    • The District Commissioner embodies the racist attitudes of the colonizers. He believes to have pacified the tribes of the lower Niger, when in fact, he has created unrest. He makes no effort to understand the people over whom he governs and portrays himself as a civilizer.

    Question 2) What cultural values do the native tribes and the colonizers share?

    • Both cultures value hard work, the importance of god(s), and the hierarchical structure of the universe. It is these shared values upon which Mr. Brown gains converts. The Reverend James Smith and the District Commissioner focus on differences.

    Question 3) What role do African folktales play in the novel?

    • The novel is written in English, and therefore, intended for an English speaking audience. Achebe uses folk tales and African fables to make the novel African.

    Question 4) What symbols are present in the novel?

    • Achebe includes animal imagery, symbolic of an uncivilized Igbo society. Animal stories are often told to teach values. Fire symbolizes the explosive and dangerous nature of Okonkwo. Locusts symbolize and foreshadow the arrival of European colonists.

    Question 5) In what ways is Okonkwo a tragic hero?

    • Okonkwo is part of Umuofia's ruling class. He possesses a tragic flaw, uncontrollable anger and pride, that leads to his downfall. He is also a victim of fate, having been exiled for seven years on account of an accidental shooting.

    Question 6) What role does Ezinma play in the novel?

    • It is through Ezinma, Ekwefi's only surviving daughter and Okonkwo's favorite, that the reader sees the human side of Okonkwo. He makes her medicine at night, travels to Agbala's cave to protect her, and secretly wishes she were his son.

    Question 7) What role doe Ikemefuna play in the novel?

    • Ikemefuna shows the differences between each village. His stories entertain Nwoye and his siblings. Ikemefuna serves as a foil to Nwoye. The murder of Ikemefuna highlights the brutality of Ibo society, the fear Okonkwo has of being considered weak, and motivates Nwoye to change before and after his brother's death.