Things Fall Apart
This curriculum unit offers tested and proven materials for teaching the English-language novel, Things Fall Apart, to high school students. Written in English by Chinua Achebe, it was originally published in 1958, two years before Nigerian independence. The story describes traditional Ibo [Igbo] society during the late 1800s when the British missionaries came to convert the natives in Iboland (Eastern Nigeria) to Christianity. There are two different spellings, Igbo and Ibo. In the Ibo language, the spelling gb is pronounced with a slight pause or swallowed g, but most English speakers pronounce it as though the g is not there. The most common English spelling is Ibo.
Achebe's book is one of the most widely read novels by a black African about the African past. He is regarded as a writer whose book teaches about the past and encourages new reflections on the present. Achebe says his purpose is "to help my society regain belief in itself and put away the complexes of the years of denigration and self-abasement" ("The Novelist as Teacher" in Morning Yet on Creation Day; New York: Anchor books, 1975.) He wrote later, "I would be quite satisfied if my novels (especially the ones I set in the past) did no more than teach my readers that their past--with all its imperfections--was not one long night of savagery from which the first Europeans acting on God's behalf delivered them" (from "The Novelist as Teacher" MORNING YET ON CREATION DAY; New York: Anchor books, 1975, 71).
We chose this book to teach at high school because it adds a historical perspective as well as a minority one. This unit offers a sample five-week lesson plan that introduces students to West African literature. This is the format we recommend the first time the novel is taught, but we have done it in a variety of other sequences and have taught the novel successfully at grades 9-12.
This brings us to one final comment: this unit is very flexible. We offer approaches based on firsthand experience, but we know that there are many other combinations that will work as well. We believe that all teachers adapt ideas to fit their own teaching styles, and this format, like those in all of our curriculum packets, is easily and successfully modified.