What Influenced Chinua Achebe to Write Things Fall Apart?


Chinua Achebe was an influential Nigerian author who wrote the novel Things Fall Apart, which is considered a classic of African literature. The novel tells the story of Okonkwo, a strong and respected leader in a traditional Igbo community in Nigeria, and his struggle to adapt to the changes brought about by colonialism. Achebe wrote this novel in response to how European colonizers portrayed African culture and people in their own literature.

One of the main influences that led Achebe to write Things Fall Apart was his own personal experiences growing up in Nigeria. Achebe was born in 1930 in Ogidi, a small village in Eastern Nigeria, and was raised in a traditional Igbo community. He grew up learning about Igbo customs, traditions, and beliefs and was exposed to the impact of colonialism on his community. Achebe witnessed firsthand the destruction of traditional Igbo society as European colonizers arrived and imposed their own ways of life on the people.

In addition to his personal experiences, Achebe was influenced by the works of European writers who had written about Africa. Many writers, such as Joseph Conrad and H.M. Stanley, negatively portrayed Africa and African people, depicting them as barbaric, savage, and uncivilized. Achebe saw these portrayals as biased and inaccurate and felt they did not accurately represent Africa’s diverse and complex cultures.

The political climate also influenced Achebe in Nigeria when he wrote Things Fall Apart. Nigeria had been colonized by Britain in the late 19th century, and Achebe grew up during the period of decolonization in the 1950s and 1960s. This was a time of great political and social upheaval in Nigeria as the country struggled to gain independence and establish a new national identity. Achebe was deeply involved in the fight for independence and saw his novel as a way to challenge the narrative of colonialism and assert the dignity and humanity of the African people.

The African Trilogy: Things Fall Apart; Arrow of God; No Longer at Ease (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)

Chinua Achebe is considered the father of modern African literature, the writer who “opened the magic casements of African fiction.” The African Trilogy–comprised of Things Fall ApartArrow of God, and No Longer at Ease–is his magnum opus. In these masterly novels, Achebe brilliantly imagines the lives of three generations of an African community as the forces of colonialism upend their world from the first arrival of the British to the waning days of the empire.

Another significant influence on Achebe was the works of other African writers and intellectuals. Achebe was part of a generation of African writers working to redefine African literature and create a new narrative for the continent. He was inspired by the works of writers such as Wole Soyinka and Ngugi wa Thiong’o, who were also challenging the dominant narrative of colonialism and working to assert Africa’s cultural and intellectual contributions.

Finally, Achebe was influenced by his educational background and intellectual interests. Achebe studied literature and linguistics at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria and later at the University of London. He was deeply interested in how language and storytelling shape our world understanding. Achebe saw his novel as a way to tell a different kind of story about Africa, one rooted in the traditions and experiences of the Igbo people and that challenged the dominant narrative of colonialism.

In writing Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe was influenced by many personal, political, and intellectual factors. His experiences growing up in a traditional Igbo community, the negative portrayals of Africa in European literature, the political climate of decolonization in Nigeria, the works of other African writers, and his own education and intellectual interests all contributed to his decision to write this important and enduring novel.

Suggested Readings

Arrow of God by Chinua Achebe