World Literature I / Ms. Smith Things Fall Apart Pre-Reading Research Introduction

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World Literature I / Ms. Smith

Things Fall Apart Pre-Reading Research
Things Fall Apart, published in 1958, is the seminal African novel in English. Although there were earlier examples, notably by Achebe's fellow Nigerian, Amos Tutuola, none has been so influential, not only on African literature, but on literature around the world. Its most striking feature is to create a complex and sympathetic portrait of a traditional village culture in Africa. Achebe is trying not only to inform the outside world about Ibo cultural traditions, but to remind his own people of their past and to assert that it had contained much of value. All too many Africans in his time were ready to accept the European judgment that Africa had no history or culture worth considering.

He also fiercely resents the stereotype of Africa as an undifferentiated "primitive" land, the "heart of darkness," as Conrad calls it. Throughout the novel he shows how African cultures vary among themselves and how they change over time. Look for instances of these variations as you read.

As a young boy the "African literature" he was taught consisted entirely of works by Europeans about Africa, such as Conrad's Heart of Darkness and Joyce Cary's Mister Johnson, which portrays a comic African who slavishly adores his white colonist boss, to the point of gladly being shot to death by him. Achebe has said that it was his indignation at this latter novel that inspired the writing of Things Fall Apart. Try to see in what ways his novel answers Cary's. He also wrote a famous attack on the racism of Heart of Darkness which continues to be the subject of heated debate.

The language of the novel is simple but dignified. When the characters speak, they use an elevated diction which is meant to convey the sense of Ibo speech. This choice of language was a brilliant and innovative stroke, given that most earlier writers had relegated African characters to pidgin or inarticulate gibberish. One has the sense of listening to another tongue, one with a rich and valuable tradition.
Chinua Achebe: Things Fall Apart." Washington State University - Pullman, Washington. Paul Brians, 13 Dec. 2005. Web. 29 Aug. 2010.

Your Task:
Working in small groups, you are responsible for creating a PowerPoint, Prezi or other creative presentation that is well organized, well informed and visually attractive. Each group is responsible for teaching the class about specific background information pertinent to fully appreciating Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. You will receive handouts on your assigned topic to use as a starting point, but you are also required to conduct some research of your own in the computer lab.
General Requirements:
Your presentation should contain enough slides to thoroughly relay your research to your classmates. Having said that, the exact number of slides will vary by group – just make sure that you are putting forth honest effort. Each slide should contain at least one relevant graphic (you can find some great pictures from Nigeria at Most importantly, make sure that you can speak knowledgably about your topic and answer any questions that your classmates or I may have when you present!
Please cite your sources internally as well as on a final Works Cited slide (this includes sources for graphics). You may use as a tool, but be sure to carefully check each citation for accuracy. Please note that the HHS English Department requires that students include the URL in all website citations.
The Groups:
Group 1 – Nigeria
You are responsible for presenting general information about Nigeria, including information about its people, land, economy, culture and history. These five sections could be an easy way to organize your PowerPoint. In addition to these five sections, include a map of Africa, a map of Nigeria and a map of Igboland.
Group 2 – Role of the Kola Nut in Igbo Society
You are responsible for presenting information about the Kola Nut. It plays a big role in the novel and it is important to know why it is important to the Igbo (Ibo) people. The article that you will receive is broken up into sections, which might be a good way for you to organize your PowerPoint.

Group 3 – Role of Igbo Women in Nigeria
You are responsible for presenting information about the role of Igbo (Ibo) women in Nigeria during both pre- and post- colonial times. Your main focus should be on pre-colonial and the immediate effect of the British rule, but do mention the aftermath of colonialism on women in Nigeria. You may want to organize your PowerPoint in a compare-contrast format.
Group 4 – Chinua Achebe
You are responsible for presenting information about Chinua Achebe, the author of the novel. You should cover briefly his life, from childhood to current life. Be sure to include his motivation for writing Things Fall Apart. You might want to consider creating a timeline using some of your information.
Group 5 –Igbo (Ibo) Society
You are responsible for presenting information about the Igbo (Ibo) social structure, its government, its traditions, and its religion. Read the articles and decide which information seems most relevant and interesting to the class. Include facts from each of the four categories, but give special attention to the social structure and religion of the Igbo people.
Group 6 – Colonialism and the British; Impact of Christianity and Missionaries
You are responsible for presenting information about colonialism in Nigeria, especially in regards to the Igbo (Ibo) people. Why was Africa colonized? How did it benefit Britain? Did their reasons for staying change over time? Name some social, economic, and religious ramifications of colonization. Also, look into the impact of Christianity and missionaries on the Igbo people and culture. Include both negative (i.e. less respect for native culture, exploitation of resources, racism) and positive (i.e. abolition of slave trade and human sacrifice, educational system, legal system) impacts.
Grading: This project is worth 40 points.

  • Students address the major issues required of their role _____/4

  • PowerPoint slides are detailed and show thorough research _____/4

  • Information is clearly put into students’ own words (not cut and pasted) _____/4

  • Sources are cited internally in correct MLA format _____/4

  • Sources are cited on a separate Works Cited slide in correct MLA format _____/4

  • Each slide contains at least one relevant graphic _____/4

  • Physical presentation of project is neat and appropriate for audience _____/4

  • Mechanics (Spelling, grammar, punctuation) _____/4


  • Information contained in PowerPoint is explained thoroughly _____/4

  • Student can answer questions knowledgably _____/4

4 = Excellent! Consistent and correct.

3 = Good. Mostly consistent and correct. Minor errors.

2 = Fair. Inconsistent/several errors

1/0 = Insufficient attempt/substantial errors/essential element missing

***Please note that intelligent questions show active listening. You can earn extra credit points by asking meaningful questions after you classmates’ presentations!
Score: ________ / 40 total points

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