Sometimes you read a book that—whether you love it or hate it—is unlike any other you’ve read before. Things Fall Apart is one of those types of books.
Written by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart shows readers a view of Africa that’s different from the white-authored colonial-type stories like Heart of Darkness.
Instead of viewing Africans as exotic or viewing Africa as a continent to be explored and conquered, this book makes the characters and the settings feel real and familiar.
But it’s precisely because this book is so different that it’s difficult to choose a topic for your Things Fall Apart analysis.
But don’t worry—there are plenty of great topics that can come out of the literature. The following are just a few. You can use them for your analysis or as inspiration to come up with your own topic.
Write About Story Structure for Your Things Fall Apart Analysis
Topic #1: Compare and contrast the standard story structure with that of Things Fall Apart
Besides the portrayal of the characters and the settings, what makes Things Fall Apart so unique is its structure.
It’s a narrative view of the plight of Okonkwo (the protagonist). There’s no goal in mind, and the story doesn’t follow the structure we all learn early on in school—exposition, inciting incident, rising action, climax, falling action, moment of final suspense, and resolution.
Instead, it’s much looser in its structure, which makes it feel more sincere to many readers.
Need help with comparing and contrasting the two? Check out these Kibin blog posts for some guidance:
- How to Write a Compare and Contrast Essay
- How to Write a Compare and Contrast Thesis Statement
- Compare and Contrast Essay Tips from a Kibin Editor
Explore a Theme in Your Essay
Topic #2: Discuss the theme of tradition versus change in the novel
Change is what pushes any story forward. The tension it causes by disrupting the status quo allows characters to develop and allows a fuller, more nuanced story to develop. In Things Fall Apart, the tension between tradition and change is one of the major themes.
The community of Umuofia certainly has a traditional way of doing things at the beginning and through the middle of the book. Everything from leadership to gender roles, and spirituality to punishment is approached from a traditional viewpoint.
But change is imminent.
In your Things Fall Apart analysis, you can discuss how changes—such as Okonkwo’s exile, the introduction of the missionaries, and the change in leadership of the missionaries—serve to disrupt Umuofia’s traditions.
Topic #3: Describe how the theme of masculinity presents in different ways throughout the book
There are many references to masculinity throughout Things Fall Apart. Okonkwo knows that the clan did not view his father as masculine and sets out to be the exact opposite of him.
The clan views strength as a masculine quality, but Okonkwo takes it a step further—he views aggression as strength and, thus, as a masculine quality. He also sees the first converts to Christianity as unmasculine.
Topic #4: Explain how the colonial and African cultures within Things Fall Apart clash
As explained above, the missionaries are a main source of change in this book. This topic delves into the cultural differences between the missionaries (and the colonial West in general) and the Igbo culture represented in the story.
The laws—and punishments for breaking laws—are different. Their language is different. Their views of each other are different. In your essay, analyze these differences, explaining how they lead to friction.
Look for Symbols
Topic #6: Describe how fire serves as a symbol for Okonkwo’s emotions
Fire plays a major role in Things Fall Apart. It is closely tied to Okonkwo’s emotional state. Just as fire burns intensely, so too does Okonkwo’s anger. It spreads and becomes uncontrollable at times.
And just as fire consumes almost everything in its path, Okonkwo’s anger consumes him and eventually leads to his death.
Topic #7: Explain what the locusts symbolize
In Chapter 15, we get a pretty clear indication of what the locusts symbolize—Obierika mentions a comment from the Oracle that compares the locusts to the arrival of the white men.
It’s important to note that the locusts in Things Fall Apart don’t cause the mass panic that the Biblical plague of locusts does. Instead, they’re just a part of everyday life. In fact, Umuofia residents even eat the bugs, believing the bugs won’t cause any harm.
But locusts do cause harm, much like the missionaries they represent. At first viewed by Umuofia residents as just some harmless pest, the missionaries soon take over the village and destroy the Igbo culture.
Show You Know Your Characters
Topic #8: Explain what makes Okonkwo a tragic hero
A tragic hero is a protagonist who, despite some redeeming qualities, also has one or more major flaws that lead to the hero’s downfall—and that downfall is death in many cases.
Okonkwo possesses many of the traits of a tragic hero. He has hubris, or excessive pride. The story reverses the fate of Okonkwo, who was once well-respected in his community, then exiled and feared.
But most importantly, he possesses a tragic flaw that leads to his downfall—his fear of weakness. It’s the fear of weakness that leads him to kill Ikemefuna.
It’s that same fear that drives him to beat his wives and children, and to kill the British messenger. It’s this last action that ultimately leads to his suicide, but the fear of weakness behind the action is prevalent throughout the novel.
Topic #9: Compare and contrast Mr. Brown and Reverend James Smith
Both Mr. Brown and Reverend James Smith are missionaries and represent Western colonialism.
However, they each have different personalities and ways of approaching the Umuofia residents. Mr. Brown is kind, generous, and willing to learn about the culture and traditions of Umuofia.
Reverend Smith, on the other hand, is much harsher in his approach. He is completely intolerant of Igbo traditions and religion. He not only expects converts to have nothing to do with their old customs but also encourages them to be fanatical in their new beliefs.
Topic #10: Analyze the relationship between Nwoye, Ikemefuna, and Okonkwo
Nwoye doesn’t have the best relationship with his father. Nwoye wants to please Okonkwo, but doesn’t know how and receives many beatings for his failures. Ikemefuna comes along, and the two form a strong bond.
Ikemefuna teaches Nwoye how to be more traditionally masculine (without going overboard like Okonkwo), and it seems like Nwoye and his father have started to mend their relationship.
Okonkwo messes that all up by killing Ikemefuna. Nwoye mourns the loss of his friend and rebels against his father.
A Final Note on Your Things Fall Apart Analysis
Whether you go with one of the above topics or focus on other themes, symbols, imagery, or characters, make sure your literary analysis hits all the right points. Need help? Use these Kibin posts to help keep your Things Fall Apart essay on track:
- How to Write a Literary Analysis That Works
- Literary Analysis Essay Tips From a Kibin Editor
- 15 Literary Terms You Need to Know to Write Better Essays
Whatever topic you choose, it’s important to make sure you have enough support for your argument. Don’t choose the topic that sounds the most complex or the smartest.
By doing that, you’re only making more work for yourself and probably ending up with a worse essay. Instead, choose a topic that you know you can write about and one that’s narrow enough.
If you need a little inspiration for how to approach your paper, take a look at these examples:
- A Literary Analysis of Women in Things Fall Apart
- The Fall of Umuofia in Things Fall Apart
- Chi: An Important Motif in Things Fall Apart
- Character Analysis of Okonkwo in Things Fall Apart
- Irony in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart
When you’ve written your essay, don’t be afraid to get a second opinion. The Kibin editors are here to make sure your Things Fall Apart analysis meets all the assignment requirements and is free of spelling and grammar mistakes.