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Work of Literature

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Written Task 1                          Yasin Ali


A work of literature is a medium through which authors express their stories to the general public. This task examines Chinua Achebe’s purpose in writing Things Fall Apart and how the novel became a means by which he responded to European literature that misrepresented African tribes and cultures in their purely colonialist viewpoint.

For this task, I adopted the text type of an interview to give readers an insight into his writing. This enabled me to focus on the author’s purpose by questioning Achebe about his use of a variety of methods to communicate his story and create an authentic African voice while using predominately the English language. Unlike other interviews on Things Fall Apart that discuss Nigeria’s politics and Achebe’s life, this one contemplates on Achebe’s analysis of his own work. I imagined the interview to be published in the school magazine; the interview was done to help accommodate the year 11 IB students in understanding their Unit in English.

To demonstrate the learning outcomes of the study of Part 1, Language in a cultural context, such as language and structure, are explored in detail. For example, the interviewer questions Achebe about the significance of integrating “ Igbo words, songs and folklores” in the text. In analyzing Achebe’s writing style and the effects of these rhetorical elements, It can be seen that language enables the author to convey both explicit and implicit meanings within a text. This further relates to the larger context surrounding the novel in that Achebe’s main purpose in writing Things Fall Apart was to show the Europeans that Africans are not “ primitive and language-less” as thought to be.

Word count 1276

After giving a talk on campus, Achebe spoke with the Australian International School Of Sharjah students about culture, colonization and changes. This interview is written and published by an 11th grader, named Yasin Ali.


Tired of reading the European’s accounts of Africa as primordial and cultureless, Chinua Achebe decide that it was time to tell the world the story of his people. Through the novel Things Fall Apart, Achebe gave voice to the Igbo people of Nigeria, helping them rise from denigration and self-abasement. By drawing upon the beautiful language and ling established traditions of his culture, Achebe shows the Europeans that his people are in no way primitive or rudimentary.

The title of the novel is taken from William Yeat’s poem “ The Second Coming” what prompted you to do so?

Writing in retrospect, I saw a parallel between the chaos in Yeats poem and the upheaval in Nigeria during the British colonization. The poem not only inspired the title of the novel, but it became the foundation of the plot. In the poem, visual imagery of gyres is used to describe the notion of instability; this is what the novel focuses on a society that is heading towards chaos. Essentially, the title foreshadows what happens: the disintegration of the Igbo tribe as a result of the arrival of the missionaries.

In writing the novel, what were you trying to achieve?

After reading European literature that portrayed Africans as savages, I realized that people were hearing stories that could not have been further from truth. Most people believe that my sole purpose was to respond novels such as Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. To an extent, I was trying to show the Europeans that we are not Conrad would call “rudimentary souls”, but at the same time, I endeavored to convey a better understanding of African tribes – the civilized life of the Igbo people – and the impact that the European missionaries had on our live. I wanted the world to see us for who we are and not who they thought we were.

So how did you show your traditions and values to the readers?

From the first chapter, readers are exposed to different aspects of the African culture, from daily rituals to wedding ceremonies to show the complexity of the Igbo customs. For instance, when Unoka’s neighbor visits him to collect his debt, instead of directly addressing the subject, they fist share kola nuts and palm-wine. This emphasizes the peaceful nature of our tribe, thus contradicting the European’s representation of us as savages. Moreover it highlights the differing customs of the African and European world; while the Igbo values cultural traditions, the European value direct communication.

And what is you purpose in integrating Igbo words and songs into the text?

Similar to the portrayal of Igbo traditions, I wanted to challenge the European’s account of Africans as language-less. The integration of Igbo language is indicative of our rich oral culture; our language is complex – it is full of proverbs and rhetorical devices. For example, the proverb “ if one finger brought oil, it soiled the others” exemplifies the collective nature of our society in that the action of one person can effect eh whole village. Besides, it foreshadows how the arrival of the Europeans will lead to the spread of chaos. Similarly, I included traditional songs and folklores, such as the story of the tortoise and the bird, to highlight our oral tradition and how stories are passed down from one generation to another. Likewise, primordial wisdoms of the elder generations are shared amongst the villagers through the use od proverbs as part of their daily conversation.



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