Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe (21 December — 22 December)
I… didn’t get this book. At all. I even did something crazy and went and read the SparkNotes after I was done with it to attempt to figure out what the heck had happened, but I’m still not satisfied. I didn’t not like the book, but after reading it I just had absolutely no idea what I was meant to have taken away, and now that I know what I’m meant to have taken away, I’m disappointed.
See, the plot of this book… well, there’s not really a plot. But there’s a protagonist, so that’s good, and he’s called Okonkwo and he lives in Africa and he aspires to great things. His father was a loser, so Okonkwo fashioned himself a winner, to good results. But then he kills this kid that was sent to live with him and who called him “father” and who liked living with Okonkwo, and then things seem to start falling apart, as they do.
And I thought that maybe that was the point of the book, because it’s pretty emphasized — that Okonkwo did a bad thing by killing a boy he thought of as a son, and now he gets to be punished. And he does get punished, in various ways, including being exiled for seven years for inadvertantly killing some other guy’s son. But then Achebe completely ignores all of that and starts in with some missionaries, who come to the villages and start converting people to Christianity, and then things seem to start falling apart, as they do.
Wait, what? Okay, fine, so things are falling apart for a different reason now, that has nothing to do with Okonkwo. But Okonkwo, whose life was already falling apart, doesn’t want it to fall apart anymore so he tries to bring an uprising against the missionaries, which totally fails, and [ending alert] then he kills his real son (who’s a convert and who is “not his son anymore” and cetera) and then he kills himself. Or is said to have killed himself. And SparkNotes says he did it. But I don’t believe that.
Anyway, so I finish reading the book and I’m like, okay, this plotline that I’ve just outlined makes sense, but I’ve only included, like, less than half of the scenes in the book and what were those supposed to be for? So I ask SparkNotes, and it tells me that this book is really about showing the Western world that Africa is a real place with real people with real emotions and religions and languages and customs and such and that colonization sort of makes those things fall apart and also the colonial nations are pretty stupid for not realizing that Africa is a real place etc.
And then I go, oh. That makes sense. I get that. I would feel stupid for not seeing that while reading it, except that I was too busy trying to follow the story Achebe was telling, and not the one he was implying, which is unfortunate. I guess if I had known in advance that the written story was merely a vehicle for a bigger statement, I would have liked it better. As it stands, I am just confused and disappointed.
(Back to School Challenge)
Pass me yours, if you’ve got ‘em.