Teaching Students About the Plot of “Things Fall Apart”


“Things Fall Apart”, a novel written by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe, is a cornerstone of African literature and a classic in world literature. Set in pre-colonial Nigeria during the late 19th century, the book tells the story of Okonkwo, an influential clan leader, who struggles with tradition, change, and personal flaws. Teaching students about this novel’s plot opens up opportunities to explore themes such as culture, imperialism, and human nature. Here is a detailed guide on how to teach students about the plot of “Things Fall Apart”.

Introducing “Things Fall Apart” to Students

1. Begin by providing historical and cultural background on pre-colonial Nigeria and the Igbo people. Discussing the setting’s significance will help students appreciate how Achebe painted an authentic picture of African culture before European colonization.

2. Offer a brief biography of Chinua Achebe, his accomplishments, and why he wrote “Things Fall Apart”. Explain how Achebe’s experiences growing up in colonial Nigeria influenced his perspective.

3. Provide a list of key terms and concepts from the novel that students may not be familiar with, such as chi (personal god), egwugwu (masked spirits), and iyi-uwa (sacred stone).

Teaching the Plot

1. Share a general overview of the story and its structure. Explain that “Things Fall Apart” is divided into three parts: Okonkwo’s rise in Umuofia, his exile in Mbanta, and return after seven years.

2. Go over every chapter in detail using techniques like summarizing, reading out loud or assigning roles for students to act out important scenes.

3. Encourage students to analyze the progression of Okonkwo’s character throughout the novel. Discuss the various challenges he faces – both external and internal – and how these shape his actions and decisions.

4. Highlight the significance of Okonkwo’s tragic flaw (his fear of being perceived as weak) and how it contributes to the overall plot development. Delve into the dynamics of these characteristics, such as comparing Okonkwo to other characters or debating whether he is a hero or a victim.

Thematic Discussions and Activities

1. Explore themes like tradition, change, masculinity, and fate. Ask students to identify examples from the plot that illustrate these concepts.

2. Help students draw connections between “Things Fall Apart” and contemporary events or issues. This activity could lead to discussions about cultural identity, globalization, or resistance to change in modern times.

3. Encourage creative projects, such as writing alternate endings for the novel, creating artwork based on significant scenes, or composing original poems discussing its themes.


Teaching the plot of “Things Fall Apart” requires a multifaceted approach that balances understanding the novel’s historical context with exploring its intricate thematic elements. Through this guide, educators can effectively convey the depth and impact of Chinua Achebe’s landmark novel to their students while fostering valuable discussions surrounding themes and contemporary connections.

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