Written by Chinua Achebe, it is regarded as the seminal novel within African literature. Achebe has said that he wrote his famous book, at least in part, because of the anger he felt at being made to read Conrad's Heart of Darkness and Cary's Mister Johnson in colonial schools. The latter features a slavish African who adores his white boss so much that he is gladly shot to death by him. In the former, white men go insane because of the 'heart" of the "darkness" revealed by Africa and Africans. In Things Fall Apart Achebe intends to speak to an implied reader who has read books similar to the ones he was made to read in high school. Achebe assumes a knowledge of Africa based upon books such as these, and then turns that "knowledge" on its head by giving the African viewpoint.
Colonization had a profound effect upon many parts of the now developing world. Formulated as part economic expansion and part assertion of supposedly superior values and culture by mainly European countries, the effects of colonization were similarly varied. Colonial areas essentially became vassals of their colonial masters. Their economic riches were taken for the good of the colonists and old customs often subsumed within the changes brought about by European education of the elite and the attempts of missionaries to convert the local people to Christianity. Achebe is attempting to put the reader in the shoes of the Africans being influenced by these policies rather than, as is more normal within literature, in the position of the Europeans.
In 1914, Lord Frederick Lugard, the governor of the British territories in Nigeria united areas in the North and South of the country into a single colony, thus creating "Nigeria" at a stroke. This was a common occurrence: countries were essentially just drawn on a map with little attention paid to natural geographical, cultural or tribal boundaries. It also played into the idea that all Africans were somehow the 'same': that is, primitive, innately stupid and dangerous unless treated with a carefully harsh hand. There were no differences in culture to the colonial's eyes, or if there were, they were insignificant as the Africans were just "natives" first and members of individual and contrasting groups second.
In Things Falling Apart the author takes this tendency to see all Africans as a homogenous whole and turns it on its head. He suggests that Africans are almost as responsible for their lowly state as the colonial powers because they essentially buy into the idea of their supposedly primitive nature. If Africans are not interested in their history and culture, then how can they expect colonial powers to be
In the book an attempt is made to show native African culture as complex and sophisticated with various traditions that date back centuries. But this culture was essentially dwarfed and overwhelmed by unimpeded contact with Western culture. Take the example of the Oba leaders called Afins. Under colonialism their wealth tended to disintegrate because their economic system had changed so rapidly. They could no longer benefit from free labor and the chief was no longer allowed to impound properties. The Oba could not support large numbers of wives, children and servants. The Afins were often forced to shut down their large houses and to turn to ordinary work. Achebe argues that all too many Africans are willing to accept the European