Mrs. Schuet's AP Literature Class of '16 discussion

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

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message 1: by Mackenzie (new)

Mackenzie Cox | 4 comments I choose this book because it was recommended by my classmates and my parents.
I am on pg 19, so far Okonkwo a local strong man is the main character.Okonkwo is haunted by his lazy father's life. This pushes him to be hardworking, yet also somewhat cruel and uncaring considering gentleness a form of weakness.I really like the style of writing because it is easy to read and fast paced, when compared to other books I've read (the Sound and the Fury) the style is much easier to read and understand.

message 2: by Chau (new)

Chau Nguyen (jajajajajaja) | 8 comments I chose this book because it was a book I checked out long ago but couldn't make time to read. Turns out, it's a completely different book from the one I borrowed, meaning I found this book accidently.

I'm on page 10 right now and Okonkwo is a strong man who is described almost like a king; the villagers respect him, and he wrestled down a famed man. Okonkwo is brave and shuns laziness, polarizing his feelings as "manly" and hardworking, but at times, cruel and apathetic.

The book is unique in its short and descriptive writing style. There's no real complexity within the sentence structure compared to some of the classics I've read. The simplicity in the sentences makes the book read like a children's fable, or a story read at bedtime. The nostalgia flowering from the sentences' simplicity and the scene setting makes it easier for me to want to understand the underlying themes of the book.

message 3: by Jaclyn (new)

Jaclyn Knight | 4 comments To Chau and Mackenzie

Do you guys think that Okonkwo is such a strong leader and warrior because of his fear of being weak like his father? Could this possibly connect to Othello's insecurities that he covered with his leadership and courage.

message 4: by Chau (new)

Chau Nguyen (jajajajajaja) | 8 comments Damn Jacklyn why do you have to make such a good connection?

I agree Okonkwo's strong leadership and bravery stems not because he's intrinsically brave, but because he fears becoming "weak" like his father. His fear of retracting and devolving into his father's weak footsteps is what ultimately blurs him into a fury of living as an antithesis of his father.

The point you made about Okonkwo's similarity to Othello is also interesting and cool. Othello is so fixated on not becoming his stereotype he eventually does, completing his "self-fulfilling prophecy." I don't know if Okonkwo will end up like Othello, but I think to some degree, Okonkwo might experience internal rifts in his identity because he's so fixated on avoiding his father's weak identity that he forgets what his true identity is.

message 5: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth | 4 comments Mackenzie and Chau: Both of you mentioned the simplicity of the writing style and how easy it is to read. Does this style contribute in some way to the meaning of the book? Or possibly say something about the characters or the setting?

message 6: by Mackenzie (new)

Mackenzie Cox | 4 comments To Elizabeth, I'm not yet sure how the style might connect to the deeper meaning-except that the issue that Okonkwo is struggling with of trying to avoid being like his father is a common issue in society today. So the style helps the reader relate to the problems of the society even if the setting itself is unfamiliar.

Also, I have seen so far that Okonkwo in attempting to be the opposite of his father,feels like he must embody masculinity (even if he disagrees subconsciously). An example is after he beat his wife during the week of peace, Okonkwo felt repentant yet he didn't express his remorse because he thought it was a sign of weakness.

I think Okonkwo feels he needs to embody masculinity because his father was called an agbala meaning women or someone without a title, when he was a child. This caused him to strive to seem masculine because he fears being called a feminine because that is a characteristic he associates with his father.

Okonkwo reveals his insecurity when he calls out a man without a title as a women in a clan meeting; because his greatest fear is being seen like his father, by calling out someone else in the same way his father was he distances himself from his fathers image(reputation) and also reaffirms his own as a better man.

For the most part I think this causes Okonkwo to be abusive towards his wives and children because he needs to appear in control to satisfy his ideals of masculinity.

What do you the role gender and gender stereotypes play in the novel?

message 7: by Chau (new)

Chau Nguyen (jajajajajaja) | 8 comments I think the heavily patriarchal society kind of corners Okonkwo into striving to be this very dominant male and he shuns any male who doesn't reach his expectation of what it's like to be a "man." I think the gender stereotypes of both males and females limits Okonkwo's perspective on the world; his preconceived ideas on the abilities of his fellow males and females blind him from realizing their inherent abilities that aren't explicitly shown in the novel because of these stereotypes.

To Elizabeth, I'm not exactly sure if the simplicity in the writing style was chosen specifically to align with the theme of the book, or to help distinguish the characters. It might just be because it's the author's writing style, but if I had to make an inference, the simplicity in the writing style makes this foreign world easier for a general audience to relate to. Even though the sentences read of easily, the internal struggle Okonkwo endures in embodying masculinity isn't as clear.

message 8: by Chau (new)

Chau Nguyen (jajajajajaja) | 8 comments I finished reading the book and I was surprised to see the parallels between Okonkwo and Othello. Both strived to not become ostracized by their society, and because of this fixation on "fitting in", they never had the audacity to question or accept varying beliefs from others about the nature of their society. For Okonkwo, he never questions the necessary manliness needed, and he constantly shuns anyone, including his sons, who don't meet the standards of what it's like to be a "man."

Even when Okonkwo had to kill his adopted son, even when he soon physically and mentally struggles accepting a murder of an innocent child, even when he "thought of his father's weakness and failure", he "expelled it by thinking about his own strength and success."

Okonkwo chides his friend for refusing to kill his adopted son, and by bullying or confronting his friends, Okonkwo gives himself an opportunity to avoid reflection and avoid confronting his own peer-pressured actions.

There is no real happy ending to this story, and Okonkwo's death is a great illustration of the consequences of not just the traditional patriarchal society, but the universal danger of being peer-pressured to act on something one does not truly believe in.

Okonkwo has so much conviction on the ingrained benefits of just being a male that he constantly wishes his beloved daughter that she was a boy. Even though she was perfect, according to Okonkwo, her flaw was her gender. The constant rift between Othello and his family and soon society really showcased what it means to be a divided self, so much that death is the better solution than confronting one's actions.

message 9: by Mackenzie (new)

Mackenzie Cox | 4 comments I just finished also, but did you notice the possible biblical allusion.
the Oracle (representing God) tells the tribe to kill Ikemefuna which Okonkwo sees as his son, which is similar to how Abraham is ordered to kill his son Issac in the old testament. Yet in the old testament God was only testing Abraham to make sure he was faithful and doesn't actually want Abraham to kill Issac.

Additionally, when Nwoye joins the church he is named Issac- and because he is actually the first born of Okonkwo this furthers the allusion to the story about Issac and Abraham.

I'm not sure how this contributes to the deeper meaning of the book, but I wanted to point out the similarity.

message 10: by Chau (new)

Chau Nguyen (jajajajajaja) | 8 comments yeah! I thought I mentioned that, but it was actually in my OR log. I think the significance of Okonkwo actually believing the Oracle wanted him to kill Ikemefuna is an irony that highlights how Okonkwo's "faithfulness" to masculinity is in reality, not approved by any God.

Pointing out Nwoye was named Issac, in my opinion, solidifies you pointing out your biblical allusion.

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