Tales in “Things Fall Apart”

Throughout the entirety of Things Fall Apart there are a plethora of folk tales, many of which in-regards to the way that things are within the village of the Igbo people. As someone who loves folk tales and legends from every culture it was something I highlighted throughout my entire reading. The way in which these are brought up seem to cause me to question whether or not they were written in out of necessity or if this is another example of someone writing for a specific audience and knowing that this would cause the audience to purchase a book. As you can see by this small post it was cause enough for me to enjoy certain parts of the novel and I am someone who would have purchased the book for the folk tales involved.

Beyond this the folk tales do seem to me to do something within the novel in order to move it forward. They are placed thoughtfully throughout in an attempt to keep the novel moving and to foreshadow events. One thing I found quite interesting was that the moment the colonization begins to occur, as the church is being built by Mr. Kiaga, proverbs begin to take over the types of tales available within the book. Proverbs appear as the new folk tale to the Igbo people and with the advent of more followers the Igbo’s tales “die off” within the story. Similar to how many people have read this novel as a movement to colonization through conquest of land, this would move me to say that is it colonization by conquest of beliefs. That being the case, beliefs are something much harder to change for any person, let alone a full civilization of people.

While the folk tales may be involved throughout the story as a foreshadow element or an element to show what Igbo people were supposedly like to the outsider, the fact that essentially it is a story within a story leads one to question how we know whether or not a belief in something is true. In each situation the elements of the story force us to believe that this is what the Igbo were really like and we accept it without further knowledge and research, we take it on face value. How do we tell what is fact or fiction within everyday life and how can we actually determine this based on our own ideas and thoughts? For the Igbo people they lived a long time without a Christian doctrine and their world was perfectly ok. Would it be any different if they had given up their beliefs from the start? Or were the folk tales simply a means with which to dramatize or stereotype a culture that many people simply know nothing about?

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One Response to Tales in “Things Fall Apart”

  1. Anne Gulick says:

    I really like your observation that tales get displaced in favor of proverbs in Part 2, and your question of how to make sense of the authenticity of this feature of the narrative – given that the final lines of the novel in particular raise questions about the way in which such “authentic” features of indigenous culture are transmitted to contemporary readers.


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