Things Fall Apart is a 1958 English-language novel by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe. It is a staple book in schools throughout Africa and widely read and studied in English-speaking countries around the world. It is seen as the archetypal modern African novel in English, and one of the first African novels written in English to receive global critical acclaim. The title of the novel comes from William Butler Yeats's poem "The Second Coming".
The novel depicts the life of Okonkwo, a leader and local wrestling champion in Umuofia—one of a fictional group of nine villages in Nigeria, inhabited by the Igbo ethnic group. In addition it focuses on his three wives, his children, and the influences of British colonialism and Christian missionaries on his traditional Igbo (archaically "Ibo") community during the late nineteenth century.
Achebe depicts the Igbo as a people with great social institutions in accordance with their particular society, ie, wrestling, human sacrifice and suicide. Their culture is heavy in traditions and laws that focus on justice and fairness. The people are ruled not by a king or chief but by a kind of democracy, where the males meet and make decisions by consensus and in accordance to an "Oracle" that should be written down. It is the Europeans, who often talk of bringing democratic institutions to the rest of the world, that upset this system. Achebe emphasizes that high rank is attainable for all freeborn Igbo men – he attained his through fighting as opposed to reading or ploughing the land and growing herbal remedies, vegetation, rearing cattle, fowl etc.