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Ikenga Shrines and Iron Horses

A Reader's Guide to Chinua Achebe's THINGS FALL APART

Cathy Kroll, Author

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Reading the First Chapters of THINGS FALL APART

Literary scholars often think of narrative in terms of fabula and syuzhet, or the temporal sequence of events and the artful telling of those events. What you will no doubt notice immediately about Things Fall Apart is that Achebe has a very distinctive style of storytelling. In this narrative, Achebe combines both literary and oral storytelling conventions (or orality). Here are a few conventions of the oral tradition:

The storyteller/performer utters statements calculated to provoke audience response: outrage, surprise, amusement, and so on.

Elegantly simple plots that contain moral dilemmas that must be negotiated by the characters and audience ("dilemma tales")

Stories within stories

Proverbs, aphorisms, religious allusions, and pithy sayings

Character is revealed through action and dialogue, rather than through lengthy interior monologues.

Swiftly moving narrative: "narrative velocity"

Formulaic sayings with cultural significance repeated throughout the narrative

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