Against the Tide: A Deconstructive Reading of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart

Keywords: authentic African novel, binary opposition, Chinua Achebe, deconstruction, patronising attitude, Things Fall Apart


The scholarship on Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart dwells disproportionately on the novel’s preoccupation with the twin issues of the place of women in precolonial Igbo society and the disruptive arrival of the first Europeans in an African community. The consensus seems to be that the novel degrades the place of women in traditional society, while it exalts African tradition over European culture with which it came into contact. The present study exhumes these positions with a view to investigating them. Using the deconstructionist model of Jacques Derrida as its framework, the study identifies the binary oppositions constructed around the handling of these thematic preoccupations and upturns the assumed hierarchies which, on the surface, they seem to embody. The study arrives at the finding that the twin positions, which appear to have solidified into a consensus among the overwhelming majority of scholars on the novel, namely that it denigrates women and demeans the white man, are either an exaggeration or a misapprehension. The study finds that the conversation around the novel has by no means reached a foregone conclusion as the novel is susceptible to new and innovative readings, especially revisions of earlier seemingly unassailable readings.