When I was a freshman in college, I took a first-year seminar that explored the theme of frontiers and borders. The goal of the course was to help incoming students integrate into a multicultural environment and get them to think outside of their ethnocentric background—whatever that may have been. The course consisted of three weekly class sessions, accompanying reading materials and mandatory lectures from guest speakers. The material as a whole neglected entertainment value, and the speakers reflected a similarly boring atmosphere. This is why, when I walked into the conference room near the end of the semester, having just trudged across campus in a snowstorm, I was less than optimistic when I saw the old Nigerian man behind the podium. The following hour—a dictation on the state of the world, with warnings about the evils of pride and refusing to change with the times—would be one of the greatest hours of my life.
The speaker that day was Chinua Achebe, author of “Things Fall Apart,” a classic tragedy involving themes (you guessed it) of pride, power and intransigence. The story follows the travails of an African tribesman named Okonkwo, a faith leader and great warrior. The tribe appoints Okonkwo as the guardian of a boy whom they have taken prisoner; the boy’s father committed a war indiscretion against the tribe. The story turns tragic when the tribe determines to kill the boy. Okonkwo must decide whether to maintain his reputation and participate in the killing, or heed the warning of his elders and remove himself from the incident. Okonkwo makes his decision, determines his own fate and the rest of the puzzle begins to take shape, having been directly affected.
To follow the journey upon which Okonkwo embarks and learn the lessons I learned in that lecture, check out “Things Fall Apart” in Content Reserve today.
Jason Sockel is a Collection Development Associate at OverDrive.