Why This Book
The New Student Reading Project at Cornell University is celebrating its 5th anniversary this year with Nigerian author Chinua Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart.
Recognized now as a classic of world literature, Things Fall Apart was written in 1958 and depicts traditional village life in Nigeria during the imposition of British colonial rule in the late Nineteenth Century. The story focuses on Okonkwo, who is determined to be a successful and respected leader of the Ibo, unlike his embarrassingly ineffectual father. Onkonkwo’s ambition is realized, but his tragic flaws lead him to serious transgressions of tribal traditions with dire consequences.
This universal tale of human nature and its foibles is woven by Achebe into the particular historical moment when the arrival of European missionaries and colonial officials threaten the very foundations of Ibo tribal life.
In reading Things Fall Apart entering students experience a non-western novel, which explores lifestyles and cultural norms that strikingly confront their conventional perspectives. Its selection reflects the vision of Cornell President Jeffrey Lehman, that Cornell undergraduates interact with and understand the history and values of other cultures, as befits an education at a transnational university.
Podcast available at iTunes - "Higher Education" subcategory.