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Things Fall Apart

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Chinua Achebe

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A+ Student Essay: The Role of Storytelling in Things Fall Apart

Within the complex oral culture of the Igbo, elaborate storytelling is a prized art form as well as a crucial social tool. Children learn their families’ history through their mothers’ fireside tales, and clan members absorb communal values through stories told over and over again at clan gatherings. Stories bind the Igbo people as a community, but in the hands of other, alien tellers, stories are the very things that destroy the clan and its beliefs.

Read more about the art of storytelling in Homer’s epic poem, The Odyssey .

For the Igbo, the storytellers that attract you and the stories that resonate for you indicate your values. Nwoye, for example, prefers to listen to his mother’s stories rather than his father’s, setting him apart from the other Igbo men. Later, Nwoye’s love of the Christians’ hymns and simple stories compel him to reject his own clan and convert, one of the first incidents of the clan’s disintegration. Nwoye is lured away from Igbo culture and toward Christianity by the affecting quality of the missionaries’ songs and tales, which speak to him more powerfully than the stories he grew up with. By choosing new stories to believe in, Nwoye in effect chooses a new society to belong to.

The falling apart of the Igbo community can be traced to the fact that the Igbo consider the white people to be mere “fairy-tales.” Rather than appreciating accounts of the Europeans’ approach as factual reports, the news of their own imminent colonization strikes the Igbo as an incredible story. As the clan elders of Mbanta confer, one claims that, though they heard “stories about white men who made the powerful guns and the strong drinks and took slaves away across the seas, no one thought the stories were true.” Uchendu, Okonkwo’s thoughtful uncle, responds, “There is no story that is not true.”

The Igbo tell stories to order their world and to ascribe meaning to certain events. But the story of the white people is not a story they have woven, whose meanings they can control. Most of the Igbo people cannot incorporate the fantastical tale of the Europeans into their worldview because it lies so far outside their frame of reference. But by failing to appreciate Uchendu’s philosophy that every story contains some truth, the Igbo fail to realize that their authority to write their own stories—in essence, to control their own destinies—has become threatened by the colonizers.

The final downfall of the Igbo people is heralded by another story—a story about them, but one that is narrated by an outsider. At the close of the novel, the Commissioner decides that he will record his own story of the Igbo. However, he declares that he must be “firm in leaving out superfluous details.” There is no room for artful, Igbo-like rhetoric in his tale of conquest. The narrative the Commissioner envisions is one that would make for “interesting reading,” that is, a written rather than oral story, which entertains rather than communicates values and customs. The Commissioner’s writing sounds the death knell for the Igbo culture, its rejection of the Igbo’s prized oral narration and elaborate rhetoric symbolizing the European conquering of Africa and subsequent uprooting of its traditions.

The Commissioner’s decision to become a writer reflects Achebe’s ambiguous relationship to the events and culture he describes in Things Fall Apart . With this novel, the Nigerian Achebe straddles the two opposing modes of storytelling he depicts within the plot, employing both the looping, repetitive style of the Igbo’s oral culture as well as the written English of the Europeans. Just as the Commissioner’s decision to write down the Igbo story signals the conclusion of that story, Achebe’s Westernized version of the Igbo history signifies the end of their traditional culture.

Things Fall Apart SparkNotes Literature Guide

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Things Fall Apart Essays

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Things Fall Apart

interesting and help explain the theme and plot. Without a strong list of characters a book becomes dull. In Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart the characters help explain the lost Ibo culture, from strong to lazy, to women and a sacrifice to prevent war. The main character sets up the plot of a book, through their life and point of view the story is told. The main character in Things Fall Apart is a strong and culture hearted man named Okonkwo. He can be described as a tragic hero from his journey and life

Okonkwo is a tragic hero in "Things Fall Apart" Question ( 2 ): Discuss Okonkwo in Chinua Achebe 's “Things Fall Apart” is a tragic hero. Answer: In Chinua Achebe’s novel “Things Fall Apart” Okonkwo is a tragic hero. Aristotle’s Poetics defines a Tragic Hero as a good man of high status who displays a tragic flaw ‘hamartia’ and experiences a dramatic reversal ‘peripeteia’, as well as an intense moment of recognition ‘anagnorisis’. Okonkwo is a leader and hardworking member of the Igbo community

differently by two different readers? Things Fall Apart Language and Literature Things fall apart is a novel written by Chinua Achebe. It is set during the late 19th, early 20th century in a small village named Umuofia situated in Nigeria. This time period is important because it was a period in colonial history when the British were increasing their influence economic, cultural, and political influence in Africa. The novel deals with the rise and fall of Okonkwo, a man from the village of

Based off the book Things Fall Apart, the videos we watched in class, and the poem “The White Man’s Burden”, the white man’s burden of spreading Christianity was more harmful than helpful. In both the book and the film the African Tribes were already fully functional as a whole. They had systems in place such as forms of government, art, social systems, and economic systems. After the whites came to convert them, things started to fall apart and become chaotic. As we saw in the videos, there were

The author of “The Women of Things Fall Apart, Speaking from a Different Perspective: Chimamanda Adichie’s Headstrong Storytellers,” Anene Ejikeme, claims that Chinua Achebe successfully introduces Ibo culture to a Western audience; however, even Achebe would agree that there cannot just be one story to represent such a complex society, and Ejikeme argues that Things Fall Apart is too centered upon the male’s reaction to English powers. Therefore, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “Headstrong Historians”

moment it opens with W.B. Yeats’s haunting poem, pieces are being chipped away and fall silently to the dust. However, things do not truly fall apart until the final act and freezing conclusion. Although the storytelling and plot is very straightforward, (usually erring on the blunt side of the rhetorical spectrum) the true genius of the book lies in its subtleties. By the end of the story things have fallen apart for Okonkwo and his people, but it's not until that ending that the reader can put

Things fall apart

Reflection on the novel Things Fall Apart The Idea of Culture in Things Fall Apart The novel Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe is a story about personal beliefs, customs and also about conflict. There is struggle between family and within culture and it also deals with the concept of culture and the notion of the values and traditions within a culture. The word culture is Latin and means to cultivate. To cultivate has several meanings; it can mean to plow, fertilize, raise and plant, to

Society (Things Fall Apart) Women are often thought of as the weaker, more vulnerable of the two sexes. Thus, women’s roles in literature are often subdued and subordinate. In Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, women are repressed by an entrenched structure of the social repression. Women suffer great losses in this novel but, also in certain circumstances, hold tremendous power. Achebe provides progressively changing attitudes towards women’s role. At first glance, the women in Things Fall Apart may

English oral presentation Cultural strengths of the Ibo society before the invasion of the colons. The novel "Things fall apart" by Chinua Achebe describes the social and cultural traits of a culture based on the principles of labor and masculinity, conformity and kinship and finally on solid juridical system. The worth of a man was measured by his strength and the amount of work he could accomplish and how efficiently feed his family, the concepts of masculinity is strictly related with

Around the late 1800s, African communities resisted against the attempts to colonize their countries and force foreign domination . In Chinua Achebe’s novel, Things Fall Apart, colonizers come to the villages of Umuofia and Mbanta. The title is a reflection of the effect of colonialism on the novel’s protagonist, Okonkwo. He fights to stop the colonizers from taking control of his village. Throughout the novel, he struggles to not become lazy, like his father, and works desperately to keep his the

Okonkwo Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe is a novel about a man in West Africa. It tells about his triumphs and trial ultimately leading to his demise. It explains how the “white man” came into his country and took over. It show you how the “white man” mad things fall apart. Okonkwo was a very large and tall man. He had big bushy eyebrows and a huge nose. As stated in Things Fall Apart, “He was tall and huge, and his bushy eyebrows and wide nose gave him a very severe look (3-4).” He was extremely

which have gradually faded away over time. In the novel Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, an African society is introduced to Western culture and faces a strong clash between those who want to keep the tribe’s tradition and those who want to change to adapt to the new customs. If this text would have been written in a different time of place, there would be a significant amount of changes in the way the plot unravels. If Things Fall Apart had been written in the 1490s with Native American tribes

Things Fall Apart, a novel by Chinua Achebe, highlights the fight between colonialism and traditional societies. The protagonist Okonkwo is a man of high status throughout the nine villages and even beyond due to his many achievements, such as gaining fame as a young person when he defeated the undefeatable, a wrestler nicknamed “the cat”. He is strong and hard-working, unlike his father, Unoka, who has a tainted legacy of being effeminate and cowardly. Unoka died and left many unpaid debts, so

someones personality and life. I wouldn’t say they define us but they shift and mold who we are going to be when we grow up. If you strip away the core of traditions or activities that were considered normal, it could really affect someone. In Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo is a perfect example of this theory. He was torn that Missionaries came into Umofia while he was gone and changed everything. Okonkwo felt betrayed by how much change took toll in Umofia. He isn’t used to the new rules and regulars given

Culture plays an important role in society, it is what makes a people unique. In the book Things Fall Apart, author Chinua Achebe wrote the book using proverbs and traditions of the Ibo to reveal the uniqueness and wisdom of the culture, which ends up getting interfered with another culture. Throughout the book, proverbs are used to illustrate the wisdom of the Ibo people. On page 19, a man says, “We shall all live. We shall pray for life, children, a good harvest and happiness... let the kite

Book Report Things Fall Apart, the first book of the African Trilogy, is written by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe. The classic narrative depicts Africa’s interactions with Europe as Europe begins to have an influence on the country (culture, religion, etc.) Throughout the story the reader will peruse about Okonkwo’s, the protagonist, fictional encounters. Okonkwo is the beloved leader of the Igbo community of Umuofia in eastern Nigeria. Throughout the book there is a reoccuring theme that Okonkwo

Things Fall Apart, written by Chinua Achebe was set in pre-colonial Nigeria during the constant battle against the way the country was run. The main character Okonkwo, was very famous in the surrounding village for being a wrestling champion. In the story, Okonkwo was portrayed as a hard-working, and strived to show no weakness like his father, Unoka. His father, has tainted Okonkwo’s family as being effeminate. The bad reputation of Okonkwo’s family caused him to be diligent in building his wealth

In Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe tells a story set during the British colonialism of Nigeria in the late 19th century. Of the descriptions that Achebe makes, one of the most significant is the British District Court officers and the egwugwu. There are several superficial similarities between the District Court officers and the egwugwu. These similarities include their relationship with the people of the culture. The egwugwu are masqueraders who impersonate the gods of the Igbo

The word hero means a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities. In the book “Things Fall Apart “ by Chinua Achebe, Okonkwo is a hard-working leader in the village of Umuofia during the time of British colonialism of Nigeria. He is portrayed as a tragic hero because he allows inner and outside forces to contribute to his downfall and gains the sympathy from the reader. Okonkwo allowed his inner and outside forces to contribute to his downfall

A novel extremely fascinating yet exceptionally ambiguous. Things Fall Apart is a novel by Chinua Achebe that takes place in Nigeria, Africa where the story is mainly about how the main character’s life is falling apart. Therefore, if there were two different readers are someone from the African Culture and someone from the American culture reading it in modern time they would interpret the novel differently. In the novel the text could be interpreted differently by two different readers through

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Things Fall Apart Essays

things fall apart literary essay

Cultural tension has always been around, whether people like it or not. The strain might be caused by race, religion or economics, but in the end it always leads to things falling apart. Cultural tensions arise in Chinua Achebe’s novel, when the European missionaries start settling into Africa in hopes to convert the Ibo people to Christianity. In Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart the cultural tension between the Ibo people and new European settlers causes abounding problems for Okonkwo our main character witch include family disputes and internal inquiring’s. As missionaries came to settle were Okonkwo lives and spread their religion, Okonkwo is faced to realize that his eldest son Nwoye is not like him. Seeking to be accepted Nwoye converts to Christinaity and moves back to Umuofia where his father has been exiled for seven years. While Okonkwo may seem like he does not care that his son has left him we later learn that Okonkwo did care enough to feel sorrow for his departure, but not enough to keep it for long. As Okonkwo’s story continued he says he has, “overcome his sorrow. He had five other sons and he would bring them up in the way of the clan” (161). This shows that although Okonkwo may feel some discomfort in the idea of losing his son to the…

Chinua Achebe’s View on a Patriarchal Society Chinua Achebe's novel, Things Fall Apart shows feminism from the male perspective. In the Igbo society, women typically take on the role of a housewife, which involves, cooking, cleaning, and anything that will benefit the man in the house. This was the standard way of life for a while in many places throughout the world, including in America. While Chinua Achebe illustrates the secondary role for women in a patriarchal society, nevertheless he…

What To Do When ‘Things Fall Apart’ Just as the title of the novel suggests Okonkwo's downfall is caused by his inability to follow the morals of his culture and to adapt to colonization. Things Fall Apart , a historical fiction novel by Chinua Achebe, takes place in Nigeria around the turn of the 19th century which is extremely important; it means Okonkwo’s life is in both, the pre- and post-European era. This allows Achebe to give Okonkwo a more complex, old fashioned, and unique…

In the novel Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe the role of women is mostly portrayed as a negative one because in the novel the women do not get treated the same way as men, the women get beat, and the women in the book are seen as property and not as human beings, which is what they are. The women in things fall apart play a major role in the novel because without the women the men would never be anything because in order to be a fascinating leader you need to have many wives, (although that…

opposite of his lazy father, Unoka. Okonkwo is revealed to have a great work ethic and a short temper. Agbala, the goddess of the earth, Nwoye, Okonkwo’s son, and Ikemefuna, Okonkwo’s ill-fated tribute son are all introduced in the beginning of Things Fall Apart. The Week of Peace is celebrated every year in Umuofia. The harming of a tribe member by another is forbidden during the Week of Peace. Okonkwo disobeys this rule by beating his wife which brings about the wrath of Chielo, the priestess…

Why are traditions so important to a culture? Do the traditions of any society do more harm than good or vice versa? Things Fall Apart is a fiction novel written by Chinua Achebe in 1965. He writes about Okonkwo a wealthy and respected warrior who sees his biological son Nwoye just like his failure of a father Unoka. He soon takes in Ikemefuna a 15-year-old boy and sees in the son who will not disappoint him. When a time comes that Ikemefuna must die because of the oracles Okonkwo makes the boy…

In the novel Things Fall Apart we’re presented with the character of Unoka, who lived in a lower Nigerian tribe that is part of a nine-section connected village, Iguedo. Unoka can be described as a free spirit someone who lived their life listening to the wind and being one with nature a trait that to many seemed weak. Unoka was a man who could not stand the sight of blood making him an awful warrior, a very much respected role in his community. He was inconsistent borrowing and losing money,…

Alyssa Kondash Things fall apart 11/15/15 Things fall apart, is the story of an Ibo village called Umuofia, it takes place around the late 1800’s in Africa. The story was written with eastern views in mind, some of our western views are considered shameful to them. Okonkwo, the main character was one of the most well known and respected men in the village of Umuofia known for his strength and valor. Also being well known for having many titles, the more titles you have the more successful and…

In his insightful critique, “The Plight of a Hero in Achebe’s Things Fall Apart,” Patrick Nnoromele reevaluates the demise of protagonist Okonkwo, widely perceived as a repercussion of his tragic flaw: the abiding fear of resembling his effeminate and disreputable father. However, Nnoromele alternatively suggests that Okonkwo’s suicide was not the manifestation of weakness and defeat, but rather a gallant act according to the Igbo ideals. To justify this claim, the critic characterizes a hero in…

How can an author use a fictional character to make a cultural statement? Chinua Achebe in his novel Things Fall Apart answers this question by telling a story of British colonization through an African point of view. In this work of historical fiction, Okonkwo wants the people of Umuofia to fight against the British, but instead many of the people of Umuofia follow the new ideas the British bring such as Christianity. Then Okonkwo loses hope that his people, so then Okonkwo commits suicide by…

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things fall apart literary essay

Essays on Things Fall Apart

Things fall apart: change vs tradition, the portrayal of women in things fall apart, repression and tragedy in achebe’s things fall apart, how okonkwo’s outward conformity hides his personal questioning in things fall apart, the main aims of the author in "things fall apart", okonkwo's polarized concepts of femininity and masculinity in things fall apart, the importance of adapting to changes in "things fall apart" by chinua achebe, the use of proverbs in things fall apart by chinua achebe, achebe's goal to increase global comprehension of african culture through things fall apart, critique of the effect of western imperialism on the third world in things fall apart, the effects of colonialism on igbo society in things fall apart and the joys of motherhood, the allegory of the title things fall apart, triumph and tragedy: the exploration of a tragic hero and the consequences of others that contribute to the overall tragic vision of the peace "things fall apart", things fall apart and purple hibiscus: female sabotage in an african setting, the use of proverbs in chinua achebe’s novel, language as a bridge to understanding in things fall apart, a novel by chinua achebe, how chinua achebe uses settings in his "things fall apart", impacts of post-colonialism in things fall apart, surfacing, and fire on the mountain, things fall apart: sexism in the igbo culture, the importance of family in white teeth, disgrace and things fall apart, theme of parental conflict in purple hibiscus and things fall apart, evaluation of the role of okonkwo as illustrated in achebe's things fall apart, analysis of okonkwo as a tragic hero, comparison of "heart of darkness" and "things fall apart", the portrayals of imperialism in "things fall apart" and "heart of darkness", the use of ethos, logos and pathos in the book "things fall apart" by chinua achebe, comparative analysis of "heart of darkness" versus "things fall apart", chinua achebe and joseph boyden on the colonialism process, nigeria vs western capitalist society as potrayed in things fall apart and the joys of motherhood, one hundred years of solitude and things fall apart: a comparative literary study, feeling stressed about your essay.

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1958, Chinua Achebe

Novel; Allegorical, historical fiction

Ezinma, Nwoye, Ikemefuna, Okonkwo, Mr. Brown

The European invasion and earlier colonial accounts of African history.

Colonialism, culture, family, friendship, life, struggle, politics, a cultural clash, Igbo society

While the African culture is often ignored, this particular book speaks directly about life in the Igbo society. It also tells an insider story of the African experience that becomes clear for those people who are not directly involved. It tells about the spiritual history of African people and makes a cultural aspect that is often ignored even through the lens of colonial background.

This complex, yet profound novel tells us a story of Okonkwo, a wrestling champion belonging to the Igbo community. The novel takes place among the fictional clan where we learn about family life, history of the main character, custom, society, and the usual challenges. The third part of the book deals with the Christian missionaries and the European colonialism.

The title of the book has been taken from a poem called "The Second Coming", which has been penned by W.B. Yeats. Achebe's goal has been to let the readers learn more about the African society that has been dynamic and vivid, yet completely different from the Western society. The book shows Africa as a modern and well-developed society. The "Things Fall Apart" manuscript has been lost for months until it has finally been found for publishing. Achebe has been influenced by the style of Charles Dickens. The book has given a start for the African literature all over the world. Achebe's work has helped to break down numerous stereotypes about the African society and the tribes.

“The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart.” “A man who calls his kinsmen to a feast does not do so to save them from starving. They all have food in their own homes. When we gather together in the moonlit village ground it is not because of the moon. Every man can see it in his own compound. We come together because it is good for kinsmen to do so.” “If you don't like my story, write your own” “Then listen to me,' he said and cleared his throat. 'It's true that a child belongs to its father. But when a father beats his child, it seeks sympathy in its mother's hut. A man belongs to his fatherland when things are good and life is sweet. But when there is sorrow and bitterness he finds refuge in his motherland. Your mother is there to protect you. She is buried there. And that is why we say that mother is supreme. Is it right that you, Okonkwo, should bring your mother a heavy face and refuse to be comforted? Be careful or you may displease the dead. Your duty is to comfort your wives and children and take them back to your fatherland after seven years. But if you allow sorrow to weigh you down and kill you, they will all die in exile.” “Age was respected among his people, but achievement was revered. As the elders said, if a child washed his hands he could eat with kings.”

The most important lesson that this book brings and a reason why it is essential for us is the socio-cultural clash that takes place as the colonial times arrive. We are given an opportunity to compare the things that were usual for Igbo community and the changes that immediately took place, mostly against a person's will.

It is an important topic that helps us to write about the culture, society, our background, history, and the changes that we have to endure when the new changes come. The book is a great example of how the old friendships and tradition vs change instantly become broken when the cultural pressure comes up. It is also a great novel that tells us about our faith and the rule of power.

Okonkwo is an element or a symbol of peripeteia or a dramatic reversal. We can follow Okonkwo's path from being a man of respect to becoming an outcast in his tribe (clan). The tragedy of his death (suicide) is what represents the downfall.

1. Rhoads, D. A. (1993). Culture in Chinua Achebe's Things fall apart. African Studies Review, 36(2), 61-72. 2. Caldwell, R. (2005). Things fall apart? Discourses on agency and change in organizations. Human relations, 58(1), 83-114. ( 3. Ikuenobe, P. (2006). The idea of personhood in Chinua Achebe’s Things fall apart. Philosophia Africana, 9(2), 117-131. ( 4. Parmentier, M. A., & Fischer, E. (2015). Things fall apart: The dynamics of brand audience dissipation. Journal of Consumer Research, 41(5), 1228-1251. ( 5. Nnoromele, P. C. (2000). The Plight of a Hero in Achebe s" Things Fall Apart". College Literature, 27(2), 146-156. ( 6. Shiner, M., Scourfield, J., Fincham, B., & Langer, S. (2009). When things fall apart: Gender and suicide across the life-course. Social Science & Medicine, 69(5), 738-746. 7. Ten Kortenaar, N. (1991). How the centre is made to hold in Things Fall Apart. ESC: English Studies in Canada, 17(3), 319-336. ( 8. McCormick, G. H., Horton, S. B., & Harrison, L. A. (2007). Things Fall Apart: the endgame dynamics of internal wars. Third World Quarterly, 28(2), 321-367. (

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4. A+ Essay Topic Breakdown

Things Fall Apart is usually studied in the Australian curriculum under Area of Study 1 - Text Response. For a detailed guide on Text Response, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response .

Things Fall Apart is set in a fictional group of Igbo villages called Umuofia, around the beginning of the twentieth century. The first half of the novel is dedicated to an almost anthropological depiction of Igbo village life and culture through following the life of the protagonist Okonkwo . Okonkwo is the greatest wrestler and warrior alive in the nine villages and beyond. He has dedicated his life to achieving status and proving his strength to avoid becoming like his father Unoka – a lazy, improvident, but gentle man. Weakness is Okonkwo’s greatest fear. After men in another village kill a woman from Umuofia, a boy named Ikemefuna is given to Umuofia as compensation and lives in Okonkwo’s compound until the Gods decide his fate. Ikemefuna quickly becomes part of Okonkwo’s family; he is like a brother to Okonkwo’s son Nwoye and is secretly loved by Okonkwo as well. Over the next three years, the novel follows Okonkwo’s family through harvest seasons, religious festivals, cultural rituals, and domestic disputes. Okonkwo is shown to be more aggressive than other Igbo men and is continually criticized and rebuked by the village for his violence and temper . When the Oracle of the Hills and Caves decides that Ikemefuna must be killed, Okonkwo is warned by a respected elder to have no hand in the boy’s death because Ikemefuna calls him ‘father’. However, afraid of being thought weak, when Ikemefuna runs to Okonkwo in hope of protection, Okonkwo delivers the fatal blow. Ikemefuna’s brutal death deeply distresses Nwoye who becomes afraid of his father. 

At the end of Part One, Okonkwo accidentally kills a clansman at a funeral after his faulty gun explodes and is exiled to his motherland, Mbanta. During his exile, British missionaries arrive in Mbanta and establish a church. Nwoye, disillusioned with his own culture and Gods after Ikemefuna’s death, is attracted to Christianity and is an early convert . This is a heartbreaking disappointment to Okonkwo. When Okonkwo and his family return from exile after seven years they find that the missionaries and colonial governors have established Umuofia as the center of their new colonial government . Clashes of culture and morality occur, and as the British make the Igbo more dependent on them through introducing trade and formal education, the Igbo way of life is continually undermined . When a Christian convert unmasks an egwugwu during a tribal ritual, a sin amounting to the death of an ancestral spirit, the egwugwu burn down the village church. The men who destroyed the church are arrested and humiliated by the District Commissioner, and Okonkwo beheads a court messenger at a village council in rebellion. When none of his clansmen rise with him against the British, Okonkwo realizes his culture and way of life is lost and commits suicide in despair. Suicide is a crime against the Earth Goddess, Ani , so Okonkwo is left to rot above ground in the Evil Forest, like his father Unoka – a shameful fate he spent his life desperate to avoid. The final paragraph, written from the perspective of the District Commissioner, reduces Okonkwo’s life to a single sentence about his death in his planned book The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of The Lower Niger . Achebe has filled an entire novel with evidence of the complexity and sophistication of Okonkwo’s individual and social life and the District Commissioner’s casual dismissal and belittling of him causes us to flinch with horror and dismay. This is a metaphor for the reduction of Igbo culture in the eyes of its colonizers.  

The title gives away the plot of the novel and anticipates the collapse of Okonkwo and his society. Things Fall Apart is about the connection between the tragic downfall of Okonkwo , who fate and temperamental weakness combine to destroy, and the destruction of his culture and society as the Igbo way of life is assailed by forces they do not understand and are unprepared to face . 

A Full and Fair Representation of Ibo Traditional Life

The first part of the novel presents the traditional world of the Ibo with specificity and vibrancy . The imbedded descriptions of the patterns of interaction, daily routines and seasonal rituals of Ibo life creates an overwhelming impression of community and shared culture. We see the established system of values which regulates collective life and how closely related this is to natural cycles and environments. The Ibo’s moral values are contained in sayings and stories, rituals and festivals. Achebe depicts a comprehensive and sustaining social, spiritual, economic, agricultural, and legal order. (Chapters to consider: 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 10, 12, 19)

While Ibo society is marked by the internal coherence of its organization and the poetry of its rituals, this coherence is partially formed by the repression of the individual and the inflexibility of social norms. Achebe shows the violence, dehumanization, and discrimination vulnerable groups experience in Umuofia due to the rigid adherence to tradition and superstition. This includes the customary abandonment of newborn twins, the sacrificial murder of Ikemefuna in the name of justice, and the discriminatory caste structure that denies inclusion to the osu (Chapters 7, 18).

Obierika’s questioning of the stern logic of some customs suggests that many laws are enacted from a sense of duty and inevitability rather than from a firm conviction in their justice or efficacy (Chapter 13). The cultural demand for conformity places a huge moral and psychological burden on individuals who must reckon with the sometimes heartless will of the gods . This internal tension is epitomized in the character of Okonkwo, discussed below.  

Clash of Cultures

When the Ibo are confronted with rival institutions a mirror is held up to their society. Fall Apart honestly considers and reflects on Ibo practices, customs, values, and beliefs. The novel is a frank articulation of the nature of the African past and its relevance to the present and future . Achebe wants to illuminate Ibo culture to dispense with lingering colonial prejudices, but he is not sentimental or nostalgic for the past. Instead he is shifting through it to identify the valuable aspects of Ibo culture to bring into the future and help define Nigeria’s post-independence identity .

Achebe recognises that the colonial encounter which led, swiftly and seemingly inevitably, to the disintegration of Ibo culture revealed its profound weaknesses. Achebe suggests that with the arrival and contrast against another culture, a cultural reckoning was inevitable for the Ibo. However, cultural reckoning and revaluation is not the same thing as destruction and erasure . The British colonialists were a hostile force seeking cultural domination. By pointing out some of the weaknesses of the Ibo tradition, Achebe in no way excuses or justifies colonial domination or diminishes the pain and tragedy of the cultural erasure that occurred.

Colonial Domination

The anti-colonial position and purpose of the novel is powerfully clear. Achebe depicts the process of colonial initial establishment and the resultant cultural suspension of Ibo society. The British colonizers believed in their inherent cultural superiority and arrived in Umuofia with the intention to “bring civilization” (p.151) to Africa. They wanted to achieve full control by supplanting Ibo religion and culture with their own.

The British arrived quietly and non-confrontationally with their religion and the clans allow them to stay, misinterpreting their silence as peaceability . An Ibo proverb warns that there is danger in silence and nothing to fear from someone who reveals their motivations (Chapter 15). Obierika recognizes how the white man’s strategy disguised their intentions and gave them the freedom to grow and fortify. He explains the political consequences for the clan, now divided by the new religion, they can no longer act as one (Chapter 20). Without strength in unity, the Ibo are vulnerable to further encroachment of British control in their other institutions .

As only a small number of Ibo initially converted to Christianity, the church was only able to establish itself firmly in the villages because of the Ibo’s religious tolerance (Chapter 2, 22). Mr Brown learns about Ibo religion and his willful blindness to its complexity shows how the colonizers justified their colonial rule and imposition through labelling their subjects ‘primitive’ . Mr Brown understands that Christianity held no appeal for people well integrated in Ibo society, concluding that “a frontal attack on it would not succeed” (p.132) and thus introduces education as a new method of cultural displacement and erasure . Additionally, trade also increased the Ibo’s dependence on the introduced economy (Chapter 21).

From the very first introduction of the colonizers we understand that violence and fear were tools of oppression and dominance , forcing the Ibo to submit and keeping them unresisting (Chapter 15, 20, 23). Not only do the British impose foreign rule on the Ibo and judge them by standards they do not recognize, the District Commissioner’s personal brand of ‘justice’ is corrupt and hypocritical. When the elders are arbitrarily and falsely imprisoned, he tells them that what they have done “must not happen in the dominion of our queen” (p.141), combining personal corruption with a state apparatus of paternalism, hegemony, and occupation (Chapter 20, 23).

Dogmatic zealot, Reverend Smith, encourages fanaticism in his converts, motivating them to insult and humiliate the clan (Chapter 22). Under Reverend Smith’s wrathful guidance, the colonial agenda becomes transparently aggressive . The grief and pathos of the Ibo’s situation and collective trauma is displayed evocatively in the final episodes as Achebe depicts this painful moment of acute crisis (Chapter 22, 23, 24, 25).

A recurring thematic question in Things Fall Apart is to what degree the collapse of the Ibo and the downfall of Okonkwo are due to their own internal weaknesses or the whims of a pernicious fate . 

The Ibo understand fate to be in a dynamic and somewhat ambiguous relationship with personal agency . This is evident in their proverb “when a man says yes his chi says yes also” (p.20) which acknowledges and privileges the role of an individual’s choices in shaping their destiny (Chapter 4). The saying “as a man danced so the drums were beaten for him” (p.135) also relates this idea – fate is a response to one’s behaviour. Okonkwo is warned that killing Ikemefuna, his surrogate son, is the “kind of action for which the goddess wipes out whole families” (p.49).This demonstrates the clan’s belief that the goddess’s (or fate’s) punishments are not arbitrary but the result of individual action (Chapter 8).

Although there is an element of chance in Okonkwo’s gun accidentally exploding and killing someone, his exile carries the suggestion of just comeuppance in its echo of the guns failure to shoot when purposely aimed at Ekwefi (Chapter 5, 13). Likewise, although the arrival of the Christians was unexpected and chanced, Nwoye’s rejection of his father is traceable directly to Okonkwo’s choice to kill Ikemefuna (Chapter 7). The desertion of people injured by Ibo traditions is a blow to the clan that feels equally earned (Chapters 16, 17, 18).  

After his exile, Okonkwo believes his chi has turned against him (Chapter 14). He renunciates the wisdom of his elders by denying the active role he had in directing the course of events. His refusal to reflect on the connection between his actions and punishment reflect his fatal flaws: hubris and willful lack of self-knowledge. By refusing to self-analyze and self-correct, Okonkwo loses the opportunity of redemption. Comparably, the Ibo, despite believing in a relationship between action and fate, do not reflect on the cause of their kinsmen’s desertion to Christianity. Achebe provides numerous examples of the clan’s dogma and brutal traditions denying people such as Ikemefuna or twins control over their lives (Chapter 2, 7). It was the shortcomings of the Ibo social and religious order that made members susceptible to the attraction of a competing value system with a more articulated concept of individuality. The Ibo’s cultural lack of self-apprehension meant they could not adjust their traditions to save themselves .

However, just as Achebe shows how individuals in the clan are at the mercy of rigid overarching authority, he shows how the fateful forces of history constrain human agency . The British’s hostile intention to erase and supplant the Ibo way of life is a punishment greater than the Ibo deserve and a force stronger than they can rise to. In his description of the grief and trauma of colonial imposition, Achebe demonstrates his compassion and sorrow for the Ibo as they faced the sweeping and unforgiving forces of change in their moment of historical crisis . 

Sample Essay Topics

1. "Things Fall Apart demonstrates how the values and customs of a society help us to deal with the familiar but not with change." Discuss.

2. "Traditional ideas of honour dominate Okonkwo's life and finally they destroy him." Discuss.

3. "Nwoye knew that it was right to be masculine and to be violent, but somehow he still preferred the stories his mother used to tell." How does Achebe explore masculinity in Things Fall Apart ?

Now it's your turn! Give these essay topics a go. For more sample essay topics, head over to our Things Fall Apart Study Guide to practice writing essays using the analysis you've learnt in this blog!

A+ Essay Topic Breakdown

Whenever you get a new essay topic, you can use LSG’s THINK and EXECUTE strategy , a technique to help you write better VCE essays. This essay topic breakdown will focus on the THINK part of the strategy. If you’re unfamiliar with this strategy, then check it out in How To Write A Killer Text Response .

Within the THINK strategy, we have 3 steps, or ABC. These ABC components are:

Step 1: A nalyse

Step 2: B rainstorm

Step 3: C reate a Plan

Let's look at an essay prompt in this video below:

[Video Transcript]

In Things Fall Apart , women suffer the most and are victimised by men. Discuss.

Whenever you are breaking a prompt down. Ask yourself...

The keywords of this prompt would be women, suffer,, victimised and men. The prompt requires us to address the role of women in the text and the ways in which they suffer in a society that is pervaded by patriarchal values. It also asks us, ‘Who is to blame?’ Are men solely responsible for the maltreatment or are there other causes to their suffering? The word ‘most’ in this prompt is actually there to give us a bit of room for discussion. Yes, women do suffer, but do they suffer the most? Or do men suffer as well?

Now that we’ve thought about the prompt, we can move on to the second step of the THINK part of the THINK and EXECUTE technique. To find out more about this unique strategy, I’d recommend downloading a free sample of our How to Write a Killer Text Response eBook!

Now, before we write our ideas in beautiful topic sentences, it’s often easier to simplify everything first. One way to do this is to work out whether the paragraph agrees or disagrees with the prompt at hand. We could follow this structure…

‍ Yes, the prompt is true because X Yes, another reason it is true is X While it is true, it is limited by X

By elucidating the ways in which women are seen as inferior to their male counterparts, the writer establishes his critique on a society that victimises and oppresses women. From the outset of the book, Okonkwo is characterised as a violent man who ‘rules his household with a heavy hand’, placing his wives in perpetual fear. The frequent beating and violence fortifies the portrayal of him as a man who is governed by his hatred of ‘gentility and idleness’, further showing the terror that his wives are forced to be living in.

"Do what you are told woman. When did you become one of the ndichie (meaning elders) of Umuofia?"

He also sees his wife’s mere act of questioning as disrespect, as evidenced through the ways in which he implies that she is overstepping her role.

“There were many women, but they looked on from the fringe like outsiders"

This simile also shows how women are often marginalised and treated as outcasts, underlining the overarching yearning for social justice throughout the text. This pitiful image of women looking ‘on from the fringe’ also helps Achebe relay his criticism of gender double standards and the unfairness that Igbo women are forced to live with. Achebe’s sympathy for women’s suffering and condemnation of men’s mistreatment towards are also evident through his depiction of a society that normalises misogyny.

‘His mother and sisters worked hard enough, but they grew women’s crops… Yam, the king of crops, was a man’s crops’

The personification of the crops, in particular, the men’s crops, the ‘yam’, being the ‘king of crops’ establishes this gender hierarchy in yet another way. More specifically, the position of men in the social hierarchy is highlighted and the negative connotation attached to the ‘women’s crops’ undermine their hard work, rendering it in significant. While women are the main victims of Igbo gendered prejudice, Achebe does not disregard the undue burden that societal expectations impose on men.

‘He was afraid of being thought weak.’

Achebe explores the burdens of unrealistic expectations that are placed on both men and women. This quote exemplifies societal expectations on men to be strong, powerful and fearless leaders who never show emotions. Achebe’s sympathies regarding these expectations show us that this is an important critique in Things Fall Apart that we can analyse.

If you find this helpful, then you might want to check out our Things Fall Apart: A Killer Text Guide where we cover 5 A+ sample essays (written by a 50 study scorer!) with EVERY essay annotated and broken down on HOW and WHY these essays achieved A+ so you reach your English goals! Let's get started.

The Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response

How To Write A Killer Text Response Study Guide

How to embed quotes in your essay like a boss

How to turn your Text Response essays from average to A+

5 Tips for a mic drop worthy essay conclusion

With contributions from Lindsey Dang.

Get our FREE VCE English Text Response mini-guide

Now quite sure how to nail your text response essays? Then download our free mini-guide, where we break down the art of writing the perfect text-response essay into three comprehensive steps. Click below to get your own copy today!

things fall apart literary essay

Access a FREE sample of our Things Fall Apart study guide

things fall apart literary essay

Metalanguage is language that describes language. In films, we also need to consider cinematography – the technical side in the making of the film. For a detailed discussion, see  What is metalanguage?  

The prospect of writing a Text Response or Comparative essay on a film can be daunting—it’s difficult to know how to identify filmic devices let alone analyse why the director has used them to give meaning to particular scenes. To start us off, below are some filmic devices commonly used by directors that all students should be aware of when studying films.

Filmic devices

Camera shots.

This refers to the amount of space that is seen in one frame, which can be used to emphasise different aspects of the film’s setting or characters.

Example: An extreme close up of a character’s face to portray their emotions.

things fall apart literary essay

Camera angles

The way in which the audience is positioned to view the setting or character/s. This can enhance the audience’s understanding of the relationship between characters, or the way in which a character is feeling in a particular situation.

Example: a low camera angle can be used to demonstrate how a character is feeling empowered at a particular point in the film.

things fall apart literary essay

Any sound where the source of it can be seen in the scene (or is implied to be present) 

Example: Voices, are diegetic. Any sound that comes from outside the scene itself, for example, soundtrack, is non-diegetic. We can analyse the way in which sound enhances the mood of the film.

In the Made in Dagenham clip above, diegetic sound such as the pouring rain, spoons tapping on cups, radio in the background are all used to offer viewers a 'real' sense that we're in the cafe too.

The way in which the scene is lit can create interesting effects in what it suggest about the characters in the scene.

Example: if the main source of light comes from the side of the screen, lighting up one side of a character’s face, this can create a sense of mystery.

things fall apart literary essay

How a character is dressed in any given scene is very important; their clothes can say a lot about their present state of mind or their physical situation.

things fall apart literary essay

In-depth analysis using Mabo

Even once we know all this, it can still be difficult to use these devices as evidence to support our ideas in a text response essay. So let’s put our knowledge into practice and take a look at a few scenes from the film Mabo, directed by Rachel Perkins.

Opening scene:  Perkins uses a series of  long shots  of Murray Island in the opening scenes of the film, with  high camera angles . This is done to contextualise the setting, as well as foreshadow the great significance the land will have on the events of the film. The subsequent  low camera angle shots  of the trees on the island present them as being tall and majestic. Paired with the upbeat, vibrant native  music  (non-diegetic sound) that is playing, it is evident that Perkins is celebrating the beauty of the land and emphasising its importance, not just in the film, but in the islanders’ lives.

things fall apart literary essay

Benny Mabo and a young Eddie walking the beach: a  mid-shot  is initially used in this scene to show father and son walking in the water. This alludes to the strength of the connection that the Mabos have to the island in depicting them as being immersed in water. The subsequent  close ups  of their faces, conveying their contentment, with the waves of the ocean in the background, indicate that this connection to the land goes beyond the mere fact that they live there; the pair are shown to have a profound spiritual and emotional connection with the island. This is emphasised by the soft, peaceful  music  that plays alongside Benny’s recital of Malo’s law.  

things fall apart literary essay

Killoran exiles Eddie off Murray Island: side  lighting  is used in this scene to shadow some of Killoran’s face. This has a sinister effect. It suggests that his intentions toward Eddie are not honest, and further symbolises the corruption and lack of transparency in the Australian government in their dealings with the Indigenous. The cloud of cigarette smoke that surrounds him further highlights he toxicity of his presence on Murray Island, as does the solemn, foreboding  music  that plays throughout his conversation with Eddie. The  close up shots  of Eddie’s face convey the strength of his resolve in refusing to “[work] as a slave” for Killoran in penance for his crime.

things fall apart literary essay

Eddie on the railway tracks: this scene is all about Eddie’s internal conflict; his desire to return to his homeland, and the allure of the opportunities that the ‘mainland’ offers him (in particular, Bonita). The  high camera angle  is used to show him dancing across the railway tracks, which is heavy with symbolism, representing the choice between his old and new life. The  close ups  of his face as he sings his native  song  convey his emotional attachment to Murray Island and the depth of his despair at

things fall apart literary essay

not being able to return to it. His  costume  is comprised of old, dirty clothing, which is representative of his confused, weary and sorrowful state of mind. Yet the use of  backlighting  as he dances suggests that his decision to embrace his new life on the mainland will empower him. It further foreshadows the significance of this choice in enabling him to pursue the land rights case.

things fall apart literary essay

The Indigenous protest: Perkins deliberately uses  archival/stock footage  in this scene to enhance the viewer’s experience of the Indigenous’ protest at the Mayday march. By using real life footage from this actual historical event, Perkins adds authenticity to this scene, in order to effectively convey the importance of Eddie’s decision to participate. The  high angle shots , and  long shots , are used to show the sheer number of people who were fighting for change. The  music  quickens in pace to indicate a change, a turning point in Eddie’s life, in which he can no longer overlook the racism that his people have suffered. The  close ups  of his and his wife’s face during this scene express their passion and determination in supporting this cause, as well as their strong love for each other.

things fall apart literary essay

List of film techniques

things fall apart literary essay

These are just a few examples of the way in which you can use the techniques discussed to make your ideas more credible in text response essays. Some teachers may say that these filmic devices are a secondary source of evidence, but I believe they are equally as important as quotes in demonstrating a thorough understanding of the text—as long as you analyse why the director has chosen to include them.

Remember: the director only has a certain amount of time to tell the story, so every scene is important, and every technique is deliberate. That being said, don’t use these devices at the expense of quotations! 

This study guide is written by Gabrielle O'Hagen (Mabo examples), and Lisa Tran.

Measure for Measure is currently studied in VCE English under Area of Study 1 - Text Response. For a detailed guide on Text Response, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response .


Ahh William Shakespeare. That guy. You’re probably thinking, “Great. More fancy language. Hasn’t he been dead for centuries? Why does he keep popping up in our English curriculum?”

At least, that’s how I reacted.

Shakespeare is actually a huge figure in the history of the English language, and really no high school English curriculum is complete without a mandatory dose of him. In fact, the current VCAA study design demands that one of his texts must be on the text list. What a legend.

Shakespeare doesn’t only influence our world in the classroom. The Bard coined many words and phrases that we use today. We can thank this playwright for “be -all, end-all”, “good riddance”, and my personal favourite, “swagger”.

things fall apart literary essay

The Bard’s play “Measure for Measure” was first performed in 1604; over 400 years ago. So why do we still study his works today? In fact, the ideas and themes that are evoked in his plays are universal and timeless; pertinent to his contemporary counterparts, as well as today’s audience. Shakespeare’s plays are like soup (bear with me, this is going somewhere). One could say the playwright is a master chef; he mixes tales of the human condition and experience and asks us to question people and ideas. Everyone, regardless of their time, will gobble up the story.

So, what is this soup- I mean ‘Measure for Measure’ about? The play is known as a “problem play” and/or “tragicomedy”. That’s right, it’s both a tragedy and a comedy. Dire trials and tribulations are intertwined with humorous gags and jokesters. I guess Shakespeare couldn’t choose just one.  

‘Measure for Measure’ is also a problem play. Critic W.W Lawrence defined a problem play as one in which "a perplexing and distressing complication in human life is presented in a spirit of high seriousness ... the theme is handled so as to arouse not merely interest or excitement, or pity or amusement, but to probe the complicated interrelations of character and action, in a situation admitting of different ethical interpretations".

Ok, crazy, but he also said that "the 'problem' is not like one in mathematics, to which there is a single true solution, but is one of conduct, as to which there are no fixed and immutable laws. Often it cannot be reduced to any formula, any one question, since human life is too complex to be so neatly simplified.”

In short, a problem play presents lots of complications and issues that are open to different ethical interpretations. As in “Measure for Measure”, the “problem(s)” is/are not always solved.

So, what actually happens in this play that is problematic? What are our ingredients in this problem soup?


Get it? Cause soup is cooked in a pot. Sorry.

The Duke of Vienna appoints his deputy, Angelo, as the temporary leader. This Duke then pretends to leave town but instead dresses up as a friar to observe what happens in his absence. Angelo, strict and unwavering in his dedication to following the rules, decides to rid Vienna of all the unlawful sexual activity; including shutting down the brothels. Prostitutes like Mistress Overdone (pun alert) and her pimp Pompey are poised to lose their livelihoods. Laws against this activity exist, but they’ve gotten lax over the years. Angelo, a stickler for the rules, has Claudio arrested because young Claudio has gotten his engaged wife-to-be (Juliet) pregnant before they were officially married. Claudio is to be executed.

The virtuous Isabella, Claudio’s sister, is poised to enter a nunnery. Upon hearing of her brother’s arrest and sentence, she goes to Angelo to beg him for mercy. He hypocritically, in an absolutely dog move, propositions her, saying he’ll pardon her brother if she sleeps with him (with Angelo, not Claudio). She immediately refuses, being the religious and chaste woman that she is. At first Claudio is upset because he wants to live, but then he calms down and accepts death.

Luckily, the Duke (secretly dressed as a friar) helps in their sticky situation. He brews up a plan; Angelo’s former flame Mariana was engaged to him, but he broke off their engagement after she lost her dowry in a shipwreck. The Friar (Duke) plans to have Isabella agree to sleep with Angelo, but then send Mariana in her place. In theory, Angelo would pardon Claudio and be forced to marry Mariana by law.

The old switcheroo goes off without a hitch. But come morning, Angelo refuses to pardon Claudio, fearing he will seek revenge. The Duke, in collaboration with the Provost, send Angelo the head of a dead pirate (Ragozine) who died of natural causes. They claim that it’s Claudio’s head, and Angelo is satisfied, thinking him to be dead. Isabella is also told that her brother is dead and is encouraged by the Friar (Duke) to complain about Angelo to the Duke, who is returning home.  

The Duke makes a grand return to Vienna, saying he will hear any complaints immediately. Isabella tells her story, and the Duke feigns disbelief, despite having orchestrated the plan himself. In an act filled with more twists and turns than a Marvel movie, everything comes out; the Duke reveals he was a friar all along, Angelo is forced to confess, and Claudio is pardoned amongst other things. To top it all off, the Duke proposes to Isabella. Crazy!


It’s important to acknowledge what was going on in the world during the writing of a text. This may help give insight into why the author has included (or not included) some aspect of their work.

The Divine Right of Kings

This holy mandate states that a monarch derives his right to rule from the will of God and is not subject to earthly authority. The “king” or monarch is hence practically divine, and questioning his orders is also questioning god; blasphemy.

The Great Chain of Being/Class divides

This chain is a hierarchy of all life forms and matter in the following order:

Hence, alongside The Divine Right of Kings, this ideal gave monarchs huge power over their subjects.

In early 1600s England, there was a defined social hierarchy and class system. Everyone had a place in the hierarchy, and there was little movement between the classes. Within each class, men were considered superior to women.

Shakespeare encourages us to ask a few questions of our supposedly holy leader and his actions. According to the Divine Right of Kings, the Duke is god’s right-hand man, and thus all his decisions are holy and backed by heaven. However, the Duke is pretty shady when he plots his bed-trick plan with Isabella and Mariana. Is this deceptive behavior still holy? Furthermore, is it not sacrilege to pretend to be a holy friar when one is not truly a holy man?

Moreover, when the Duke assigns Angelo as his deputy, would this transform Angelo into a divine ruler too? Could he be divine, considering his cruel rule and despicable request to Isabella?

Women were considered subservient, lower class citizens then men. Alliances were forged between powerful families through arranged marriages of daughters. These girls may have received an education through tutors attending their homes (there were no schools for girls), but their endgame would be marriage, children and maintaining the home. Women and girls of a lower class did not receive any formal education but would have learned how to govern a household and become skilled in all housewifely duties. Impoverished and desperate women (Mistress Overdone) would turn to prostitution to stay alive.

Shakespeare perhaps highlights the struggle of women in his female characters; Isabella, Mistress Overdone, Juliet, and Kate Keepdown. Their futures appear bleak; Isabella is poised to enter a nunnery, Juliet’s husband (her only source of income and protection) is to be executed, while the brothels that facilitate Mistress Overdone and Kate Keepdown’s livelihoods are being closed down by Angelo.

Jacobean Audience

It was a tumultuous time when Shakespeare penned ‘Measure for Measure’ in 1604. A year earlier came the end of the 45 year long Elizabethan era and began the Jacobean era under the rule of King James. Since the late Queen Elizabeth had no direct heirs, King James of Scotland (a relative) took to the throne. Little was known by the English people of this foreign king.

Perhaps, as Shakespeare portrays the ruler in ‘Measure for Measure’ as clever and good-hearted, the Bard sought to appease the king by calming the people and encouraging them to trust in their new monarch.

The playwright characterizes the Duke as loving his people, but not enjoying being before their eyes and in the spotlight; much like King James, a quiet ruler who relished studying privately in his great library.

‍ Playhouses and Brothels

The general public (commoners) paid a penny (could buy you a loaf of bread back in the day) to see Shakespeare’s plays, standing in the “yard”; on the ground, at eye-level of the stage. The rich (gentry) paid 2 pennies for seating in the galleries, often using cushions. The really rich (nobles) could watch the play from a chair set on the side of the stage itself. Shakespeare’s plays were performed at the Globe Theatre. Playhouses in Shakespeare's time were often close to brothels, both in terms of their physical locations in the suburbs and the way they were viewed by some of polite society. Thus, Shakespeare's relatively sympathetic portrayal of sexual deviance in ‘Measure for Measure’ may also constitute a defence of other suburban entertainment—his plays—and a way to humanize lower classes who patronized them.


If you’re lucky enough to study this interesting piece, the study design requires you to prepare “sustained analytical interpretations…discussing how features of the text create meaning and using textual evidence to support (your) reasons”. Basically, you’ll be given a topic; this topic could surround themes, characters, etc., and you must write analytically.

While you may choose to structure paragraphs around themes, ideas or characters, make sure to embed some historical context in there; that’ll show the examiner that you’ve done your research and have a thorough and deeper understanding of why Shakespeare put this or that in. Talking about authorial intent in your analytical essay leads to a more in-depth analysis.

“Shakespeare portrays characters that are flawed as a result of pre-destined circumstances. These characters, such as bawd Pompey and prostitute Mistress Overdone, lived in a time when there existed strong class divides, and movement within the social hierarchy was rare. As per the “Great Chain of Being”, a contemporary religious dogma, there was a hierarchy of all living things and matter, from lofty God and his angels down through the ranks of men and finally to animals and non-living things. In some cases, attempting to move up the social ranks was even considered a blasphemous rejection of the fate chosen by God.”

- embedding historical context (The Great Chain of Being) into a paragraph that discusses characters being flawed because of their circumstances

“Shakespeare offers characters such as Isabella and The Duke who strive for self-improvement through understanding and temperance. Perhaps the playwright suggests that perfection is very difficult if not impossible to attain, even for a ruler like the Duke and a pure soul like Isabella. However, he posits that it can be strived for and that perhaps this attempt to become better is what truly matters.”

- talking about authorial intent - what is Shakespeare trying to tell us?

Think of it as an opportunity to make your very own soup! Add some themes, stir in character analysis, sprinkle in some quotes and serve with historical context and authorial intent. Just like with a soup, there’s got be a good balance of all your ingredients; test out different structures during the year to find what works for you. (Just try not to overcook it, like I have done with this soup metaphor). If you need more help, How To Write a Standout Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare Essay is for you!

things fall apart literary essay

So, you see, there’s more to Shakespeare and ‘Measure for Measure’ than just fancy old language and iambic pentameter (What’s that? Well...). Keep on reading this blog post, where we’ll delve into themes, characters and symbols/motifs. In the meantime, let’s have a break. Grab a snack, a drink, and enjoy this tasty Shakespeare meme.

...Aaaaand we’re back!

Are you ready for part 2 of the Shakespeare train? Hop on board as we explore themes, characters and symbols/motifs. ‍ ‍

These are the major themes in ‘Measure for Measure’.

As you can see, the themes are interconnected. (Do you like the diagram? Made it myself :)) Why does this matter? Well, if you get an essay topic about Justice, for instance, you can also link it to Sexual and Gender Politics as well as Social Decay/Cohesion.

So, why is any one theme an important theme?

Which moments and characters are these themes related to?

Is there a link to historical context?

What are some key quotes?

What could be Shakespeare’s potential message? (Keep in mind that depending which pieces of evidence you look at, the Bard could be saying something different. In this piece, we’ll only discuss one or two authorial messages. The beauty of Shakespeare is that much is open to interpretation. You can interpret characters and ideas in so many different ways!)

Those are some great questions. Let’s explore some of the biggest themes...

Power and Authority

Power not only dictates the Viennese society, but we see it is a basis for moral corruption (I’m looking at you, Angelo!). The Duke is the leader of Vienna, ordained by God. He hands this power to his deputy Angelo, who misuses it in his request of Isabella. Now consider Isabella - she has power too, but a different kind… Also consider characters who have little to no power - Mistress Overdone, Pompey etc.

This theme could be linked to the Divine Right of Kings, the Great Chain of Being and Women.

Perhaps Shakespeare is suggesting that power is a dangerous weapon and that in the wrong hands, it could be deadly.

Morality and Sin

This is an interesting theme. What defines sin? For instance, if Isabella sleeps with Angelo she’s sinning before God. But if she doesn’t, then she’s letting her brother die, which is not good either. Bit of a pickle that one. Some characters to consider include Isabella, Angelo, The Duke, Claudio, Lucio, the Provost…. jeez just about everyone! So many of the characters take part in questionable deeds. Was it immoral for the Duke to pretend to be a holy friar? Is Claudio’s sin of impregnating Juliet really punishable by death if both parties were willing, and no one else has been punished for the same “crime”? Are Pompey and Mistress Overdone being immoral in being in the prostitution business, if it’s the only way to survive?

Deep stuff man. This can be linked back to class divides, women and the contemporary playhouses/brothels.

Perhaps Shakespeare tries to tell us that there is a fine line between something moral and something sinful. Maybe he’s asking, “who are we to judge?”, since we all do questionable things sometimes. Everyone from the almighty Duke to a lowly prostitute has committed potentially immoral acts. Perhaps audiences are encouraged to be more understanding of others, and their reasons for these deeds.

Mmm, this theme ties in nicely with just about all of the others. How does one define justice? The play explores this idea; does justice mean punishment? Or mercy? How do we balance the two to deliver the right punishment/lack thereof? Characters that dispense justice include The Duke, Angelo (although they have differing ideas of justice) and Isabella. Since Vienna is a religious place, consider the divine justice system (ie. a perfect, flawless system meted out by God) and the earthly one (ie. the flawed, human justice system). Laws exist in an attempt to ensure justice. But does it always work? Consider also the Old and New Testament ways of thinking - the former strict and punitive, while the latter is more measured and merciful (see symbols/motifs below for more info).

This theme can be linked to the Divine Right of Kings, Great Chain of Being, Women, and Jacobean Audience.

Perhaps Shakespeare says that since we humans are inevitably flawed, that any justice system created by us will too be imperfect. Who are we to decide the fates of our fellow man? Furthermore, the Bard may be encouraging us to be kind when dispensing justice, leaning more to mercy than punishment.

Sexual and Gender Politics

Who run the world? Gir- no it’s a bunch of men. This theme contributes to why ‘Measure for Measure’ is a problem play. The exploration of the female characters in this play are very interesting, and kind of sad. Of 20 named characters, only 5 are women. Together, their lines make up only 18% of the play. Yikes! There is a lot to unpack here. Our female characters are Isabella, Mariana, Mistress Overdone, Juliet, Francisca (a nun who speaks twice) and Kate Keepdown (who we never meet). Their situations: a maiden poised to enter a nunnery, a prostitute, a pregnant girl about to lose her husband, a nun, and another prostitute. Quite gloomy, isn't it? Meanwhile, the men are leaders (The Duke, deputy Angelo, and ancient lord Escalus) and gentlemen (Lucio, Claudio, and Froth). Over the course of the play, our female characters are put into worse situations by men. Their experiences are dictated by men. Consider taking a “feminist perspective” and exploring ‘Measure for Measure’ from a female point of view.

This theme links to the Great Chain of Being, Women and Playhouses/Brothels.

Perhaps Shakespeare suggests that women are treated unfairly in society. Maybe he posits that women are afforded so few opportunities in a man’s world. The Bard potentially says that such sexual and gender politics do not create a cohesive and just society.

This theme, again, connects to many others. It can link to all groups of people (The wealthy, the poor, women, criminals etc). Most of the mercy is dispensed at the end of the play when the Duke does his grand reveal. Characters who choose to mete out mercy over punishment include The Duke and Isabella. Also consider Angelo, who instead of choosing to spare Claudio, decides to kill him to uphold a law that hasn’t seen anyone punished for the same deed. We might think this is harsh, but it a legal and lawful decision.

Connect this idea with historical context, specifically Jacobean audience and playhouses/brothels.

Perhaps Shakespeare encourages us to look at mercy and punishment from different perspectives. Angelo believes he is punishing Claudio for his own good, and cleaning up Vienna of lechery too. Maybe we ought to be merciful in our opinion of the deputy. Nonetheless, the Bard shows that in the case of young Claudio, mercy and forgiveness is the right path to choose. Finally, consider why Shakespeare may have portrayed a merciful leader to his Jacobean audience. Maybe if he were to portray a leader as fair and merciful, the Jacobean audience would trust that their new king (a man similar in character to the Duke) could be kind and merciful too. Earning the favour of the king and writing a killer play? He’s killed two birds with one stone.

Human Frailty & Fallibility

I’ve encountered many essay topics about how humans are flawed and imperfect. It’s a pretty big theme in many texts, not just in our friend William Shakespeare’s. Human fallibility is to blame for a lot of the going-ons in ‘Measure for Measure’. Angelo takes the law too seriously, he gets heart eyes for Isabella and kills Claudio even though he thinks he’s slept with Isabella. Why? He wants to save his own ass, fearing Claudio will seek vengeance. The Duke is flawed too. He’s a leader, but he just avoids his problems, leaving Angelo in charge to deal with them. Then he plans to swoop in and look like a hero. Kinda dodgy. Consider Claudio and Juliet too. They, like Angelo, succumbed to lust and slept together before they were officially married. (Sigh, humans just can’t get it right.) It’s also worth thinking about the “low-lives” and poorer characters. Are the poor frail in a different way? For example, Mistress Overdone keeps Lucio’s secrets for him. In that way she is virtuous. However, she sells her body to survive. Perhaps she is not prone to desire like Angelo, but serves another desire - a desire to survive?

In terms of historical context, consider the Divine Right of Kings, the Great Chain of Being and Playhouses/Brothels.

Perhaps Shakespeare suggests that no one is truly perfect, not even a leader supposedly ordained by God, a law-abiding deputy, or a maiden who is poised to enter a nunnery. Yet while Angelo is overcome by his lust and emotion, the Duke and Isabella attempt to better themselves by showing mercy and temperance. Maybe Shakespeare suggests trying to improve one’s flawed self is most important.

God, Religion and Spirituality

Phew, we’re at our last theme. So, society in Vienna is very much religious. Their beliefs dictate actions and laws within the city. Some very religious characters include Isabella and Angelo. However, our novice nun, who is obsessed with virtue and chastity, agrees to and takes part in the bed-trick, a deception that is not particularly Christian. Our lusty deputy also succumbs, hellishly propositioning a maiden to sleep with him in exchange for her brother’s life. Even The Duke, supposedly semi-divine, makes some dubious choices. He spends most of the play posed as a holy man, even though he is not. He plans the bed-trick to deceive Angelo and lets poor Isabella think her poor brother is dead, instead of saving her so much pain. Furthermore, the title of the tale, ‘Measure for Measure’, comes from the Gospel of Matthew. (See symbols/motifs for more deets). The question of how much we should let religion dictate us is another reason this piece is a problem play.

The theme of God and Religion can link to historical context such as the Divine Right of Kings.

Perhaps Shakespeare criticises religious extremism in his portrayal of characters like Isabella and Angelo. Or maybe he just wants us to remain open-minded about ideas and our spirituality.

Yikes, there are so many themes in this play! Let’s move it along, and talk a little bit about characters.

Each character can be viewed in different lights, even more so than themes can be. We’re going to discuss characters very briefly because it’s up to you how you want to read them.

Here are the characters, in order of how much they speak in the play. To keep things short, let’s pretend these are all tinder bios. Who would you swipe right on? (Hint: not Lucio)

Mistress Overdone

Kate Keepdown (we never actually meet this character)

Ragozine (we never actually meet this character)


These are people, objects, words etc that represent a theme or idea. For instance, the fact that I’ve used a bad soup metaphor AND a tinder reference means I need to go outside more. But let’s move on…

The title, “Measure for Measure” draws from the gospel of Matthew. The idea of heavenly justice vs earthly justice is prominent throughout the text. Moreover, it’s worth exploring the Old Testament ways of “an eye for an eye” and “measure for measure” in comparison to the New Testament teachings which lean towards forgiveness and mercy. Now, where do the Duke’s actions fit in? Is he harsh and equalising? Is he just and sympathetic?  

New Testament vs. Old Testament

When the Duke sentences Angelo to death, he makes a fancy speech which includes the play’s title.

“‘An Angelo for Claudio, death for death!
Haste still pays haste, and leisure answers leisure.
Like doth quit like, and measure still for measure.”

Act 5, Scene 1, Line 439-441

This mimics the Old Testament views, which famously states “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” (Exodus 21:24). These ideals teach that the person who committed a misdeed shall have the same misdeed done unto them. (For example, if you don’t like my new Facebook profile picture, I’m not liking yours…..but way more severe.)

In comparison, the New Testament states that we “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” (Luke 6:36-37)

So, when sentencing Angelo the Duke employs the words of the Old Testament. However, he doesn’t go through with Angelo’s execution, instead showing the mercy encouraged by the New Testament. He’s not really following either way. Perhaps he’s instead choosing a middle road; one of temperance and justice.

Wait, who? We haven’t mentioned the “gentleman” Lucio much in the plot and in this blog post. That’s because he doesn’t really do that much other than buzz around and annoy everyone. Maybe that’s why his name rhymes with mosquito….

Regardless, we do see enough of Lucio’s character to learn that he’s not a very nice person. He treats Mistress Overdone and Pompey poorly, makes visits to the brothel, doesn’t take responsibility for his actions (getting Kate Keepdown pregnant) and bad-mouths the Duke. So yeah, we don’t like Lucio, what’s the big deal? Well, in Act 4, Scene 4 Line 182, Lucio says something very intriguing.

“I am a kind of burr, I shall stick.”

Burr - those little brown prickly things that get stuck to you.

We can think of Lucio as representing all the sins and misdeeds in Vienna - lechery, immorality, lack of justice, selfishness etc. Hence, Lucio is saying that these shortcomings and flaws will always be present to people and in Vienna, sticking to the city like a nasty burr. Damn, that’s deep.


The metre of the verse (ie. the classic Shakespeare writing) in ‘‘Measure for Measure”  is iambic pentameter. This means that each line is divided into 5 feet. Within each foot, there is one unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one.

I’ll TELL him YET of ANgelO’S reQUEST, And FIT his MIND to DEATH, for HIS soul’s REST. (Act 2, Scene 4, Line 195-196)

Verse does not have to rhyme, as the above lines do. Shakespeare often employs a rhyming couplet to close a scene and add some drama.

Verse is usually reserved for the higher class citizens, with those who are less fortunate speaking in prose.

Prose is language in its ordinary form, with no metre.

Certain characters, such as Lucio, switch between verse and prose depending on who they are speaking to. This could allude to Lucio’s duplicity, or perhaps a deep understanding of class divides in Vienna.

Names: Escalus and Angelo

Escalus is the ever reasonable and loyal lord and close confidant of the Duke. His name gives connotations of scales and balance - characteristic of the rational man.

Angelo’s name has connotations of “angel”. If we judge him only by his name, he should be a pure and heavenly being. Bah! That’s so fake! We can see that appearance is very different from reality. Isabella notices this too, stating that “this outward-sainted yet a devil” (Act 3, Scene 1, Line 95-98).

Angelo’s Words/Actions

There is so much to unpack about this douchebag. Let us briefly consider 2 ideas. When he propositions Isabella to sleep with him, he requests that she “lay down the treasures of (her) body” (Act 2, Scene 4, Line 100).

Firstly, that’s weird. Perhaps Angelo can be seen as someone who is obsessed with the physical - Isabella’s body and treasure. Maybe this obsession leads to his immorality and poor leadership.

Secondly, Angelo struggles to directly say, “hey, let’s sleep together”. He weaves his way around the request, propositioning Isabella so indirectly that at first, she does not even seem to understand his request! However, once she threatens to tell everyone about his vile demand, he speaks bluntly; “Who will believe thee, Isabel?” (Act 2, Scene 4, Line 163). Perhaps this shows Angelo is self-aware that he’s being an ass. Or maybe this scene is yet more evidence of a patriarchal society, with the men knowing very well the power they hold.

We never actually meet this fellow. Ragozine is a pirate who dies in jail while “Measure for Measure” unfolds. His head is used in place of Claudio’s to convince Angelo of the former’s execution. Fascinatingly, Ragozine is the only person who dies in the entire play. ALSO, he dies of natural causes. Interesting. It feels like the play is full of death, grief and many heads on the chopping block. But curiously, there is only one death, of a minor character, of natural causes. Perhaps this says something about fate and justice or offers some commentary on life and hope.

Elbow vs. Pompey

Elbow is a silly policeman who speaks in malapropisms (using a similar but incorrect word for humorous effect). Pompey is a clever pimp who seems to have a deep understanding of justice and the Viennese people. The comparison of these characters, fortunate and dumb to unfortunate and clever, perhaps serves to show that the law is not always apt and that sometimes those who break the law are more clever than it.

Mistress Overdone (or lack thereof)

Mistress Overdone is a pitiable prostitute. She worries for her survival when Angelo begins pulling down the brothels, and she keeps Lucio’s bastard child a secret, only for him to throw her under the bus to save his own skin. The last we see of Mistress Overdone is her getting carted off to prison, crying “See how he goes about to abuse me!” (Act 3, Scene 1, Line 481) Yes, the last we witness of one of five speaking female characters is of her imminent incarceration. Furthermore, this happens in Act 3 of 5, around halfway through the play! The audience never hears from Mistress Overdone again, and her future is left uncertain. Even Barnadine, a convicted murderer, is given freedom and a happy ending.

Consider writing a few sentences of your essay from a feminist’s perspective. Think about the events of the play from the female characters’ points of view. What is Shakespeare saying by portraying Mistress Overdone (and other women) in such a way? Perhaps he is pointing out the injustices of the patriarchal system, or how uncertain a woman’s life was in his contemporary time.

“Measure for Measure” truly is an incredible text. This blog post is by no means an exhaustive list of all its quirks and complexities. This play’s relevance has survived centuries, and I believe it will continue to be pertinent to audiences well into the future. You are very lucky to be studying a text with such universal themes and ideas that you can carry with you even after high school.

1. Introduction to William Wordsworth and Romanticism

William Wordsworth was a British poet and primary co-founder of the Romantic literary movement. He strongly believed that the poetry of the nineteenth century was much too fast-paced and too mindless to be able to evoke a meaningful message to the reader. Contending that ‘all good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling,’ he wished to pioneer Romanticism to create a genre of poetry that reminded the reader of the very essence of humanity.

As such, Wordsworth and fellow poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge founded a new style of poetry through their co-written 1798 Lyrical Ballads , a collection of poetry which attempted to unite the human condition with the tranquility of nature. 

As a resident of England’s picturesque Lake District, Wordsworth enjoyed becoming one with nature by wandering through the neighbouring hills, moors and lakeside views, while mentally composing poems inspired by its glorious elements. 

William Wordsworth: Poems Selected by Seamus Heaney is usually studied in the Australian curriculum under Area of Study 1 - Text Response. For a detailed guide on Text Response, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response .

2. Key Features of Romantic Poetry

The Romantic movement of poetry was founded during the Industrial Revolution, a period in which people were growing farther from the serene comfort of nature and closer towards modern mechanisation and mass manufacturing. As such, a primary characteristic of Romantic poetry is nature, as poets attempted to remind humanity of its meditative respite, and the comfort it could provide in the backdrop of the pollution that accompanied the growing industrialisation of England. 

Wordsworth was a pantheist and believed that God was within every aspect of the natural world. In addition to this, he categorised himself as an ardent ‘worshipper of nature’. Thus, much of his poetry explores nature in a sacred and religious sense, presenting goodness and naturalness as synonymous - aptly displaying his belief of nature as a living, divine entity that could only to be ignored at humankind’s peril. 


Romantic poetry subdues reason, intellect and the scientific truth in order to place more focus on the ‘truth of the imagination’. As a result of the harsh rigidity and rationality of the Enlightenment era, all human sentiments, from melancholiness to hopefulness, were celebrated by Romantics as important instruments in poetry to remind the common people of sentimentality in a modern and intransigent era. 

As Romantics believed that these feelings allowed one to look deeper into one’s self, the theme of powerful emotions constructs the very essence of Romantic poetic poetry. As a result of this, rather than placing much importance on sense or sensibility, much of Wordsworth’s poems scrutinise his own effusion of feelings and the universal truths that these help him discover, speaking as the characteristic Romantic poet occupying a sentimental place of alienation.

Rebellion and Individualism

The Industrial Revolution oversaw the creation of distinct class differences between the extremely wealthy class of businessmen, and financially struggling workers and entrepreneurs. Poets, like all other artists, were forced to become increasingly independent and needed to rely on their unique vision and style in order to succeed in their gradually declining line of work. The Romantics subsequently began to view themselves as heroes who challenged and overcame the social challenges that arose; as champions of independence and self-awareness. As such, Romantic poetry often features characters or symbols of valiant heroism, as the poet acts as a visionary figure in his work, like a prophet telling of poetic self-awareness. 

The Sublime

In accordance with their celebration of human emotions, Romantics also became fascinated with the literary conception of ‘the sublime’, a mental state that Classical authors such as Longinus defined as ‘physical, moral, intellectual, metaphysical, aesthetic, spiritual, or artistic greatness’ that is of such magnificence that it cannot be measured. 

The Romantics explored these extraordinary experiences in their poetry, describing the power of such sublime experiences on one’s senses, mind and imagination. Wordsworth expressed in his essay that a sublime experience is what occurs when one’s mind attempts to attain ‘something towards which it can make approaches but which it is incapable of attaining’. For example, his biographical poem, The Prelude recounts his ascent of Mount Snowdon and the sublime emotions he experiences as a result of its powerful atmosphere. 

Many have viewed Wordsworth’s view of the sublime as the Romantic standard, as his poetry focuses equally on both the alluring and devastating aspects of such sublime experiences. His work focuses on the intertwined pleasure and terror that is generated as a result of such experiences, and how either end of the spectrum is ultimately beautiful and inspiring.

Context is really important when engaging with a text in VCE English, so be sure to read Context and Authorial Intention in VCE English .

3. Poetic Analysis Examples 

Example passage 1.

Books! 'tis a dull and endless strife: Come, hear the woodland linnet, How sweet his music! on my life, There's more of wisdom in it.
And hark! how blithe the throstle sings! He, too, is no mean preacher: Come forth into the light of things, Let Nature be your teacher.

This passage, taken from Wordsworth’s Tables Turned; An Evening Scene on the Same Subject , is a primary example of a poem displaying the Romantics’ propensity and reverence for the natural landscape.  

Thematic Analysis

The speaker of the poem contrasts the ‘endless strife’ of book-learning to the spontaneous and liberal method of learning through interacting with nature. The description of the ‘woodland [linnet’s]’ song as ‘sweet’ music evokes an image of heavenly bliss associated with the charms hidden within nature. That ‘there’s more of wisdom in’ such nature works in tandem with this, as the speaker asserts that the natural landscape is able to teach a lesson of a magnificence incomparable to the monotony of the ‘dull’ studying thorough book-learning. 

The speaker’s evocation of ‘blithe’ emotions through sound is continued in the second stanza, in which ‘the throstle’ delivers another divine ‘song’ in an attempt to entice the reader. The speaker furthers his advocation for natural learning through a condemnation of route learning, as he attacks teachers of such as ‘mean preachers’. The directly following use of a pun emphasises this contrast, as the ‘light of things’ symbolises both the enlightenment that will accompany nature’s teaching, as well as the literal ‘light’ of nature underneath the sun. 

The final line of the passage summarises the speaker’s persuasion aptly, as the phrase, ‘let nature be your teacher’, rings similar to a passage which can be found in the Bible; the speaker thus implies that the natural world is the all-superior entity and source of knowledge that one should take lessons from. 

Stylistic Analysis

The rhyme and the rhythmic beat of the poem give it a sound comparable to a nursery-rhyme. This works in tandem with the Romantic viewpoint that great poetic language should be simple, accessible and conversational; as understandable to the common people as a nursery rhyme is to a child. This similarity also works in accordance with the authorial message of the poem, that nature should be a universal ‘teacher’, as nursery rhymes are often employed as enjoyable sing-songs that educate children on a moral level. As such, Wordsworth here strengthens his viewpoint through his poetic words; that nature should be a mentor to all. 

Example Passage 2

‍ For thou art with me here upon the banks  Of this fair river; thou my dearest Friend,  My dear, dear Friend; and in thy voice I catch  The language of my former heart, and read  My former pleasures in the shooting lights  Of thy wild eyes. Oh! yet a little while  May I behold in thee what I was once,  My dear, dear Sister! and this prayer I make,  Knowing that Nature never did betray  The heart that loved her; 'tis her privilege,  Through all the years of this our life, to lead  From joy to joy… Therefore let the moon  Shine on thee in thy solitary walk;  And let the misty mountain-winds be free  To blow against thee: and, in after years,  When these wild ecstasies shall be matured  Into a sober pleasure; when thy mind  Shall be a mansion for all lovely forms,  Thy memory be as a dwelling-place  For all sweet sounds and harmonies; oh! then,  If solitude, or fear, or pain, or grief,  Should be thy portion, with what healing thoughts  Of tender joy wilt thou remember me,  And these my exhortations! Nor, perchance—  If I should be where I no more can hear  Thy voice, nor catch from thy wild eyes these gleams  Of past existence—wilt thou then forget  That on the banks of this delightful stream  We stood together; and that I, so long  A worshipper of Nature, hither came  Unwearied in that service: rather say  With warmer love—oh! with far deeper zeal  Of holier love. Nor wilt thou then forget,  That after many wanderings, many years  Of absence, these steep woods and lofty cliffs,  And this green pastoral landscape, were to me  More dear, both for themselves and for thy sake!

This passage is taken from the final section from Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey , a critical work in Wordsworth’s poetic career. Tracing the growth of his mind in different periods of time, the poem is a condensed, spiritual autobiography of Wordsworth himself as it views his younger self from the perspective of his older self, weighing the sense of ‘loss’ suffered against the belief that the years have brought him ‘abundant recompense’. 

After recalling his experiences with nature over his formative and adult years, the speaker now addresses his younger sister Dorothy, as he gives her heartfelt advice about what he has learnt. Here, Dorothy becomes a ghost of his former self, as he hears ‘the language of his former heart’ when she speaks and perceives his ‘former pleasure’ in the ‘soothing lights of [her] wild eyes’. 

The speaker depicts his loyalty to nature and its reflective loyalty to him, by the expression that ‘nature never did betray [his] heart’ that loves Dorothy, and this is the reason they have been living from ‘joy to joy’, lending nature a role of salvation. 

The speaker then directly addresses the moon as a kind of separate entity, in order to ask it to bless his sister by shining on her ‘solitary walk’, so that when she is an adult her mind may become a ‘mansion for all lovely forms’. This is an ode to the harshness of the society at the time, in which the privileged businessmen and factory owners possessed a monopoly over British wealth, and accompanying prejudices clouded social judgement. As such, the speaker expresses his desires for his beloved sister to be exempt from such hardship that he was once subjected to, so that she can enjoy ‘sweet sounds and memories’ without experiencing the vexations of an unrelenting human society. 

The conclusion of the poem is cyclic, as it takes the speaker back to the ‘green pastoral landscape’ of the beginning of his meditations. This symbolises the omnipresent timelessness of nature. As the speaker muses upon his ‘past existence’, he wishes to convey his own reverence for nature to his beloved sister, as he expresses that she will not forget the ‘steep woods and lofty cliffs’ upon which he first understood and respected nature. 

The language utilised in this poem is lucid and natural, characteristic of Romantic poetry. The simplicity of the words chosen by Wordsworth effectively communicate the honesty of his own emotions towards nature. The elevated blank verse structure furthers this simplicity, as its familiar and easy tone is like that of a comfortable heartbeat or pulse that runs throughout one’s body in a serene state of mind. 

Ultimately, the unconstrained and liberating tone of the poem, in accordance with its free blank verse structure emphasises Wordsworth’s belief that nature is within our very selves. Just as the poem runs smoothly and continuously, akin to a human pulse, Wordsworth suggests that nature too runs within everyone as an incessant heartbeat, necessary in order to experience a ‘warmer’ and ‘holier’ love for this universe.

Often, with Language Analysis (also known as Argument Analysis or Analysing Argument), it can be hard to find unique things to analyse and set yourself apart from your competitors. Techniques like rhetorical questions, inclusive language and the appeal to family values are regurgitated by thousands of students every year come exam season. As you’d imagine, examiners get tired of hearing the same ol’ thing essay after essay. 

So, I challenge you to surprise them! And today’s video will help you do just that. 

The TEE rule is a very popular technique that we describe in our top-rated eBook, How To Write A Killer Language Analysis . And for a good reason, too! It guides your analysis to ensure that you’re talking about techniques, how they affect readers and using evidence to back yourself up. If you’ve never heard of the TEE rule, no worries at all! Check out our HTWAKLA eBook for an in-depth look into how the technique can help you get to that A+ level.

Today’s video is all about analysing the structure of Language Analysis articles so you can WOW examiners and score in that upper level. 

Now, what does this exactly mean and, more importantly, look like?

When it comes to pieces of writing, when we talk about structure, we’re talking about how the information is organised. 

things fall apart literary essay

What does the writer talk about first? What do they talk about last? How long are the paragraphs? How many paragraphs are there? While these questions might seem a little pointless to some, they can actually inspire some pretty unique and spot-on analysis in VCE Language Analysis.

OK Lisa, I get it, but how can I do this in my essays? Great question. 

Let’s have a look at some examples of this, courtesy of one of LSG’s amazing tutors, Andrea. She’s written up an incredible blog all about these advanced techniques, and it includes much more than what we have time to talk about today. So, as always, I’ll leave the link to her blog in the description and in the card up above – I highly recommend that after watching this video, you head on over and check it out. ‍

Analysing recurring themes and ideas in VCE Language Analysis

Analysing recurring ideas and themes throughout a piece is a fantastic way to show the examiner that you’ve understood the piece as a whole and that you can step back and notice similarities between smaller sections. 

Let’s take a closer look at Section C of the 2014 VCAA English exam . The author emphasises the theme of Kolumbus-21 and its significance on space travel , which is an example of a recurring idea of theme.

Paragraph 1: ‘Space exploration has been on my mind this week after visiting an exhibition presented by an international group known as Kolombus-21.’ 

Paragraph 9: ‘Kolombus-21 talks a lot about international cooperation. This hasn’t always been a feature of space exploration, but now that we have an international space station supported by 15 nations, the era of collaboration seems to be well established.’

Paragraph 11: ‘Perhaps with big dreamers like Kolumbus-21 behind it, it might even turn out that way.’

We can use an array of vocabulary to describe exactly how ideas and themes recur throughout a piece. For example, if something is mentioned repeatedly throughout a piece, we could call it a c yclical, recurring or circular idea. If an idea is built chronologically , piece by piece, we could call it hierarchical, chronological, sequential or even linear .  

In this example, notice how from the beginning to the end of the piece, the author mentions the connection between Kolombus-21 , space exploration and international cooperatio n several times. Let’s see what we get...

By returning to the original theme of Kolumbus-21 as a key driver of support for space travel, which indicates the cyclical structure of her opinion piece, Yergon links space travel with international cooperation.

It’s also a good idea to reiterate the overall structure of the piece in the conclusion, as it allows you to link the structure with the author’s contention.

Analysing the ordering of the contention, arguments and rebuttals in VCE Language Analysis

Certain elements of the article can have a different effect on the reader depending on where the author places them. When we’re talking about desired effects on readers, we want to assume that the writer has done everything a certain way for a reason , so when the rebuttal is placed first, for example, we can look into this further for possible explanations.

‍ The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman is usually studied in the Australian curriculum under Area of Study 1 - Text Response. For a detailed guide on Text Response, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response .

1. Introduction

The Complete Maus is a graphic novel that depicts the story of Vladek Spiegelman , a Polish Jewish Holocaust survivor who experienced living in the ghettos and concentration camps during the Nazi regime. Vladek’s son, Art has transformed his story into a comic book through his interviews and encounters which interweaves with Art’s own struggles as the son of a Holocaust survivor, as well as the complex and difficult relationship with his father.

Survival is a key theme that is explored during Vladek’s experience in concentration camps and his post-Holocaust life. 

For example, Vladek reflects that “You have to struggle for life” and a means of survival was through learning to be resourceful at the concentration camps.

things fall apart literary essay

Resourcefulness is depicted through the physical items Vladek keeps or acquires, as well as through Vladek’s skills . For example, Vladek explains to Art that he was able to exploit his work constantly through undertaking the roles of a translator and a shoemaker in order to access extra food and clothing by being specially treated by the Polish Kapo .

things fall apart literary essay

He even wins over Anja’s Kapo to ensure that she would be treated well by not being forced to carry heavy objects. Vladek’s constant recounts and reflections symbolise survival, as Vladek was willing and able to use his skill set to navigate through the camp’s work system.

things fall apart literary essay

During the concentration camps, food and clothes also became a currency due to its scarcity and Vladek was insistent on being frugal and resourceful , which meant that he was able to buy Anja’s release from the Birkenau camp.

things fall apart literary essay

Although survival is a key theme, the graphic novel explores how Holocaust survivors in The Complete Maus grapple with their deep psychological scars. 

things fall apart literary essay

Many of those who survived the war suffered from depression and was burdened with ‘survivor’s guilt’. This can be seen through the character of Art’s mother, Anja, as 20 years after surviving the death camps, she commits suicide. After having lost so many of her friends, and families, she struggled to find a reason as to why she survived but others didn’t. Throughout the graphic novel, her depression is apparent. In a close-up shot, Anja appears harrowed and says that “I just don’t want to live”, lying on a striped sofa to convey a feeling of hopelessness as if she was in prison. Her ears are additionally drawn as drooped, with her hands positioned as if she was in prison in the context is that she must go to a sanatorium for her depression.

things fall apart literary essay

It is not only Anja’s guilt that is depicted, but also Art himself who feels partly responsible. Art feels that people think it is his fault as he says that “They think it’s MY fault!” and in one panel, Art is depicted behind bars and that “[He] has committed the perfect crime“ to illustrate that he feels a sense of guilt in that he never really was the perfect son. He believes he is partly responsible for her death, due to him neglecting their relationship. Spiegelman also gives insight to readers of a memory of his mother where she asks if he still loves her, he responds with a dismissive ‘sure’ which is a painful reminder of this disregard. 

Intergenerational Gap

Art constantly ponders how he is supposed to “make any sense out of Auschwitz’ if he “can’t even make any sense out of [his] relationship with [his] father”. As a child of Jewish refugees, Art has not had the same first-hand horrific experiences as his parents and in many instances struggles to relate to Vladek’s stubborn and resourceful tendencies. Art reflects on this whilst talking to Mala about when he would not finish everything his mother served, he would “argue til I ran to my room crying”. This emphasises how he didn’t understand wastage or frugality even from a very young age, unlike Vladek.

things fall apart literary essay

Spiegelman also conveys to readers his sense of frustration with Vladek where he feels like he is being treated like a child, not as an adult. For example, Art is shocked that Vladek would throw out one of Art’s coats and instead buy a new coat, despite Vladek’s hoarding because he is reluctant and feels shameful to let his son wear his “old shabby coat”. This act could be conveyed to readers that Vladek is trying to give Art a life he never had and is reluctant to let his son wear clothes that are ‘inappropriate’ in his eyes. However, from Art’s perspective, he “just can’t believe it” and does not comprehend his behaviour.

Since we're talking about themes, we've broken down a theme-based essay prompt (one of five types of essay prompts ) for you in this video:

3. Analysing Techniques in Visual Texts

The Complete Maus is a graphic novel that may seem daunting to analyse compared to a traditional novel. However, with countless panels throughout the book, you have the freedom to interpret certain visuals so long as you give reasoning and justification, guiding the teacher or examiner on what you think these visuals mean. Here are some suggested tips:

Focus on the Depiction of Characters

things fall apart literary essay

Spiegelman may have purposely drawn the eyes of the Jewish mice as visible in contrast to the unapparent eyes of the Nazis to humanise and dehumanise characters. By allowing readers to see the eyes of Jewish mice, readers can see the expressions and feelings of the character such as anger and determination . Effectively, we can see them as human characters through their eyes. The Nazis’ eyes, on the other hand, are shaded by their helmets to signify how their humanity has been corrupted by the role they fulfill in the Holocaust.

things fall apart literary essay

When the readers see their eyes, they appear sinister , with little slits of light. By analysing the depictions and expressions of characters, readers can deduce how these characters are intended to be seen.

Look at the Background in Each Panel

Throughout the graphic novel, symbols of the Holocaust appear consistently in the background. In one panel, Art’s parents, Anja and Vladek have nowhere to go, a large Swastika looms over them to represent that their lives were dominated by the Holocaust.

things fall apart literary essay

Even in Art’s life, a panel depicts him as working on his desk with dead bodies surrounding him and piling up to convey to the reader that the Holocaust still haunts him to this day, and feels a sense of guilt at achieving fame and success at their expense.

things fall apart literary essay

Thus, the constant representation of symbols from the Holocaust in Spiegelman’s life and his parents’ past in the panels’ background highlights how inescapable the Holocaust is emotionally and psychologically . 

Size of Panels

things fall apart literary essay

Some of the panels in the graphic novel are of different sizes which Spiegelman may have intended to emphasise the significance of certain turning points, crises or feelings . For example, on page 34, there is a disproportionate panel of Vladek and Anja passing a town, seeing the first signs of the Nazi regime compared to the following panels. All the mice seem curious and concerned, peering at the Nazi flag behind them. This panel is significant as it marks the beginning of a tragic regime that would dominate for the rest of their lives.

You should also pay close attention to how some panels have a tendency to overlap with each other which could suggest a link between events, words or feelings.

Although not specifically targeted at Text Response, 10 Things to Look for in Cartoons is definitely worth a read for any student studying a graphic novel!

Picture this: you’re sitting down at your desk, fumbling your fingers, inspecting the new stationary that you convinced yourself you needed for year 12, resisting the urge to check your phone. Your text response SAC is in two weeks. You’re freaking out because you want, no, need an A+. You decide to write a practice essay for your English teacher. Practice makes perfect, right? You stay up for hours, pouring your heart and soul into this essay. The result? B+. Where did I go wrong?

That’s where I come in! Writing an A+ essay can be really tough without examples and specific advice. Before reading on, make sure you've read our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response and Golden Age blog so you are up to scratch.

In this article I will be explaining some basic dos and don’ts of writing an essay on The Golden Age , providing a model essay as an example. At the end of this blog is also a video based on another essay prompt to help you prepare for your Golden Age studies!

The following prompt will be referenced throughout the post;

‘The Golden Age’ shows that everyone needs love and recognition. Discuss.

Planning: the silent killer of A+ essays

I’m sure your teachers have emphasised the importance of planning. In case they haven’t, allow me to reiterate that great planning is compulsory for a great essay . However, flimsy arguments aren’t going to get you an A+. The examiners are looking for complex arguments , providing a variety of perspectives of the themes at hand. From the above prompt, the key word is, ‘discuss’. This means that you should be discussing the prompt, not blindly agreeing with it . Make sure you don’t write anything that wouldn’t sit right with London. ‍

Don’t plan out basic arguments that are one-dimensional. This may give you a pass in English, but won’t distinguish you as a top-scoring student.

For example:

The above paragraphs merely agree with the statement, but don’t delve into the many aspects of the novel that could contribute to a sophisticated essay.

Do create complex arguments, or paragraphs with a twist! If you can justify your argument and it makes sense, include it in your essay. There are many ways that you could answer this question, but my plan looks like this:

See the difference?

The introduction:

How to start your essay off with a bang.

Personally, I always struggled with starting an introduction. The examiners will be reading and marking thousands of essays, so if possible, starting your introduction with something other than Joan London’s ‘The Golden Age’… is a great way to make you stand out from the crowd. Having a strong start is essential to pave the way for a clear and concise essay. You could start with a quote/scene from the text! This is not essential, but it’s a great way to mix things up. This is my start:

Perhaps nothing exemplifies the power of love and recognition more than the bond between Albert Sutton and his older sister, Lizzie, in Joan London’s ‘The Golden Age’. Many of London’s characters exhibit suffering that requires compassion and support to heal and grow, to distinguish present from past. However, London explores the perspectives of such characters from different aspects of trauma, and emphasise that love and recognition do not always work to heal and mature. Frank Gold, the novel’s resident “sneaky” boy who adjusts to newfound life in the Golden Age Convalescent Home seeks love as an adult, rather than eliciting sympathy as a supposed victim. Here love and recognition are unsuccessful in amending Frank’s troubles when given from the perspective of an outsider, a judgemental onlooker. In a similar sense, Ida Gold seeks recognition not from Australia, who she views as a ‘backwater’, but validation in herself after having been ousted from her Hungarian identity. London, however, makes sure to emphasise the impact that Sullivan has on Frank Gold’s life. Sullivan, a boy only a few years older than Frank, seems content with his future, with his fate, despite his sacrifice of rugby and conventional life.  There is a lacking sense of urgency for love and recognition in Sullivan’s life, rather, it appears that Sullivan accepts his fate, regardless of his father’s sympathy or support. Thus, London explores a myriad of ways in which love and recognition may or may not heal wounds inflicted upon individuals.

Remember, there are many other ways you could start your essay.

The body paragraphs: To TEEL or not to TEEL?

I’m sure you’ve heard of TEEL countless times since year 7. Topic sentence, evidence, explanation, link. The truth is that these elements are all very important in a body paragraph. However, following a rigid structure will render your essay bland and repetitive. It is also extremely important to note that you should be using evidence from multiple points in the text , and you should be making sure that your paragraphs are directly answering the question . Write what feels natural to you, and most importantly, don’t abuse a thesaurus . If you can’t read your essay without rummaging for a dictionary every second sentence, you should rewrite it.  If vocabulary isn’t your strong point (it definitely isn’t mine!), focus on clean sentence structure and solid arguments. There’s nothing worse than you using a fancy word incorrectly.

Don’t overuse your thesaurus in an attempt to sound sophisticated, and don’t use the same structure for every sentence. For example:

Prematurely in the paperback London makes an allusion to Norm White, the denizen horticulturalist of The Golden Age Convalescent Home…

That was an exaggerated example generated by searching for synonyms. As you can see, it sounds silly, and some of the words don’t even make sense. I mean, “denizen horticulturalist”…really?

Do mix up your paragraph structure! If vocabulary is your weak point, focus on clean language.

Here’s mine:

Early in the novel, London makes reference to Norm White, the resident groundskeeper of The Golden Age Convalescent Home. Norm White hands Frank Gold a cigarette, “as if to say a man has the right to smoke in peace”. Here, there is a complete disregard for rule and convention, an idea that London emphasises throughout the text. This feature provides a counter-cultural experience for Frank, pushing him to realise that he is a strong human being rather than a mere victim. This is a clear contrast to the “babyishness” of the home, and is used as evidence of true humanity in an era where society judged upon the unconventional. Frank yearns for a traditional Australian life after his trauma in Hungary; “his own memory…lodged like an attic in the front part of his brain”. Hedwiga and Julia Marai’s caring of him pushed him towards fear and reluctance to trust, yet also pressured him to seek acceptance in a world that ostracises him for his Jewish heritage and polio diagnosis. This here is why Frank desires a mature, adult connection – love that regards him as an equal human being. Frank seeks Elsa’s love and company as she too loathes being reduced to a victim, an object of pity. Frank thereafter uses humour to joke of his wounds; “we Jews have to be on the lookout”. Elsa sees “a look in his eyes that she recognised”, thus their bond enables both characters to heal. London alludes that Frank requires love and recognition not from the perspective of a sorrowful onlooker, rather he longs to be recognised as a mature adult.

To learn more about using the right vocabulary, read 'Why using big words in VCE essays can make you look dumber'.

The conclusion: closing the deal

I firmly believe in short and sharp conclusions. Your body paragraphs should be thoroughly explaining your paragraphs, so don’t include any new information here. A few sentences is enough. Once again, write what feels natural, and what flows well.

Don’t drag out your conclusion. Short and concise is the key to finishing well.

Do write a sharp finish! Sentence starters such as, “Ultimately…” or “Thus, London…” are great.

Although trauma is often treated with love and compassion, London details different perspectives on this idea. Whilst Frank Gold requires a specific kind of recognition, Ida and Meyer seek validation in themselves and their relationship, whilst Sullivan is at ease with his fate and does not yearn sympathy from his father.

‍ To learn more about A+ essays, you should also have a read of 10 easy English points you're missing out on .

I'll finish off by giving you an exercise: brainstorm and write up a plan for the essay topic shown in the video below. I'd recommend you do this before watching Lisa's brainstorm and plan. That way, you can see which of your ideas overlapped, but also potentially see which ideas you may have missed out on. Good luck!

The scariest part of the EAL exam, while might not be the most daunting task, is probably getting your head wrapped around an unfamiliar language analysis task under time condition. Jargons and difficult terms might be used, and some articles tend to not be so straightforward making this task more challenging for EAL students. This blog post aims to alleviate this fear for all EAL students as much as possible and better your performance in the end-of-year exams. After reading this, I'd highly recommend our Ultimate Guide To Language Analysis as you study for your next SAC or exam.

Reading Comprehension

To understand and analyse an article well, you will need to know the writer’s contention well, identifying whether they are for or against an idea. Most language analysis articles are written on an issue, which is why it is important to spot what the issue is and the writer’s stance. Most of the time, the writer’s contention is found at the beginning of the article, in the title, though there are times it is found at the end of the article. Sometimes, skimming through an article might be sufficient for you to find its main point.

Spotting and understanding arguments, on the other hand, might be much more difficult as they can be found anywhere within the articles and the number of arguments contained varies from articles to articles.

The good news is, there is no right or wrong answer in English so there is no need to be too worried about whether what you are writing is ‘precise’ or not. In order to look for arguments and ‘chunk the reading passage’ in the most efficient way, you should be paying attention to the ways the writer tries to structure the article (e.g. paragraphs, headings and subheadings if there are any, etc). More than often arguments can be found at the beginning of paragraphs (writers might also use that good old T opic- E vidence- E xample- L inking structure in drafting their piece) and sometimes two consecutive paragraphs focus on one singular argument.

Also, arguments should be specific and support the writer’s contention. For instance, if the contention is ‘technology ameliorates Americans’ standards of living’, the arguments might be something along the lines of ‘it is beneficial as it improves efficiency in workplace environment’ or ‘it allows people to communicate easily’. Trying to make an educated guess on what the arguments might look like will definitely help if you already know the contention of the article.

Language barriers might be an issue if the writer uses technical terms related to an unfamiliar area (e.g. an article about “pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanokoniosis”, a lung disease caused by a certain type of dust, might pop up – highly unlikely but thank me later if it does come up). This is why dictionaries are there to help us and they are a must-have coming into EAL exams and SACs. You are allowed to bring bilingual dictionaries as well, so make sure you have a good set of dictionaries that you can bring into SACs and exams. Regardless of how fluent you are, there is still a possibility that they use one if not more than one unfamiliar term in your language analysis articles.

However, it is not always difficult to guess the meaning of the word without using the dictionary (time restraints!!) by looking at the sentence as a whole. The location of the words within a sentence might allow you to make a reasonable guess of what type of words it is or what it might mean. If it is the subject or object of the sentence, it is either a pronoun, a noun or a name. If the word is after a subject, it is likely to be a verb which describes an action! To familiarise yourself with sentence structure further, read my guide on The Keys To English Fluency and Proficiency .

Answering Reading Comprehension Questions

Section C, Question 1 requires students to write short answers, in note form or sentences, which altogether will make up of 50% of the marks in Section C. I am not sure about you but for a lot of students, getting good marks for Question 1 is much easier than getting good marks for Question 2, which requires you to write a full language analysis essay. This is why it is important that you are able to maximise your marks in this question because they are purported to be easier marks to get! Some of the questions will ask the students for factual information but more difficult questions will require to think about that is contained in the text and make an interpretation based on your understanding.

1. Question words

To know what sort of answer you are expected to give before looking for details from the article, you need to be familiar with question words.

WHO - A particular person or group of people impacted by an incident or involved in a situation

WHAT - This really depends. It might require you to give out information about something or to identify reasons for the writer’s opinions (which is good it might make it easier for you to find the writer’s arguments)

WHEN - The timeframe within which an issue or event occurred (date, day, etc)

WHERE - The location of an event

WHY - The reasons for something

HOW - How a problem can be resolved

2. Direction words

Unfortunately, not all questions in this section have “question words” and examiners usually give out questions that are broader using “direction words” or “task words”, making this section more challenging for students. EAL is not the only subject that requires students to know their direction words well so it is definitely worthwhile learning these words to improve your performance. These are the most common direction words used in Section C (see below!). ‍

Giving information about something or to identify the writer’s opinions

This requires you to give out information in your own words and elaborate

Students will be required to find what is asked from the article and write them down in the briefest form possible

Usually in note forms – to answer this you need to identify what is asked and briefly noting them down

Retelling something in a succinct and concise ways in your own words, it should only be enough to highlight key ideas

Finding evidence from the text to justify a statement or opinions

3. Marks allocation

Another super helpful tip is to pay extra attention to the marks allocation of the questions. It usually gives you a fairly accurate indication of how much you should write. The general rule of thumb would be that the number of marks tell students how many sentences or points they should be making.

Identify the reasons why the writer loves travelling (2 marks)

Students should be writing down 2 reasons why the writer loves travelling ‍

The editor strongly opposes the use of plastic bag. Support this statement (3 marks) ‍

In this case, it is probably best to find 3 pieces of evidence from the article that justify the statement stated to make sure you do not lose any marks by not writing enough.

4. Sample Questions And Response

My own response and annotation of Question 1 and Section C of the 2017 EAL exam is below. I really hope it would give you guys a better idea of what is expected from EAL students.

things fall apart literary essay

Time Management Tips

Look at the comprehension questions during reading time.

I usually used my reading time skimming through the article, looking at the questions and flip back and forth the booklet to look for answers for the questions at the back. The reason why this was the first thing I did was because they often contain clues of what the arguments might me. Questions such as “give three reasons why the editor thought technology is beneficial” will help you immediately identify some key ideas and arguments in the article.

Look for key features instead of analysing and finding techniques straight away

I also used the reading time to find the contention, determine what type of article it was and the source, etc. The following acronym might help you! I often tried identifying all of the features below as it also helped me plan my introduction within reading time.

C ontention

For a detailed guide on How to Write an A+ Language Analysis Introduction, check out our advice here .

Set out a detailed time management plan for your essay the night before the SAC or exams (or earlier if possible) ‍

Be strict with yourself, know your writing speed and know how long it takes you to write a paragraph.

Stick with one introduction’s structure/ format ‍

If you are used to writing an introduction that, for instance, starts off by introducing the issue, title of the piece, author, and then the contention, tone, audience then stick with it, or memorise it if you do not have the best writing speed or just do not work well under time pressure.

Whether or not (issue) is an issue that garners much attention in recent media. In response to this, (author) writes a (form) titled “(title)” to express his disapprobation/endorsement of (issue) to (audience). By adopting a (tone word 1) and (tone word 2), (author) asserts/ articulates/ contends that (contention) . With the use of an accompanying visual, the writer enhances the notion that (contention) .

Not be way too thorough with annotation ‍

When it comes to performing well under time condition, perfectionism might hinder you from best maximising your marks! Everyone learns differently and has different approaches to this task but it is probably better if we do not spend way too much time annotating the article. While it is important to scan through the article and identify important persuasive techniques, sometimes it is more than sufficient to just circle or highlight the technique instead of colour-coding it, writing down what its effects on the audience, labelling techniques. Don’t get me wrong, these aforementioned steps are important, but there is no point writing that information down twice because you will be repeating those steps as you write your essay anyway! I’d recommend trying out different annotation techniques and see what works for you, but for me minimalism served me well.

Create your own glossary of words ‍

Sometimes, it takes too much time just sitting down staring at the paper deciding what words you should be using. We’ve all been there, worrying if you have repeated “highlight” or “position” way too many time. Memorising a mini glossary might solve this issue and save us writing time. I have included a sample glossary for you to fill in, hopefully it helps you as much as it did me! It might be a good starting point for you.

Convincing the audience to… persuade, position, propel, compel, galvanise, etc

Highlight the idea that… underscore, enhance, fortify, bolster, etc

Evoke (an emotional response)... elicit, garners, etc

The writer uses … employs, utilises, etc

The writer criticises … critiques, lambastes, chastises, condemns, denounces, etc

‍ At the end of the day, regardless of how many tips you have learned from this blog, it would not be enough to significantly improve your marks unless you practice frequently. Knowing how long it takes you to write the introduction, or each paragraph will better enable you to finish the essay within the time set and allow you to spend a bit of spare time proofreading your essay. If you are aiming for A+’s, writing every week is probably the best piece of advice I can give because without enough practice, your performance under pressure cannot match up to your usual performance.

We’ve explored themes, literary devices and characters and development amongst other things over on our After Darkness by Christine Piper blog post. If you need a quick refresher or you’re new to studying this text, I highly recommend checking it out!

Here, we’ll be breaking down an After Darkness essay topic using LSG’s THINK and EXECUTE strategy , a technique to help you write better VCE essays. If you’re unfamiliar with this strategy, you can learn about it in our How To Write A Killer Text Response study guide.

Let’s get into it!

The Prompt: 

‘While Ibaraki clearly suffers the consequences of his actions, it is those closest to him who pay the highest price. Discuss.’

Step 1: Analyse

This is a theme-based prompt, and the keywords are: suffer, consequence, actions and highest price . You want to explore both the evidence that supports the statement and also any evidence that may offer a contradiction to the statement. From here you can find the definition of the keywords to help develop some questions to explore.

Step 2: Brainstorm

To suffer is to be affected by or subject to something unpleasant. 

A consequence is a result of an action. 

An action is the process of doing something, typically to achieve an aim. 

Highest price refers to Ibaraki’s suffering being above all else. 

At this point, you can begin to group your ideas and evidence from the text to support your claims.

Throughout the novel, Piper uses a variety of literary devices including dialogue, simile and foreshadowing to convey her message of every action having a consequence . The most prominent of these is her use of imagery and metaphor which she uses to illustrate Ibaraki’s guilt and the way it impacts his actions. However, the story is not only centred around Ibaraki. Piper also highlights that people will often face consequences no matter what decision they make. She does this through her use of foil characters (characters who are used to highlight a particular trait in another character). For example, Ibaraki’s fear and obedience are emphasised by the courage of Kayoko and Johnny Chang. These characters, alongside Ibaraki, face suffering as a result of their actions. 

From these ideas, the main themes I am going to explore are what factors affect the character’s actions, and how the consequences of these actions can lead to negative, but also positive change. 

Step 3: Create a Plan

Paragraph 1:

Paragraph 2:

Paragraph 3:

Now it is time to write the essay!

Set during the Pacific War, Christine Piper’s After Darkness explores the difficulties and misfortunes many face during wartime. Depicting the rise and fall of Japan’s war efforts (1) , After Darkness highlights that all actions have consequences of varying severity, particularly those of protagonist Dr Ibaraki Tomokazu. Throughout the novel, Ibaraki’s lack of action perpetuates the suffering of those closest to him, however, this is shown to be one of many factors and often initiates positive change within him, allowing his character to develop. Fundamentally, After Darkness highlights that change can only occur if people face the repercussions of their actions. (2)

Annotations (1) In the introduction, it is important to introduce the text with context . As After Darkness is predominantly set in 1942 during wartime in both Japan and Australia, it is important to include this in the introduction in order to explore the essay topic with a complete understanding. 

(2) Another key part of the introduction is to briefly introduce the topics you will discuss throughout the essay.

Throughout the novel, Piper emphasises the idea that all actions have consequences, however, this idea is not limited to Ibaraki. Across the three novel strands, protagonist Dr Tomokazu Ibaraki’s suffering as a result of his mistakes is depicted through both his internal and external dialogue. Ibaraki makes many significant mistakes throughout his lifetime, one of these being his failure to perform a dissection of a child when working at Unit 731. Despite ‘not [being] [him]self’ (3) when asked to perform the operation, Ibaraki is promptly fired. His termination of employment is not the only consequence of his failure, as shame continues to take over his confidence. This is illustrated when he was ‘unable to go on’ during an operation in Broome, despite being in a completely different scenario. Through Ibaraki’s flashback of ‘Black dots on a child’s belly’, Piper indicates the torment and lasting effects of consequences on an individual (4) . Whilst the novel centres around his mistakes, it is revealed that Ibaraki is not the only character who is forced to face the repercussions of their actions. Despite acting as foils for Ibaraki and presenting many different qualities, Australian internees Johnny Chang and Stan Suzuki also struggle immensely to overcome the results of their behaviours. Johnny Chang’s outspoken nature is often shown to cause disruption among the camp, for example, labelling the imperialist Japanese as ‘emperor worshipping pig’s.’ In standing for his beliefs, Johnny creates a tense division within groups, leading to the half Australian internees being treated like ‘outcasts’. Conversely, Stan’s introverted behaviour results in his eventual death (5) . Piper’s contention that all actions have consequences is arguably enforced strongly through Stan’s death, as it results from the failure of many characters to act. Ibaraki’s inability to open up, Johnny’s selfishness and Stan’s loss of self are inevitably all factors leading to his eventual demise. This is ultimately reinforced when Johnny states ‘It should’ve been me Doc’, indicating he has finally realised his role in the tragedy.

Annotations (3) In order to embed quotes , words, prefixes and suffixes can be added to ensure the sentence flows correctly. However, you must indicate that you have edited the quote by placing your changes in square brackets. Here, the original quote was ‘not myself’ but it has been changed to fit the sentence. 

(4) Whilst it is important to include quotes, it is even more important that you analyse how the author uses the quote to convey a message. In this case, the example of one of Ibaraki’s many flashbacks is used to bear Piper’s belief that one cannot escape the repercussions of their actions.

(5) Comparison is a powerful way of exploring the author’s ideas throughout the text. Here, Johnny’s outspoken nature is contrasted with Stan’s ‘introverted behaviour’, yet both concede repercussions. This supports the idea that all actions have consequences, no matter their nature.

Ibaraki’s lack of action acts as a perpetuating factor for the suffering of those closest to him, however, it is not the only factor. After Darkness shows the faults in many of Ibaraki’s actions, suggesting his mistakes lead to the misfortunes of many of those around him but this is only partially true. Stan Suzuki’s death is a pivotal moment in the novel where Ibaraki begins to truly express his emotions and open up about the pain he feels (6). Ibaraki realises that he ‘could have done something’ when opening up to the investigators of Stan’s death, leading to the conclusion that Ibaraki is to blame. Piper illustrates that suffering results as a combination of factors through the later revelations of Johnny’s escape attempt and the instability of the ‘trigger-happy’ guard who shot Stan. This idea is reinforced through the breakdowns of Ibaraki’s close relationships with Kayoko and Sister Bernice. Whilst Ibaraki’s emotionally distant nature catalysed the loss of these significant relationships, it was not the only factor. Both Kayoko and Sister Bernice are structured with similar characteristics in the novel, one being their confidence and strength in their beliefs. Nevertheless, both women lack this characteristic when it comes to their relationship with Ibaraki (7) . Ibaraki admits his separation from Kayoko is his ‘greatest regret’, and whilst the first-person perspective does not give an insight into Kayoko’s side, she is shown to lack her usual self-assuredness. Similarly, Ibaraki’s allowance of ‘silence [to] stretch between…’ him and Sister Bernice is hurtful and a failure on his behalf, yet she still willingly confesses her feelings, aware of the risks involved. This is evident when ‘her eyes dart away from [his]’, implying she is ashamed of her statement as it contradicts her religion and the terms of their work relationship and friendship. This results in an abrupt end to their friendship as the embarrassment of the repercussions of her actions overwhelm Sister Bernice. Whilst the series of mistakes that Ibaraki makes throughout the novel show that his actions cause grief for both him and the people around him, they also highlight that the misfortune of others is not always the fault of one individual.

Annotations (6) Referring to specific events in the text is extremely useful to support your ideas and claims. However, it is important that you avoid over-explaining the event, as this will lead to you retelling , rather than analysing the text. See How To Avoid Retelling the Story for more tips. 

(7) An often-overlooked literary device is the use of foils . A foil is a character that is used to highlight a particular trait in another character, often a flaw. In this case, Piper uses the similarities between Kayoko and Sister Bernice, and the ultimate failure of their relationships. This highlights Ibaraki’s repetition of his mistakes, which we can attribute to his ongoing guilt. 

Ibaraki ultimately pays the highest price for his actions; although this is shown to result in positive change. Through her descriptions of Australia and Japan, Piper uses the juxtaposition of light and dark imagery to illustrate how suffering can lead to learning and growth. Facing racism in Broome when labelled as a ‘Bloody Jap…’, trauma from his experiences in Unit 731 and hardship during his internment at Loveday, Ibaraki is constantly a victim of circumstance. Even so, the pressures and torment of these events force him to seek the support of others. The colourful descriptions of the ‘pink spur of land crested with green’ foreshadow the positive change to come for Ibaraki (8) . This becomes evident when Ibaraki finally opens up to Stan in the infirmary about his separation from Kayoko. Ibaraki’s development as a character continues as he learns to trust despite the unfair circumstances of being interned. Although memories of trees haunting the river’s edge ‘like lost people’ and the bark of red trees appearing ‘like blistered skin’ continue to plague Ibaraki’s conscience, they force him to confront his past and in turn begin to heal. Through the retrospective novel, Piper describes Japan as where ‘darkness crowded the corners’ and Ibaraki worked ‘in the basement’, indicating his misguided obedience and attachment to silence. This not only illustrates (9) Ibaraki’s trauma, but emphasises his drastic development through his experiences. The importance of the consequences Ibaraki has faced throughout his lifetime are reinforced in the final pages of the novel after he reads Sister Bernice’s letter and has an epiphany. The discovery that he had ‘clung to the ideal of discretion’ creates a sense of hope for Ibaraki’s future and emphasises his newfound understanding of life through the consequences he has faced. (10)

Annotations (8) Ensure you don’t just randomly place quotes throughout the essay, but instead, analyse them to give them meaning. An easy way to do this is by including the quote , its connotations and what emotions or ideas they provoke, followed by why the author has used it. In this case, the quote was the ‘pink spur of land crested with green.’ Its connotations were positive such as colour, happiness, and hope. These connotations were used to foreshadow positive change. 

(9) Using a variety of vocabulary such as ‘illustrates’, ‘explores’ and ‘demonstrates’ shows that you are not only identifying what the author is doing but that you understand how and why they have done it in this way. This is ultimately the goal of a text response essay. 

(10) It is important to ensure the flow of your essay to show sophistication in your writing. It is not only the ideas you have, but the way in which you convey and explain them that ultimately indicates your understanding of the text. A simple way to do this is to use a summary sentence at the end of each topic that subscribes to the idea and links to the previous or following paragraph. 

Essentially After Darkness highlights the necessity of facing consequences for our actions to promote learning and growth. Whilst Ibaraki and many other characters suffered as a result of their behaviour, Piper asserts that Ibaraki is not the overall perpetrator but ultimately pays the highest price of all. (11)

Annotations (11) Just like the introduction, the conclusion is a brief summary of the discussion topics throughout your text response. Most importantly, after exploring all of the evidence you must form a stance in relation to the essay topic. Many students believe that this needs to be a simple and definite yes or no, which is not the case. Instead, I have suggested that Ibaraki is not the only one to blame for other character’s suffering, but that ultimately, he paid the highest price. Check out 5 Tips for a Mic-Drop Worthy Essay Conclusion if you need more help finishing your essay off with a bang!

If you found this essay breakdown helpful, then you might want to check out our After Darkness Study Guide which includes 5 A+ sample essays with EVERY essay annotated and broken down on HOW and WHY these essays achieved A+ so you reach your English goals!

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Things Fall Apart Essays

Things fall apart masculinity.

Masculinity has a huge impact on the lives of the Ibo tribe. For instance, Ibo tribes in Africa highly support male masculinity and dominance. From a young age the individuals of the Ibo tribe are molded to understand the concept of male superiority. For anyone who digresses away from this idea, is thought of as weak by the community. In Things Fall Apart, the protagonist’s life, Okonkwo, is derived from his obsession with masculinity and his fear of failure and […]

White Missionaries and the Igbo People

In the novel Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, the author brings white missionaries into the Igbo people’s land. These missionaries have caused the Igbo people to convert into a new religion and a new government. Therefore Chinua Achebe uses the missionaries to convey the theme that the legacy of colonialism leads to a shattered community. Even though the Igbo people had tried to resist the missionaries’ beliefs, they underestimated the missionaries’ power. This book was published in 1958 and […]

Gender Roles in Things Fall Apart

The role of women has always been surrounded by controversy, some people believe women should get married, have children and take care of the household. Others believe women should have the choice between working a nine to five job, being a stay at home mom or both. Things Fall Apart was written by African writer Chinua Achebe in 1959, it came from the stories that Achebe’s mother used to tell him about the Igbo people. Things Fall Apart tells the […]

Comparative Study on Heart of Darkness and Things Fall Apart

Things Fall Apart and Heart of Darkness illustrate the various ways of representing Africa in the form of literature. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad presents Africa through the perspective of colonization by the Europeans who depict the African continent as savages, uncivilized, and underdeveloped. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, on the other hand, tend to respond to Conrad’s perception of Africa by portraying the native Africans as focused, cultured, and productive. Through Okonkwo, Achebe depicts Africans as proud […]

Okonkwo is the Legend of the Novel Things Fall Apart

Things fall apart is a disaster novel formed by Chinua Achebe. Okonkwo, who is the legend of the novel and a champion among the most powerful men in the Ibo tribe routinely falls back on violence to make his centers appreciated. Down in his heart, Okonkwo is genuinely not a savage man, anyway his life is directed by his inside conflict, the fear of dissatisfaction and of inadequacy. Okonkwo made it a point in his life to isolate himself from […]

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About Westernization in “Things Fall Apart”

Things Fall Apart”Things Fall Apart” a book written by Chinua Achebe is set in Nigeria in the 1890’s and portrays the clash between Nigeria’s white colonial government and the traditional culture of the native Igbo people. Many of the characters in this book clearly conveyed the effects of westernization at this time. In “Things Fall Apart” Nwoye, Okonkwo’s son, was positively impacted by the western culture collision by breaking away from his father and his culture to pursue his dreams. […]

Complex Culture in Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

In Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe the author teaches us how the Ibo and the British are both uncivilized in their own ways. The Ibo being uncivilized in their technology. While the British are uncivilized in their world view and the way they treat other people. The text states He had and old rusty gun made by a clever blacksmith who came to live in Umofia long ago pg.38. This shows how technologically primitive the people of Umofia are. […]

Imperialism in “Heart of Darkness” and “Things Fall Apart”

Throughout the novels, Heart of Darkness and Things Fall Apart, both illustrate the complexity and the morality surrounding imperialism, which struck the continent of Africa in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. By comparing and contrasting the two different perspectives on the effects of imperialism shown in Heart of Darkness and Things Fall Apart, the authors’ messages correspond to the overarching message of the evils of imperialism, yet the little action that could be done to end it. Need […]

Colonism in Things Fall Apart

Nigerian author named, Chinua Achebe, authored a novel which was entitled as Things Fall Apart,’ which was published in the year 1958. The novel was an attempt by the author to present the true image of the African society, through the literature, which has always been depicted as an uncivilized and backward society in the literature of the foreign languages. The author included the story, as well as the transition of a Nigerian tribe from the traditional society to the […]

About Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Introduction The book Things Fall Apart was written by Chinua Achebe with the aim of depicting a lower tribe in Nigeria. The book is thrilling because it narrates about the Igbo society. Chinua Achebe uses Okonkwo when giving a detailed account of the Igbo society. Okonkwo was a focused man who wanted to avoid the mistakes of his father. Unlike his father who spent all his life accumulating debts, Okonkwo was a focused man who aimed at improving his life. […]

Colonialism and its Aftermath: Changing Realities

Surfacing in readings of twentieth-century British literature is the theme of colonialism and its aftermath, which provides texts for analysis of historical viewpoints. Literary theorists respond to the subject of colonialism and its aftermath in twentieth-century British literature where observations and analysis are found in the writings of Edward Said, Homi Bhabha, and others.Their texts define relations between the colonizers and the colonized, demonstrating aspects of colonialism and its aftermath. In a reading of twentieth-century British literature a return to […]

Collision in Conrad’s and Achebe’s Novels

In Heart of Darkness and Things Fall Apart, Joseph Conrad and Chinua Achebe employ characters caught between colliding cultures which can be seen through the use of literary techniques such as symbolism and imagery, ultimately revealing the theme of culture and traditions. The authors Joseph Conrad and Chinua Achebe have main characters that live in different continents, but experience similar cultural collisions. Although Marlow and Okonkwo have different lifestyles, they are led to question their identities and make decisions that […]

Novels Kanthapura and Things Fall Apart

Raja Rao and Chinua Achebe through the depiction of the respective philosophies in their novels Kanthapura and Things Fall Apart brings out the perception of social, cultural and traditional aspects of Nigerian village Umuofia and Indian village of Kanthapura. Moreover, both the authors through these philosophies put light on the issue of colonization which the African natives and Indian natives suffered at the hands of white missionaries and Britishers. Rao who was an ardent follower of Mahatma Gandhi, paid respect […]

Heart of Darkness & Things Fall Apart

Authors write to tell stories to the reader, but they also write to communicate personal opinions and ideas to show the reader. Readers are able to be bias with their own personal beliefs that they have in common with the novel, usually with their own race or religion. Throughout the novel, Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad expresses his opinions through the main characters Marlow and Mr. Kurtz with their attitudes and actions. By the same way, Chinua Achebe displays his […]

The European as a Savior of Native Africans

 Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness remains as one of the greatest works in English literature. The novel has received many reviews since it was published with some praising it while others are criticizing. One of the critical reviews was written by Chinua Achebe in his book Things Fall Apart. Achebe argued that Conrad is a racist after depicting the African culture negatively. The author of the Heart of Darkness stresses that the western religion is better in civilizing the Africans […]

Okonkwo from “Things Fall Apart”

Things Fall Apart is a story of a man named Okonkwo who is from the village of Umofia. He was a hardworking man but despite all the hard work he didn’t achieved much in life. His father was a laid back man who was nothing for good and Okonkwo was opposed of his father way of living. He had three wives and was also one among the egwugwu which is considered as the masked spirit of the descendants. He was […]

Fight for Equality between Men and Women

The fight for equality between men and women has been an ongoing battle for years. While many opt to turn a blind eye and believe there is equality, there are so many situations not only nationally, but globally that prove otherwise. While respect towards women has grown, there is still a lot of tension fueled by the male perception of what a “women’s role” is in society. Need a custom essay on the same topic? Give us your paper requirements, […]

Colonialism Depicted in Things Fall Apart

Postcolonialism is the scholarly investigation of the social heritage of expansionism and dominion, concentrating on the human outcomes of the control and abuse of colonized individuals and their territories. Postcolonialism is a basic hypothesis examination of the history, culture, writing, and talk of European royal force. The name postcolonialism is demonstrated on postmodernism, with which it shares certain ideas and techniques, and might be thought of as a response to or takeoff from expansionism similarly postmodernism is a response to […]

Things Fall Apart Tragic Hero

A classical tragedy is meant to evoke emotions on the reader and make them sympathize for the tragic hero and recognize their humanity. Tragedies are characterized by the tragic hero overcoming obstacles only to inevitably reach their downfall. The hero’s fatal or tragic flaw is accountable for the hero’s demise. The hero can be viewed as a man who is a leader but who is also weak when it comes down to difficult situations. In Chinua Achebe’s Novel, Things Fall […]

Things Fall Apart Analysis

Things Fall Apart is a novel written by Chinua Achebe that shows the conflicts in Nigeria during the nineteenth century. During this time, missionaries from Great Britain arrived in Nigeria. In this novel, the main character, Okonkwo, resists changes brought about by the British missionaries. Okonkwo’s close friend, Obierika, shares the same dislike towards the change, but isn’t as willing to fight them. Instead, Obierika, along with the tribe, is forced to accept the changes to their culture. Their attitude […]

Culture in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart

Just imagine, something or someone that annoys you the most and you were stuck with that thing or person for the rest of your life. That type of situation occurred in the book, Things Fall Apart and the poem “Beat! Beat! Drums!” Things Fall Apart was written by Chinua Achebe and the story sets around the life of Okonkwo, a prominent man living in the village of Umoufia. Then, all of a sudden, newcomers arrive into town that changes the […]

Justice in Things Fall Apart

Throughout the whole story, Okonkwo’s life was dominated by “the fear of failure and of weakness” (Achebe, 13). He tried so hard to become better than his father and raise his standings in the village. Spending his whole life doing this, Okonkwo could not let change occur because change meant things would no longer be the same, and all his respect he gained in his village would go to waste. So when the white men came and started disrupting the […]

The Fall of National Identity in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart

       The protagonist in “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe, is Okonkwo he is a man who grew up with little to nothing in his pocket, nothing to inherit but, he made a name for himself. He was the first person to beat the fiercest wrestler in the village, “Amalinze was the great wrestler who for seven years was unbeaten, from Umofia to Mbaino.”(Pg.1) Okonkwo was very strong and helpful to his village, but he was very mean […]

Author’s Style in Things Fall Apart and Lord of the Flies 

The writing in Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, is different than what I normally read. I think this has to do with the proverbs that are used. Achebe uses lyrical and visual language through the use of proverbs and short stories to provide a photographic view of the Ibo’s culture. “Yam, the king of crops, was a very exacting king. For three or four moons it demanded hard work and constant attention from the cock-crow till the chickens went […]

Become Gendered in “Things Fall Apart”

 The book Things Fall Apart is a fiction novel written by Chinua Achebe in 1958. The story documented the pre- and post-colonial life in Nigeria between the characters like Okonkwo, Nwoye, Ezinma and etc including their internal feeling, before and after the arrival of the colonist. Need a custom essay on the same topic? Give us your paper requirements, choose a writer and we’ll deliver the highest-quality essay! Order now In the story, Achebe revealed many traditions of the Igbo […]

Religion and Ideology in Things Fall Apart

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe begins by introducing the main character of this story, Okonkwo. Okonkwo is a strong and wealthy warrior of the Umofia clan. He was well respected because he was the ideal man of their tribe, in that he was extremely masculine and an extraordinary wrestler. However, he was ignorant when it came to verbal communication. Achebe states, “He was tall and huge, and his bushy eyebrows and wide nose gave him a severe look…He had […]

A Cultural Note on Okonkwo’s Suicide in Things Fall Apart

In the novel Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo is willing to break the prohibition against suicide because he lost all hope when he realizes Umuofia will not support going to war with the missionaries. The statement that Okonkwo is making by committing suicide in the manner that he does is that he’d rather die on his own terms than being ruled by white men and submitting to their culture. One of the themes of Things Fall Apart is change. In the […]

Masculinity in Societies in Things Fall Apart

Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold explore the theme of violent masculinity through the actions of major characters such as Okonkwo and the Vicario twins. Achebe’s Okonkwo displays his masculinity by obtaining titles and accomplishments and hiding his emotions. Marquez’s Vicario twins validate their masculinity by murdering the man responsible for dishonoring their sister. While both authors make violent masculinity a core component of their characterization of Okonkwo and the Vicario twins […]

Things Fall Apart Dehumanization by Matthew Register

Achebe throughout the past has expressed his beliefs on what works of art should do if they should be considered great works, and heart of darkness fails his test by “dehumanized” and “depersonalized” Africa and its people, how Things fall apart properly describes and depicts Africans and how damaging heart of darkness truly was. Need a custom essay on the same topic? Give us your paper requirements, choose a writer and we’ll deliver the highest-quality essay! Order now Achebe has […]

Extremes in Literature and Real Life: why Moderation is a Good Idea

The key to a healthy lifestyle is to enjoy things in moderation because an abundance of anything could be detrimental to one’s health. This applies to everything in life, from french fries to philosophy. As the popular idiom goes, you can have too much of a good thing, and this is illustrated in Pangloss and Candide’s optimism in Candide, Okonkwo’s drive-in Things Fall Apart, and modern Islamic extremism. Need a custom essay on the same topic? Give us your paper […]

Related topic

Essay About Things Fall Apart ‘Things Fall Apart’ is a very well-written novel written by Chinua Achebe which took place during the nineteenth century. The setting of the story was Igboland. Throughout this essay, I am going to explain how the protagonist had a life before his world “falls apart” (hence the title), how the outside forces change his life, how he responds to the situation. I will also include how the poem “The Second Coming’ by William Butler Yeats sets the tone and inspiration for the novel Things Fall Apart. The story begins with Okonkwo, who at a very young age, strived to be perfect which is contrary to his father. His father was lazy, to say the least. He built his home and reputation as a hardworking farmer and wrestler. His hard work paid off as he became wealthy. He had a natural son, Nwoye, and an adoptive son, Ikemefuna, who he loved more than his real son. Things changed when he has to kill his adoptive son as to what his tribe has decided. Okonkwo showed no emotion as he wants to be seen as the image of masculinity although inside, he was guilty, hurt, and regretful. During the funeral, he accidentally shot and killed a boy which caused him to be exiled in Mbanta, his mother’s homeland. During his stay in Manta, news came to him that the White Missionaries has arrived in his tribe. These White Missionaries bring Christianity with them and has convinced a lot of Igbo people to be converted to Christianity. Just when Okonkwo was allowed to go back home, his son converted to Christianity which made him disown his own son. The Igbo people tried to make peace with the missionaries but the latter captured the leaders of the Igbo people and was only freed when the Igbo people had enough ransom money with them. They wanted revenge, thus they held a war council. But in the midst of the council, the missionaries’ court messenger arrived and ordered them to stop the meeting. It dawned to Okonkwo that they can never go against the white, and as proud as himself, he hung himself to death. Things Fall Apart is a story of a culture on the verge of change. It talks about how the different characters have responded to the call of change. More often than not, the strain of whether the change is more important than tradition entails personal status questions. For example, Okonkwo is against the new religious and political order. This is because he believed that accepting the new religious and political order means that they are not man enough. In addition, this is also due to his fear that he might lose his social status once he accepts and joins them. For him, his self-worth depends on the traditional standards of society. But these traditional standards of self-evaluation has caused a lot of outcasts to embrace Christianity where they enjoyed a higher status. Generally speaking, the villagers are in between choosing or resisting change. They are wrapped with fear as to what these changes will bring them and how will they adapt to such changes in as much as they are also excited with the new opportunities and techniques that come with it. However, the White Missionaries wanted to eliminate the need to master the traditional ways of cooking, farming, harvesting, and building which were crucial for survival to the Igbo people. In the entire novel, Achebe showed how these traditions are slowly being changed and forgotten. The novel does not have a direct antagonist, but the entire world seems to be against Okonkwo. His own family can’t live up with his expectation and his fellow villagers did the same by embracing change rather than protecting and preserving their culture and tradition. In addition to the internal antagonists found inside their village, the presence of the Europeans is also considered as an external antagonist. The novel is also symbolic. The two symbols that were used in the story is fire and locusts. The fire symbolizes Okonkwo’s personality – fierce and destructive. On the other hand, the locusts symbolize the white colonials whom the Igbos thought are good but actually have a different intention. It is worth noting that Things Fall Apart’ is written in English. This is because Achebe wanted the people of the West to read and understand it. He wanted to critique and amend what other writers of the colonial period have painted about the image of Africa. In order to achieve his goal, the need to use the language of these colonials is necessary. Geography plays a pivotal role in the novel as time does. The novel dates back in the 1890s, the time when the British colonials have reached Igboland. The story happened just when British imperialism started in the region, which started not with guns but with Bibles.

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In the novel, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, structured gender roles are depicted as a fundamental part of Igbo life. All life in the culture is gender specific from who can tend to which crops, to how punishments are dealt out. The novel’s protagonist, Okonkwo, primarily focuses on exaggerating male stereotypical behavior and devaluing anything that is feminine. The novel brings to the surface the balance that lies between masculinity and femininity. African Literature researchers such as Kwadwo Osei-Nyame, Christopher Anyokwu, and Biodun Jeyifo analyze just how the strained relationship between age-old traditions and gender play out in the Igbo culture.

While the reader is given some insight into who Okonkwo’s father is and how much he resents his father. It is noted that his mother is only briefly mentioned once throughout the whole novel, the lack of mention is significant in understanding his misogynistic character. The assumed lack of nurture is consistent with the relationship he [Okonkwo] has with his father and later his son Nwoye. In Jeyifo’s article Okonkwo and His Mother: Things Fall Apart and Issues of Gender in the Constitution of African Postcolonial Discourse, the author argues that the under-textualization of his mother led to his extensive issues of overcompensating “…[T]he single mention of Okonkwo’s mother is extraordinarily suggestive for reading Okonkwo’s particular brand of misogyny and neurotic masculinist personality and for analyzing larger questions of the author’s construction of male subjectivity and identity in the novel” (848). Growing up as the child of a man who was deemed no good by their village, Okonkwo reinvented himself to be the opposite of who his father was. Jefiyo believes that Okonkwo deliberately writes his mother off as a fundamental piece in the formation of his development as a person. He represses the memory of his mother and her stories, as well as the hold it has on his spirits. While asleep Okonkwo is bitten by a mosquito, the mosquito bites seemed to remind him of a story his mother once told. It is important to note that once he recalls the story of the mosquito and the ear he succumbs to his sleepiness. “Okonkwo’s mother is assimilated into the neutral, abstract function of ‘mothers’ in general. For him [Okonkwo], his mother’s stories and their significations evaporate into the generalized phallogocentric rubric of the “silliness” of motherlode” (Jefiyo 849). The most interesting detail coming from the story is the reversal in the structure between the female and male personas. Since this story belongs to the genre of folklore, it makes it clear why the rejection of Mosquito converts such a deep fear of female power as the downfall of male vigor and life force. The thought of a dominant female brings forth fear because they have been given the impression that the female is inferior to the male. Kwadwo Osei-Nyame argues that due to the nature of society, in no way does Okonkwo’s behavior have anything to do with his mother, but everything to do with the way those around him were conditioned.

The issue of gender roles in the story can be explained by the direct relationship of man and the Igbo culture. “Masculine traditions operate as forms of consciousness that act foremostly to legitimize specific ideals and values and to distribute and restrict authority within Umofia, one of the most powerful of Igbo communities” (150). As one of the strongest Igbo villages, Umofia is a society where all celebrated figures of male. The fragility of the male ego is the sole purpose in why this specific clan falls apart towards the end of the novel. Much of this clan’s pride is embedded in Okonkwo and his representation of the masculine ideology. Due to the clan’s negative views of his father, Okonkwo became obsessed with championing his masculinity. As he aged, he began to use his masculinity as a defensive resource and it began to overtake his world. “By constructing his identity and embedding his actions in a perverse sense in rebelliousness against everything that his father Unoka represents, Okonkwo apprehends his world pessimistically” (151). To steer clear of being branded as an agbada, the Igbo word referring to weak and lazy men, Okonkwo would assert his masculinity whenever he deemed it fit. Umofia and its inhabitants acknowledge all of Okonkwo’s feats would often align to the marginalization of their women. “[T]he selective tradition of a dominant culture when we trace the modes by which Okonkwo’s adherence to certain values and ideals and Umuofia’s validations of these values converge to generate the masculine nationalist tradition represented by Things Fall Apart” (152). It is fair to claim that the origin and nature of the culture established a selective tradition in which does who exude masculinity are superior. The perception of the issues surrounding gender has triggered tensions between the sexes in society.

Gender stereotyping leaves females in a perilous position, the stringent gender differentiation encourages the repression of the female sex. “And what makes one person “male” and the other ‘female’?” (Anyokwu 17). What truly draws the line of gender identification, biology or cultural definition? If a biologically defined female holds the supposed values of manliness that is decided by the patriarchy, do they qualify to be called a male? In defining gender, there are many blanks where the decision is based purely on one’s interpretation. Along the way, the term male began to imply masculinity and female began to imply pacifism. Okonkwo embodies the Igbo nation’s ideology of masculinity, the ideal alpha male. “Stretched logically, Okonkwo’s multiple selves/personalities comprehend and subsume other less-iconic figures such as his confidant-friend, Obierika. This is more so because Okonkwo is portrayed as almost entirely ‘male’” (Anyokwu 19). To be considered a male in the eyes of Igbo tradition you must possess the drive to conquer any impediments. Any suspected violation of the unspoken standards of the fragile, social structure would lead to never-ending gender misclassification. In the Igbo culture gendering of inanimate objects such as harvest and crops further pushed the narrative of males being superior. The yams have become embedded into the age-old narrative. In the novel Things Fall Apart Achebe states that, “…[The] [y]am stood for manliness, and he who could feed his family on yams from one harvest to another was a very great man indeed” (24). Cultivating the yam gave precedence to the open demonstration of strength. Only with a certain amount of physical strength can a man harness the resources needed to harvest yams successfully. Okonkwo’s hyper-masculinity and overwhelming strength was his greatest weakness. His refusal to think rationally instead of with his emotions leads to his people betraying him. Subjectively, characters like Okonkwo can be feminized if given more exposure to feminine desires. Essentially to gain and or maintain social relevancy one must be physically fit and in tune with their selves, these characteristics are proven to be gender-neutral.

In the novel, gender is a prominent theme and much of the novel focuses on the unstable balance between feminine and masculine forces. Igbo traditions focused on masculinity and all that can be achieved with a masculine nature. African Literature researchers analyzed the intricate balance that lies in between femininity and masculinity. The distinction between what makes a man and what makes a woman is discussed in detail. Through the readings, a greater knowledge of the Igbo culture and why gender is crucial is acquired.

Works Cited

The Use of Proverbs in 'Things Fall Apart' by Chinua Achebe

Things fall apart': the importance of adapting to changes in a book by chinua achebe, theme of the dead by james joyce and things fall apart by chinua: comparative analysis, the role of reputation in the things fall apart, pride and anger in the novel things fall apart.

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The Handling of Gender in Jane Eyre and Things Fall Apart

Patriarchy in things fall apart: a study of gender discrimination, the human condition in things fall apart, is okonkwo a tragic hero in things fall apart, the western society in things fall apart, comparing women from things fall apart with women of today, literary devices in chinua achebe's things fall apart, things fall apart: is suicide a choice, tragedy and tragic hero in things fall apart, community values in things fall apart, the importance of organized story-telling in things fall apart, igbo society in things fall apart, theme of social conflict in chinua achebe’s things fall apart and chimamanda ngozi adichie’s half of a yellow sun, system of colonialism things fall apart, teaching ‘things fall apart’ by chinua achebe essay, internal and external conflict in things fall apart, how women are presented in chinua achebe's things fall apart, essay on masculinity in 'things fall apart’, impact of the christian missionaries on the igbo society in things fall apart, the similarities and differences in oedipus rex and things fall apart, erich fromm's ideas about personality in things fall apart, essay on themes in ‘things fall apart’, things fall apart: gender and ibo culture, gender roles in things fall apart, the tragic hero in chinua achebe’s things fall apart.

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How to write a literature essay: Things Fall Apart |

In the final Grade 12 literature examination you will need to answer an essay question. Good planning is the key to success in a literature essay but in an exam, you will seldom have the time to do this so you need to be well prepared.   It is important that you have read the novel more than once and have thought about it deeply, so that you will have all the information you need to construct a sound, well-supported response.   Using Things Fall Apart as an example, here are some guidelines to help you write your literature essay.   Let us look at a possible question: Okonkwo’s tragedy is that he is unable to adapt to changing circumstances . How valid do you believe this statement to be in the context of the novel as a whole ? In an essay of 350 ‑ 400 words , analyse the reasons that lead to Okonkwo’s tragic death.   First, study the topic carefully and underline the most important aspects as shown. Once you know what you must focus on in your answer, you can plan your essay. Spend a few minutes planning your essay, so that you know how your argument will develop before you begin to write the essay.   Structure of an essay: an introduction, a body and a conclusion.  

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things fall apart literary essay


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