Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Things Fall Apart In-Class Essay Prompts

In an effort that you might better prepare, here are the prompts you might be assigned to write from on Friday:

Your purpose in writing this essay is to demonstrate your mastery of Thing Fall Apart as well as the literary lenses we have been using in class. The best way to do that is to create an interesting claim, use specific textual evidence, and develop clear warrant to explain “how” or “why” the evidence supports your claim.
Excellent essays will use evidence throughout the text to support the claims. Excellent essays move beyond plot summary to analysis.

Achebe has said that he wrote Things Fall Apart in response to the quotations below from Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Examine Things Fall Apart to explain what Achebe’s response to Conrad is. You can comment both on the content as well as the structure of the novel.

"Once I remember, we came upon a man-of-war anchored off the coast. There wasn't even a shed there and she was shelling the bush. It appears the French had one of their wars going on thereabouts. Her ensign drooped limp like a rag, the muzzles of her long six-inch guns stuck out all over the low hull, the greasy, slimy swell swung her up lazily and let her down, swaying her thin masts. In the empty immensity of earth, sky, and water, there she was, incomprehensible, firing into a continent. Pop, would go one of the six-inch guns; a small flame would dart and vanish, a little white smoke would disappear, a tiny projectile would give a feeble screech--and nothing happened. Nothing could happen. There was a touch of insanity in the proceeding, a sense of lugubrious drollery in the sight; and it was not dissipated by somebody on board assuring me earnestly there was a camp of natives--he called them, enemies--hidden out of sight somewhere.”

In the last chapter of Things Fall Apart, the reader learns that the Commissioner is writing a book entitled The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger. React to this book, its title, and its message from a postcolonial point of view. Remember the Commissioner’s reaction to Okonkwo.

Chielo is a powerful woman in this male-dominated society. Explore her power and explain the insight it gives us about women, their roles, and the Ibo culture.

Okonkwo fears “appearing weak.” Explore whether this fear adds to his strength or to his weakness. Explain clearly your position.

Examine what the women’s stories and the men’s stories of this culture illustrate about gender roles. How do the two types of stories strengthen the culture?

Power is examined in Feminist, Marxist, and Postcolonial literary analysis. Identify the character in the novel you think is the strongest. Define your use of strength. Use illustrations from the text and clear warrant to build your argument.

Mr. Smith and Mr. Brown both influence Umuofia. Explain their influence. Explore and explain what things you think the Ibo would consider positive and what they would consider negative. Avoid ethnocentrism as best you can.

Explain what falls apart in Things Fall Apart. Identify the cause/catalyst of the fall. Build a strong argument to support your position.