Chinua Achebe has a background that reflects the world of his novel Things Fall Apart, which tells of village life in Nigeria. Achebe himself was born in Nigeria in 1930 and was raised in the large village of Ogidi, which was also one of the first centers of Anglican missionary work in Eastern Nigeria. Achebe graduated from University College at Ibadan. He worked for a time in radio, but that career ended in 1966 when he left his post as Director of External Broadcasting in Nigeria because of the national upheaval that would lead to the Biafran War. He then became Senior Research Fellow at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and began lecturing abroad (Achebe 213).
Village life is compared to what we might call "civilized" life in the novel, and village life is seen as better. Achebe understands the plight of the men and women in the village and uses his direct knowledge of that world to create the story of Okonkwo and his family. Okonkwo's story does differ from that of the author in many respects, of course, especially for Achebe, who left village life behind and achieved much more through education and his own ability than Okonkwo ever will. The picture Achebe paints of Okonkwo is of a man beset by fear and lashing out at the world with frustration and anger, beginning with the women in his own household:
Okonkwo ruled his household with a heavy hand. His wives, especially the youngest, lived in perpetual fear of his fiery temper, and so did his little children. Perhaps down in his heart Okonkwo was not a cruel man. But his whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and weakness (Achebe 13).
This attitude relates in part to the cultural issue called naming. When he was a child, Okonkwo suffers as his friends call his father an agbala, or a woman, which also means a person with no title. Having a title is very important in this culture, and his father is too weak in the eyes of the young man so that...