In the 1950s Chinua Achebe wrote Things Fall Apart as a reaction against the portrayal of the primitive African in Western literature. The novel introduces the reader to the life of an Ibo tribe in Africa. Through the story of Okonkwo, his wives and children, the reader learns about the tribal way of life, its customs and beliefs, social hierarchy, politics and system of justice - in other words, the traditions of their civilisation. When white missionaries arrive on their iron bicycles, the indigenous way of life is destroyed. Okonkwo clings herocially to the old ways but cannot withstand the white man's rule and religion and so moves inexorably towards his personal tragedy, echoing the 'falling apart' of everything he has ever known.
Achebe doesn't idealise the Ibo way of life; some of their customs seem barbaric to us. He seems to want to show the reality of a lost way of life. We are left to question whether the white colonials, with their guns and their arrogant imposition of political and religious domination, aren't the real barbarians, with their casual destruction of the indigenous civilisation. Who are the real barbarians here, and who are the "civilised" men?
The book is written in an amazingly simple style. The language is almost childish in its simplicity, which suits the story well and adds to its power.