Non-Western Literature

Discussion Questions for Achebe, week 2


These questions should be reviewed before reading the material, as well as after. Be prepared to answer these questions in class.
  1. This first part of this section deals with Okonkwo's seven year exile. What does Okonkwo learn in his exile? Does it make him a better person, or just more bitter?

  2. Okonkwo's "business" dealings during his exile help us better understand the nature and extent of agriculture in Ibo society. Okonkwo is defined for us and sees himself as a warrior, but isn't he really a farmer? Explain how and why agriculture is so important to this culture, and if that's a positive or negative in your view.

  3. While Okonkwo is exiled, the missionaries come and bring European culture with them. In this way, Okonkwo is able to come back to Umuofia and see the changes as a whole, rather than having them creep in bit by bit. What changes did the missionaries bring to Umuofia and the Ibo people, and were they for the better?

  4. Explain Achebe's portrayal of Christianity, as you see it. Is he being fair in his presentation? What does this religion have to offer the Ibo's that would make them abandon their tribal religion of hundreds, if not thousands of years?

  5. The Europeans use a combination of force and friendship to infiltrate and take over the Ibo culture. We know it was effective in these circumstances, but why? Explain as best as you can, using the limited information given to us by this novel.

  6. Why is Okonkwo the only tribe member who is willing to act out? Remember, the other tribal leaders went with him to protest, so he's not the only one to think that the Europeans are wrong or bad, but why won't anyone else act out aggressively against the Europeans?

  7. Explain your feelings towards Okonkwo's final action. Is it the act of a strong or weak man? You can express your personal feelings about what he does, but remember to deal with it in the context of the novel and the characters as well.