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Chinua Achebe’s classic novel, Things Fall Apart, is set in the village Umuofia in Nigeria. It is about the personal struggle of Okonkwo, the main character, to live contrary to his father’s own shameful and ignominious life. Therefore, he is often harsh toward his wives and children and tries not to show any passion or friendliness. Things Fall Apart also chronicles the colonization of Achebe’s village by European missionaries and its effect on the Igbo people.

Things Fall Apart is divided into three parts, the first two provide the reader with an insight into the cultures and tradition of Umuofia, using Igbo language for local terms. Before the missionaries arrived and introduced the Christian religion, Achebe shows that the village, although having its issues, was functional. Men of honor received their deserved rankings and the gods were respected. However, there were people who were unaccepted in the society, and others who felt baffled by things they didn’t understand, such as Okonwo’s son, Nwoye. Those were people who had a chance to at least explore their identities and feel they belonged to a society by the arrival of the missionaries.

Okonkwo, in my opinion, is a sad character because he is the type who doesn’t finally encounter a revelation in his personal journey, and in the end commits suicide. Superficially he appears as a harsh person for his fear of appearing effeminate. Although men and women had different roles in society, Okonkwo’s perception of manliness was beyond that of his village. He is haunted by his father, who died in debt and failed to provide for his family (even though a man was judged by his own achievements and not by those of his father), so Okonkwo works very hard and develops a tough attitude, often scorning his son Nwoye for what he sees as laziness. Okonkwo accomplished his wish; he showed everybody that he was unlike his father, and he gained several honors, but he was still an unhappy person.

The language of Things Fall Apart is simple but descriptive and renders beautiful imagery

“…And then came the clap of thunder. It was an angry, metallic and thirsty clap, unlike the deep and liquid rumbling of the rainy season. A mighty wind arose and filled the air with dust. Palm trees swayed as the wind combed their leaves into flying crests like strange and fantastic coiffure.”

Things Fall Apart shows that Africa is a complex continent, but also has problems like any other society (Ogbanje, or “a wicked child who is born and then dies only to re-enter its mother’s womb over and over again” and committers of dishonorable things such as suicide were cast in the Evil Forest)

Visit this BBC website to download a documentary of Chinua Achebe’s homecoming or watch it on Youtube.

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A brief introduction of the book: In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Mrs. Bennet, the fussy and sometimes inappropriate mother of the Bennet sisters, aims to have her five daughters married. The novel starts with the arrival of the wealthy Mr. Bingley to town, who has newly rented a Netherfield estate. Mrs. Bennet wants him to marry her eldest and most beautiful daughter, Jane. However, the novel centers on Elizabeth, the clever and sharp-witted second oldest sister, and her relationship with, or “first impressions” of Mr. Darcy. He is the wealthy taciturn and superficially cold friend of Bingley. Issues of wealth and class are apparent in Pride and Prejudice: The Bennets live reasonably well, whereas Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley are extremely wealthy.

Pride and Prejudice also focuses on the silly, and often funny, social behaviors of people. Jane Austen displays how people, especially females, can manipulate their acquaintances and be aggressive toward others through social gestures (such as ignoring somebody or refusing to enter one’s house) and conversation.

At their first ball in Netherfield, Mr. Darcy shows total disinterest in dancing with anybody, and Jane forms an obstinate negative impression of him from that point, not even allowing him to prove otherwise. Pride and Prejudice deals a very wise issue, which is judging people by negative thoughts on them. This is displayed through Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth. Elizabeth makes the grave mistake of believing everything she hears, especially when it adds to her original opinion. Through a deceiving Mr. Wickham, Darcy and Elizabeth’s relationship worsens, leading to an utterly unjust and harsh judgment of Darcy from Elizabeth, and to Elizabeth’s shameful regret for harming Darcy.

Although not my favorite of books, Pride and Prejudice is nevertheless very engaging, but it goes beyond that. Pride and Prejudice confronts very important social issues: prejudice and misunderstanding. Most of the novel is about Elizabeth’s misunderstanding of almost all of Darcy’s relationships, actions and intentions, and her prejudice toward him. He is a most pitiful character, in my opinion.

I think that throughout the novel, Darcy has been victimized by Elizabeth, the evil-intentioned Mr. Wickham, and all the people who dislike him, with the thought that he is proud. I never thought Darcy to be a vain or proud man. He is merely observant and solemn. First, Elizabeth despises him for breaking the relationship between her sister Jane and Mr. Bingley by advising Bingley to leave town, but after reading his long letter, she comes to face the truth that Jane never showed deep affection toward Mr. Bingley. This brings me to the conclusion that Mr. Darcy only cared for the happiness and best interests of his friend. After Jane learns more about him, she discovers that Darcy is a very sincere and kind man.

 

“Anyone who has gone along with the notion that the pride highlighted in the title of the novel in embodied in Darcy now has to contend with the discovery that both this quality and its pair are being attributed to Elizabeth.”

-Introduction in Oxford World Classics edition of Pride and Prejudice.

 

Regarding the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice starring Kiera Knightley, I find it a pretty good interpretation of the book, enjoyable by readers of the book and nonreaders also. The movie wasn’t exactly accurate compared to the the book, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I think that Matthew Macfadyen excellently performed the role of Mr. Darcy, making his character even more lovable. Although set in the 18th century, I felt the movie was modern. The style of the novel is formal, and I think the movie added a touch of satisfaction and fun for viewers. But to really appreciate the story, one should read the book in addition to watching the movie. One must put in mind that the movie is short, and many important scenes, such as Mr. Darcy’s letter, had to greatly shortened.

The movie did not ignore the issue of wealth. The glib Elizabeth seemed somewhat humbled and at the same time amazed as she gazed at Mr. Darcy’s extravagant paintings and sculptures at his colossal mansion, after roughly rejecting his marriage.

I must add that Mr. Collins, the man who is to inherit the Bennets’ estate, was overly caricatured. Elizabeth was not a very likable character throughout the movie. She was very mean to Mr. Darcy, and had a tendency of sticking her eyes where they shouldn’t be; but after all, she is a proud and prejudiced woman, and wasn’t meant to be admired in the novel. But she still gets a happy ending: a man with high merit, and a lot of money.

Mattew Macfadyen as Mr. Darcy

"Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us."

Pride and Prejudice

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author: John Steinbeck

Set during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl migration, The Grapes of Wrath tells the journey of the Joad family’s migration from Oklahoma to California. I think that The Grapes of Wrath is a very hopeful book. One is deeply inspired as he follows along the great moments and disappointments of the Joad family, which struggles against the odds. The ending of the book leaves the reader with minimal knowledge of what will happen in the future. While reading the book, you would expect to eventually know what happens to the family, but actually you’ll never know. It leaves you as curious as you were during the middle of the book. I think that the message of this book focuses on the present. Despite difficult times and uncertain futures, the Joad family will remain resilient and dignified at all times. The Grapes of Wrath is a great story of hope. All the members of the Joad family have faced devastating tragedy, discrimination and injustice,  but they stay together and move on. The Grapes of Wrath is a  humane book and very true meditation of life.

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