Folkloric Meta-Narratives In Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart

Thomas-Michael Emeka Chukwumezie, Onyemuche Anele Ejesu, Onyeka Emeka Odoh


Following Chinua Achebe’s claim that his Things Fall Apart is a counter-narrative to Joyce Cary’s distortion of the African image in Cary’s Mister Johnson, most critics of Things Fall Apart have approached the existence of folklore in the novel from the perspective of cultural affirmation. Others see it as part of the artistic ornament used to deck the work. Be that as it may, this paper does not intend to dispute these perspectives. It rather intends to prove that Achebe’s use of folklore in Things Fall Apart is not just to affirm the functionality of folk culture in the precolonial African society depicted in this novel but also to buttress several sequence of events of the novel. It argues that the folkloric narratives within the larger narrative that is Things Fall Apart function as specialized meta-narratives which play an interesting array of roles in the novel, namely: to run commentaries on the incidents that surround the hero’s life; to show how folkloric wisdom in the novel appears to warn against certain unethical actions of the hero and to comment on the significance of some executed actions in the novel; as well as to foreshadow impending tragic situations in the life of the hero just like the chorus in Greek tragic plays. The methodology for this study is a critical analysis of the text in the light of a recontextualised and re-imagined application of Jean-Francois Lyotard’s concept of metanarrative. Unlike Lyotard’s notion of a metanarrative as a grand narrative that helps to legitimize other little narratives, we elect to read folkloric meta-narratives as related miniature versions of different sequences of the story of the novel, Things Fall Apart.


Folkloric Meta-narratives, Folklore, Achebe, Chinua, Things-Fall-Apart

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