Analyzing The Umuofian Society
Does being part of a community mean that you accept the values and customs of that community? In this lesson, students will begin to analyze what they know about Umuofian society, and try to figure out how various characters feel about its customs.
- Read the lesson and student content.
- Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.
Section 1: Community Customs Organizer
- If students seem to have trouble with the organizer, you may want to brainstorm some examples together as a class. The following example is provided in the organizer:
- ✓ Ritual or custom. Friday night football games: In many towns, the weekly high school football game is very important. Players and cheerleaders are seen as heroes and the community gathers to watch and cheer for its team.
- ✓ Time/Place/Circumstances. High school football fields.
- ✓ Meaning. Pride in community: the importance of strength and physical power; the importance of winning/defeating an opponent; importance of hard work and discipline.
- ✓ Positive and negative aspects. Positive: Football can help young men learn about teamwork and discipline, and the games can bring communities together. Negative: It can be seen as sexist, since the boys play and the girls cheer. It also might promote violence. Football is dangerous, and many players end up injured.
- Today, students will be analyzing Umuofian customs, which some characters question and some characters follow with little thought. In this Opening discussion, it’s important for them to see that people can choose whether or not to follow the customs of their community.
- ELL: Allow ELLs to share community customs from their country of origin. Invite them to share the story behind each of them (since students in the United States might not have heard of them), and be sure to draw parallels with community customs they know in the United States.
Think about the “rituals” or “customs” of your community. Friday night football games, holiday celebrations or feasts, ceremonies such as graduations and weddings, the ways people react to insults or slights: all of these, and more, have a place in modern communities. Do you think these are positive or negative influences on the community and the people within it?
- Create a Community Customs Organizer in your notebook or print out the one provided.
- Complete the Community Customs Organizer for three customs.
Then discuss as a class:
- What is a custom? Share some of your responses.
- Are there customs that you like more than others?
- Are there customs that people do or don’t follow regularly?
Section 2: The Death of Ikemefuna
- The death of Ikemefuna is a turning point in the novel, one that allows us to see that Okonkwo, for all his strength and prestige, is in some ways very far removed from the values of the tribe. It’s important to see multiple perspectives; the different characters will provide these perspectives.
- Take time for each group to explain its response—why does their character feel the way he or she does?
- It should become clear that most characters don’t approve of Okonkwo’s action. If this is the case, ask the students why they believe Okonkwo acted as he did—against what most people believe is the right course of action?
It could be argued that the customs of Umuofia led to the unnecessary death of Ikemefuna, an innocent boy. With your group, discuss whether this is true.
Then, think about your character’s response to the death of Ikemefuna. How would your character react? Whom would your character blame? What kinds of judgments would your character form about the people involved in the killing? Be specific and refer to evidence from the text.
- Compose a short message, as if you were writing a tweet (140 characters or less), about this event and share it with your class. To save space you may use Internet abbreviations and shorthand.
Section 3: Customs of Umuofia
- Encourage students to focus on Chapters 7 and 8, though they should also examine previous chapters.
Now, further analyze the customs of Umuofia. Which ones have you learned about through the reading so far? How would your character feel about them?
- Create a Dialectical Journal #4 in your notebook.
- Split up the reading with your group members, and compile a Dialectical Journal. Each quotation you find should reveal something about the customs of Umuofia; in your explanations describe how your character would feel about these customs.
Discuss your results with your group members.
Section 4: Customs and Your Character
- Hear from each group in turn. Responses should be short; remind students to stay in character.
- SWD: Be sure that all SWDs are actively participating and that they are considered to be representatives of groups, even if they sometimes do not perform as well as others. Always encourage students to give all students a chance to participate. All students should be urged to be patient and tolerant of other students’ skill levels.
How does your character feel about the customs of Umuofia?
- Choose one representative from your group to explain how your character feels about the customs of Umuofia.
Section 5: Your Character and Things Fall Apart
- Remind students to write in character.
Complete a character journal entry.
- Choose one custom that you feel your character would have particularly strong opinions (positive or negative) about. Compose an entry for your community group in which you explain this custom from your character’s perspective, explaining what the custom is and why your character feels it is positive or negative.
Read three to five of your classmates’ entries.
Read Chapters 9 and 10 of Things Fall Apart. Continue to add to your Personal Glossary as you read.