Analyzing Character Approach
In this lesson, students will analyze Reverend Smith’s approach, contrasting it with Mr. Brown’s. They will think about why Chinua Achebe would include such an opposite pair of characters, and whether there are any other such opposites in the novel. Finally, students will prepare for another discussion.
- Read the lesson and student content.
- Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.
Section 1: Unsuccessful Steps for Outsiders
- If students need help getting started on this, ask them to think about the previous lesson’s Opening: what is the opposite behavior of ways they discussed to gain respect?
- ELL: It will be interesting to find out if students differ in the way they see this particular topic depending on the culture they come from. If students from other countries present a very different view, invite them to explain their view to the rest of the class to help everyone gain a better understanding of their culture, without making it about being “better” or “worse” than any other culture.
- Hear several responses. Use this time to discuss the actions Reverend Smith has taken in these chapters, and to compare his character traits to those of Mr. Brown.
Complete a Quick Write.
- When coming into a new leadership situation as an outsider, what are some surefire ways to alienate oneself from the community? If you do these things, are there ways to get obedience, compliance, and/or respect anyway?
Share your responses with your classmates. Which of your classmates’ ideas do you see embodied in Reverend Smith?
Section 2: Character Foils
- Explain the concept of character foils to your students, and see which pairs they can identify: Okonkwo (man of action) and Obierika (man of thought); Nwoye and Ikemefuna.
- Discuss the possible purposes of including foils in literature: to highlight important traits of a character, for example, and direct the reader’s attention to certain key qualities.
- If possible, discuss character foils that the students will be familiar with from the reading they have previously done in high school.
- Discuss what effect these pairings have on their own interpretations of the characters.
Often a writer will set up characters in opposition to each other—as foils. In fiction, a foil is a character who contrasts with another character in order to highlight one or more traits of these characters. Often, a minor character will be a foil for a main character. Many times, these characters are similar in most ways, differing only in the aspects that are being highlighted: they may come from similar social backgrounds, for example, and have similar families and talents, but make very different choices about how to use these talents. Other times, the foils are more distinctly opposites, with few similar traits.
Discuss the following questions with your classmates.
- Reverend Smith and Mr. Brown seem to have many opposite traits. What is Achebe’s purpose in including both of these men in the story?
- Are there any other character pairs that could be considered foils?
- What is Achebe’s—or any author’s—purpose in including characters who are foils for each other?
Section 3: Discussion Preparation
- Remind students to find as much textual evidence as they can to support their arguments, and to try to anticipate the counterarguments they might face in the next lesson’s discussion.
- A third representative from each group will speak in this final discussion. If you have many groups with four students, you may want to consider having two rounds of discussion so that every student will have participated at least once.
In the next lesson, you will participate in the final discussion of Things Fall Apart. Who’s to blame for “things falling apart”? Take some time now with your group to complete the charts in Discussion Preparation 3, Parts A and B.
- In Discussion Preparation 3, Part A, organize your thoughts about the question of who’s to blame from your own perspective . What has fallen apart in Umuofia? Think about individuals, families, and the community as a whole. Think about social ties and traditions.
- In Discussion Preparation 3, Part B, organize your thoughts about the question of who’s to blame from your character’s perspective . Think about how the discussion will play out. Who will your character blame, and why? How might that person defend himself or herself? Who might blame your character, and why? How will you defend your character?
Section 4: Discussion Focus and Goals
- If students are having trouble, direct them to the Grade 12 Discussion Rubric to help frame their responses.
- If there is time, have students discuss their responses.
Complete a Quick Write.
- After participating in two discussions, what do you think would be a good focus for your class to improve the quality of this final discussion?
- What do you think would be a good goal for yourself, whether you are on the inner or outer circle?
Section 5: Personal Journal - Entry #12 and Things Fall Apart
- Remind students that this discussion will have both an in character and an out of character component: they should prepare to defend their personal opinions as well as the opinions of their characters.
- SWD: Since writing about these hypothetical topics assumes an excellent command of the conditional, be sure to offer sentence frames to support some students.
Complete another personal journal entry.
- Is there someone in your life who could be considered your foil? If so, describe that person. If not, imagine what a person like that would be like. What could you learn from this person, and what could he or she learn from you?
Finish preparing for the discussion.
Read Chapters 24 and 25 of Things Fall Apart. Continue to add to your Personal Glossary as you read.