117 Things Fall Apart Essay Topic Ideas & Examples

🏆 best things fall apart topic ideas & essay examples, 💡 most interesting things fall apart topics to write about, ⭐ good research topics about things fall apart, 👍 simple & easy things fall apart essay titles, ❓ things fall apart essay questions, 💯 free things fall apart essay topic generator.

  • Characteristics of Okwonko in Things Fall Apart First, when he bullies his wives and sons in the homestead, he reveals to the white man that, in Africa, a man is the head of the family. Finally, in committing suicide, Okwonko demonstrates to […]
  • Things Fall Apart: Ibo Hero Analysis In addition to this, towards the end of the novel, he commits suicide due to the fact that he has no followers when it comes to dealing with the missionaries.
  • The Nature of Disturbances in “Things Fall Apart” The author illustrates the disruption of peace by the arrival of white-men in the Igbo community. Nevertheless, the showing up of the white man and Christianity led to a change in this practice, the women […]
  • Devotion to Traditions and Culture in Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe Things Fall Apart is a literary work that represents the development of several different ideas like the importance of religion, significance of culture, and power that leads to conflicts of different types; Chinua Achebe made […]
  • Things Fall Apart: Collage of Ideas and Main Themes He is not only responsible for his family and each member but he should also care about his clan and the reputation of this clan.
  • Themes and Symbolism in Things Fall Apart: Symbols & Examples of Imagery Mother of the Spirits The Mother of the spirits can be viewed as personification by the clan of Umofia and the Mother of Egwugwu.
  • Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and the Culture of the Igbo However, when the oracle instructs that Ikemefuna is to be killed, Okonkwo severs his head with a machete even despite the fact that he is warned by the elder that he did not need to […]
  • «Things Fall Apart» by Albert Chinụalụmọgụ Achebe Even at the helm of his success, he still remembered how he suffered when his playmate said his father was an agbala.

  • Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe The Umuofia society is religious as it is characterized by the worship of Chuckwu the chief the god, spirits and the ancestors.
  • Comparison of Shakespeare the Tempest, T.s. Eliot the Wasteland, and Chinua Achebe Things Fall Apart Magic In the opening of the play Prospero is the one who, had conjured the storm in a desire to entice his, brother Antonio and the king of Naples, Alonso.
  • Social and Cultural Aspects of Pre-Colonial Africa in Chinua Achebe: Things Fall Apart The novel emphasize on the encounters of the pre-colonial Africa and the effect of British colonialism during the 19th century. Gender disparity is clear in this village and the crimes are identified with gender where […]
  • The European Colonization of Africans in Achebe’s Book “Things Fall Apart” For the last fifty years, these critics have somehow reduced the face value of the text in the book. This forms another set of variation in the face value of the text in the book.
  • Post-Colonial Theory in Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe We further analyze the individuals and how their actions and activities affect the society’s social culture in relation to the post-colonial society of today.
  • Belgian and British Colonial Practices in “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe The first distinction is the manner in which the British used to gain control of the people of Umuofia, the village of Okonkwo’s village.
  • “Things Fall Apart“ and “Midnight’s Children“: Comparison One of the main qualitative aspects of the ongoing discourse of post-colonialism, is that it often addresses the issue of what can be considered the indications of one’s endowment with the so-called ‘post-colonial’ identity.
  • Identity in “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe If the person loses the ability to distinguish between cultural history and his/her identity, the consequences can be rather destructive, as in the case of Okonkwo from Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”.
  • Okonkwo’s Identity in “Things Fall Apart” In turn, it could be assumed that the vehement feeling of connection to the particular culture influences perceptions and identity of an individual about the place of his/her culture in the world due to the […]
  • Society Role in Literature: King Lear and Things Fall Apart The difference is that the leader of the plan is much tougher physically and emotionally, and it is evident that he would not give up his values and morals.
  • Literature: Things Fall Apart and The Epic of Gilgamesh The two are internally affected by the struggle between the forces longing for change and those advocating for the restoration of the status quo.
  • Colonial Discourse in “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe Achebe’s book centers on the life of a village ‘superstar’ by the name Okonkwo and the arrival of white missionaries at the fictional village of Umuofia.
  • Novel’ Significance: “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe This is one of the details that can be identified. However, this approach can lead to disastrous effects such as the marginalization of people.
  • Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe – Literature Analysis This essay seeks to establish the strengths and weaknesses of the Igbo culture as portrayed in Things Fall Apart to assess the author’s success in achieving his main goal.
  • “Things Fall Apart” a Book by Chinua Achebe Literature Analysis The title and the opening lines very much portray the matters that went on in the village, making it the bulk of the story.
  • Chinua Achebe’ Book “Things Are Falling Apart” Chinua Achebe, an African author with his origin in Nigeria mainly focuses on the colonization of African countries and the role of women in the society in the village of Umuofia in his book Things […]
  • Cultural Conquest in “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe The period comprising the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century is known for the European colonization and separation of Africa.
  • Writing Tools of “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe The book was written during the pre-colonial time and the author portrayed the western practices as of value to the people in the village.
  • Female Submission in Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” Through this book, the reader is brought to the realization of the role that the white man played in the destruction of the bonds which existed in the African culture.
  • Colonization in Chinua Achebe’s Novel “Things Fall Apart” The tribesmen did not want to give up the new trading society to fight for their independence, that I why they had accepted the confines of the white man’s rule.
  • ”Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin and ”Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe The basic theme of the novel is Ibo culture which is to be changed because of the pressure on the part of the external forces. The introduction of the protagonist of the story Okonkwo is […]
  • Heart of Darkness and Things Fall Apart: Narrative In the same vein, Joseph Conrad’s novella “Heart of Darkness,” written in 1899, is about the struggle of two civilized Europeans, Marlow and Kurtz, after they ventured in to the wouldarkness’ of uncivilized Africa,’ and […]
  • Moral Complexities in Things Fall Apart by C. Achebe In spite of the fact that he was one of the greatest men in Umuofia and a leader of his community he was hence not given the burial ceremony that he deserved as an Umuofian […]
  • Mirror Image: Heart of Darkness & Things Fall Apart However, Okonkwo is helpless once he finds British colonization creeping in and destroying the traditional parameters of the village and their culture as a whole along with the ramification of their religion with the invasion […]
  • Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” & “Things Fall Apart” by Achebe: Comparison The work of art reflects the reality of life and hardship experienced by people: “The vision seemed to enter the house with me – the stretcher, the phantom-bearers, the wild crowd of obedient worshippers, the […]
  • The Influence of “Things Fall Apart” In so doing, he renders meaning to the traditional African way of life and he also dignifies the people of the continent.
  • The Western Conception of Africa in “Things Fall Apart“ by Chinua Achebe From within the context of the land and the people of it, it is demonstrated that a great culture was already in the throes of change, again reclaiming the power for the people while still […]
  • “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe: Theme Study The main theme of the novel, in terms of cultural subjugation and introduction of western traditional values to replace contemporary African cultures are discussed during the course of this novel. This perhaps is the mainstay […]
  • Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” Critical Review Published in 1958, the novel describes the life of a Nigerian village – Iguedo, at the advent of the white colonization in Nigeria.
  • “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe: Customs and Rituals To show how powerful Chielo was Chinua Achebe says, ‘As soon as the priestess stepped into this ring of hills, her voice was not only doubled in strength but was thrown back on all sides.’ […]
  • “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe: Post Colonial Theory The white men tried to spread the gospel but “the arrival of the missionaries had caused a considerable stir in the village…”..
  • Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart: Turning Sorrow Into Meaning In the novel, the culprit for the destruction of Okonkwo’s personality, the disintegration of the clan, which Elder Mbata speaks of in the second passage, the destruction of family ties and religion, is the person […]
  • Culture in Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe I also kill a cock at the shrine of Ifejioku, the god of yams” Ibo culture is shown through the world look of the Western society that is why the aspect of behavioral brutality was […]
  • Colonizers vs. Ibo Society in “Things Fall Apart” by Achebe In fact, the nature of the colonialists’ influence on the Ibo people and their culture is pinpointed in the very title of the book.
  • Protagonists in Oyono’s Houseboy and Chinua’s Things Fall Apart Notably, Okonkwo and Toudi’s masculinity is a false image that is preserved by focusing on the symbol of masculinity and rejecting new ways of progress.
  • “Things Fall Apart” by Achebe and “We Should All Be Feminists” by Adichie For instance, the story of the Earth and Sky highlights the interdependence of masculinity and femininity since the earth requires rainfall and sunlight from the sky to thrive.
  • Patriarchy and Masculinity in Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” Thus, the novel is built on the juxtaposition of concepts, ideas, and concepts, thanks to which the reader can fully understand the main character’s perception of the concepts of masculinity and patriarchy.
  • Ikemefuna’s Place in Achebe’s Things Fall Apart Due to this contrast, the protagonist is revealed to the full extent as a father. At the same time, there is no difference between the characters of Nwoye and Ikemefuna.
  • Things Fall Apart: Drama and Its Elements in the Novel Achebe chose to write about the traditions and values of the Igbo people to show that they had their own rich culture before the British came. The novel is about the Igbo people, their way […]
  • Culture and Humanity: “Things Fall Apart” and “The Gods Must Be Crazy”
  • Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” and Harrison’s “The Black Man’s Burden”: Self-Motivation, Courage, and Sacrifice
  • Marginality, Dichotomy, and Hegemony in “Things Fall Apart”
  • The Relationship Between Cultural Relativity and Superiority in “Things Fall Apart”
  • Self-Motivation, Courage, and Sacrifice in Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”
  • Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”: Tension and Conflict Between Traditional and Modern Views
  • Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”: A View of the Impacts of Imperialism
  • The Specific Gender Roles in the Village Environment in the Novel “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe
  • Imperialism and the Allegory of the Cave in “Things Fall Apart”
  • The Positive and Negative Aspects of European Assimilation in “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe
  • Big Picture, Small Picture: Context for Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”
  • Personal and Cultural Identity in “Things Fall Apart” and “I Lost My Talk”
  • Internal Conflict Leading to the Downfall in the Ibo Culture in Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”
  • Okonkwo, the Power Hungry Warrior in “Things Fall Apart”
  • The Problems Facing the Ibo People in “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe
  • Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”: Inevitable Suffering in Tragedies
  • Ways of Colonialism and Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”
  • British Imperialism and “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe
  • Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”: Exploring the Ibo Culture – Spiritual and Traditional Aspects
  • The European and African Narrative Techniques Used in “Things Fall Apart” and “Petals of Blood”
  • “Things Fall Apart”: Cultural Changes After African Colonization
  • Tragedy in “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe
  • Things Fall Apart and African Stereotypes
  • Female: The Stronger Gender in Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”
  • Political and Religious Threats in “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe
  • Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”: And Intercultural Communication
  • Problems and Challenges for Chinua Achebe: “Things Fall Apart”
  • Colonialism: Comparisons Between “Things Fall Apart” and Historical Accounts
  • Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”: Orientalism and Gender Roles
  • Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” and the Character of Nwoye
  • Africa Fall Apart: “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe and Pre-modern Era Africa
  • Chinua Achebe’s Novel “Things Fall Apart”: Theology and Religion
  • The American Attitudes Towards the Peasants and the Lower Classes in “The Great Gatsby” and “Things Fall Apart”
  • Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”: Finding Unoka in the Mirror
  • The African and Ibo Culture in “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe
  • Things Fall Apart and the Influences of Family, Culture, and Society
  • Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”: The Culture Collision and Its Impact on Okonkwo
  • Relationship Between Character and Society in “Things Fall Apart”
  • Fate and Free Will in Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”
  • Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”: A Discussion Of Women In Igbo Society
  • What Are Two Themes in “Things Fall Apart”?
  • What Is the Most Important Message in “Things Fall Apart”?
  • How Does Achebe Depict Ibo Culture in “Things Fall Apart”?
  • What Is “Things Fall Apart” Main Idea?
  • What Happens in the End of “Things Fall Apart”?
  • Why Is “Things Fall Apart” Historical Fiction?
  • What Is the Conclusion of “Things Fall Apart”?
  • Who Is the Most Important Character in “Things Fall Apart”?
  • Why Achebe Chose the Title “Things Fall Apart”?
  • What Are the Conflicts in “Things Fall Apart”?
  • How Is Foreshadowing Used in “Things Fall Apart”?
  • Is “Things Fall Apart” a True Story?
  • What Is the Cave Called in “Things Fall Apart”?
  • What Are Some Symbols in “Things Fall Apart”?
  • What Does Okonkwo’s Suicide Symbolize in “Things Fall Apart”?
  • Why Is “Things Fall Apart” Important in African Literature?
  • What Are Cowries in “Things Fall Apart”?
  • Why Is Okonkwo Important in “Things Fall Apart”?
  • What Is the Story “Things Fall Apart” About?
  • What Is the Historical Background of “Things Fall Apart”?
  • Who Is the Narrator in “Things Fall Apart”?
  • How the Tribe Changes in “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe?
  • Who Is the Antagonist in “Things Fall Apart”?
  • What Are the Moral Lessons in “Things Fall Apart”?
  • How Is Colonialism Shown in “Things Fall Apart”?
  • What Are Two Major Conflicts in “Things Fall Apart”?
  • How Is “Things Fall Apart” a Tragedy?
  • What Does the Last Paragraph of “Things Fall Apart” Mean?
  • What Does the Tortoise Symbolize in “Things Fall Apart”?
  • Who Is the Hero in “Things Fall Apart”?
  • Chicago (N-B)
  • Chicago (A-D)

IvyPanda. (2023, September 21). 117 Things Fall Apart Essay Topic Ideas & Examples. https://ivypanda.com/essays/topic/things-fall-apart-essay-topics/

IvyPanda. (2023, September 21). 117 Things Fall Apart Essay Topic Ideas & Examples. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/topic/things-fall-apart-essay-topics/

"117 Things Fall Apart Essay Topic Ideas & Examples." IvyPanda , 21 Sept. 2023, ivypanda.com/essays/topic/things-fall-apart-essay-topics/.

1. IvyPanda . "117 Things Fall Apart Essay Topic Ideas & Examples." September 21, 2023. https://ivypanda.com/essays/topic/things-fall-apart-essay-topics/.


IvyPanda . "117 Things Fall Apart Essay Topic Ideas & Examples." September 21, 2023. https://ivypanda.com/essays/topic/things-fall-apart-essay-topics/.

IvyPanda . 2023. "117 Things Fall Apart Essay Topic Ideas & Examples." September 21, 2023. https://ivypanda.com/essays/topic/things-fall-apart-essay-topics/.

IvyPanda . (2023) '117 Things Fall Apart Essay Topic Ideas & Examples'. 21 September.

  • Colonialism Essay Ideas
  • Heart of Darkness Essay Ideas
  • Colonization Essay Ideas
  • Shooting an Elephant Essay Titles
  • Hills Like White Elephants Essay Ideas
  • Superstition Essay Ideas
  • World History Topics
  • Symbolism Titles
  • Wuthering Heights Essay Titles
  • British Empire Ideas
  • Genocide Essay Titles
  • Indigenous People Research Topics
  • European History Essay Titles
  • Rwandan Genocide Research Ideas
  • King Lear Research Ideas

things fall apart essay topics pdf

  • My Preferences
  • My Reading List
  • Things Fall Apart

Chinua Achebe

  • Literature Notes
  • Essay Questions
  • Book Summary
  • About Things Fall Apart
  • Character List
  • Summary and Analysis
  • Part 1: Chapter 1
  • Part 1: Chapter 2
  • Part 1: Chapter 3
  • Part 1: Chapter 4
  • Part 1: Chapter 5
  • Part 1: Chapter 6
  • Part 1: Chapter 7
  • Part 1: Chapter 8
  • Part 1: Chapter 9
  • Part 1: Chapter 10
  • Part 1: Chapter 11
  • Part 1: Chapter 12
  • Part 1: Chapter 13
  • Part 2: Chapter 14
  • Part 2: Chapter 15
  • Part 2: Chapter 16
  • Part 2: Chapter 17
  • Part 2: Chapter 18
  • Part 2: Chapter 19
  • Part 3: Chapter 20
  • Part 3: Chapter 21
  • Part 3: Chapter 22
  • Part 3: Chapter 23
  • Part 3: Chapter 24
  • Part 3: Chapter 25
  • Character Analysis
  • Reverend James Smith
  • Character Map
  • Chinua Achebe Biography
  • Critical Essays
  • Major Themes in Things Fall Apart
  • Use of Language in Things Fall Apart
  • Full Glossary for Things Fall Apart
  • Cite this Literature Note

Study Help Essay Questions

1. Why did Achebe choose to take the title of his novel, Things Fall Apart , from William Butler Yeats' poem "The Second Coming"?

2. What is the narrator's point of view and what values are important to the narrator?

3. Achebe presents details of daily village life in Umuofia, as well as details concerning the Igbo culture. Describe the setting of the novel.

4. What is chi ? Explain the importance of chi in shaping Okonkwo's destiny.

5. Obierika is a foil for Okonkwo. That is, when compared to Okonkwo, the contrast between the two characters emphasizes the distinctive characteristics of Okonkwo. Compare the two characters — Obierika and Okonkwo.

6. Achebe suggests that Igbo culture is dynamic (constantly changing). Find evidence in the novel to support this notion.

7. What is the significance of Nwoye's Christian name, Isaac?

8. In Things Fall Apart , Achebe includes stories from Igbo culture and tradition, proverbs, and parables. What is the significance of Achebe's integration of African literary forms with that of Western literary forms?

9. Achebe resents the stereotype of African cultures that is presented in literature, such as Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. Identify instances in Things Fall Apart that portray variations in African cultures.

10. What is the role of women in the novel?

11. Explain the advantages and disadvantages of the social structure portrayed in Things Fall Apart . For example, the culture is polygamous ; the husband, wives, and children live in their own compound; children are cared for communally.

12. Explain why you think Okonkwo kills himself.

13. In your opinion, what contributes most to things falling apart in Umuofia? Explain.

14. How are the womanly or feminine qualities of the Igbo culture important to its survival?

15. Compare Mr. Brown and Reverend Smith. How does the black and white thinking of Reverend Smith contribute to Umuofia's downfall? What would have prevented Umuofia's downfall?

Previous Full Glossary for Things Fall Apart

Next Cite this Literature Note

has been added to your

Reading List!

Removing #book# from your Reading List will also remove any bookmarked pages associated with this title.

Are you sure you want to remove #bookConfirmation# and any corresponding bookmarks?

things fall apart essay topics pdf

VCE Study Tips

English Language

things fall apart essay topics pdf

Private Tutoring

things fall apart essay topics pdf

Only one more step to getting your FREE text response mini-guide!

Simply fill in the form below, and the download will start straight away

English & EAL

Things Fall Apart

October 4, 2020

things fall apart essay topics pdf

Want insider tips? Sign up here!

Go ahead and tilt your mobile the right way (portrait). the kool kids don't use landscape....

3. Sample Essay Topics

4. A+ Essay Topic Breakdown

Things Fall Apart is usually studied in the Australian curriculum under Area of Study 1 - Text Response. For a detailed guide on Text Response, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response .

Things Fall Apart is set in a fictional group of Igbo villages called Umuofia, around the beginning of the twentieth century. The first half of the novel is dedicated to an almost anthropological depiction of Igbo village life and culture through following the life of the protagonist Okonkwo . Okonkwo is the greatest wrestler and warrior alive in the nine villages and beyond. He has dedicated his life to achieving status and proving his strength to avoid becoming like his father Unoka – a lazy, improvident, but gentle man. Weakness is Okonkwo’s greatest fear. After men in another village kill a woman from Umuofia, a boy named Ikemefuna is given to Umuofia as compensation and lives in Okonkwo’s compound until the Gods decide his fate. Ikemefuna quickly becomes part of Okonkwo’s family; he is like a brother to Okonkwo’s son Nwoye and is secretly loved by Okonkwo as well. Over the next three years, the novel follows Okonkwo’s family through harvest seasons, religious festivals, cultural rituals, and domestic disputes. Okonkwo is shown to be more aggressive than other Igbo men and is continually criticized and rebuked by the village for his violence and temper . When the Oracle of the Hills and Caves decides that Ikemefuna must be killed, Okonkwo is warned by a respected elder to have no hand in the boy’s death because Ikemefuna calls him ‘father’. However, afraid of being thought weak, when Ikemefuna runs to Okonkwo in hope of protection, Okonkwo delivers the fatal blow. Ikemefuna’s brutal death deeply distresses Nwoye who becomes afraid of his father. 

At the end of Part One, Okonkwo accidentally kills a clansman at a funeral after his faulty gun explodes and is exiled to his motherland, Mbanta. During his exile, British missionaries arrive in Mbanta and establish a church. Nwoye, disillusioned with his own culture and Gods after Ikemefuna’s death, is attracted to Christianity and is an early convert . This is a heartbreaking disappointment to Okonkwo. When Okonkwo and his family return from exile after seven years they find that the missionaries and colonial governors have established Umuofia as the center of their new colonial government . Clashes of culture and morality occur, and as the British make the Igbo more dependent on them through introducing trade and formal education, the Igbo way of life is continually undermined . When a Christian convert unmasks an egwugwu during a tribal ritual, a sin amounting to the death of an ancestral spirit, the egwugwu burn down the village church. The men who destroyed the church are arrested and humiliated by the District Commissioner, and Okonkwo beheads a court messenger at a village council in rebellion. When none of his clansmen rise with him against the British, Okonkwo realizes his culture and way of life is lost and commits suicide in despair. Suicide is a crime against the Earth Goddess, Ani , so Okonkwo is left to rot above ground in the Evil Forest, like his father Unoka – a shameful fate he spent his life desperate to avoid. The final paragraph, written from the perspective of the District Commissioner, reduces Okonkwo’s life to a single sentence about his death in his planned book The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of The Lower Niger . Achebe has filled an entire novel with evidence of the complexity and sophistication of Okonkwo’s individual and social life and the District Commissioner’s casual dismissal and belittling of him causes us to flinch with horror and dismay. This is a metaphor for the reduction of Igbo culture in the eyes of its colonizers.  

The title gives away the plot of the novel and anticipates the collapse of Okonkwo and his society. Things Fall Apart is about the connection between the tragic downfall of Okonkwo , who fate and temperamental weakness combine to destroy, and the destruction of his culture and society as the Igbo way of life is assailed by forces they do not understand and are unprepared to face . 

A Full and Fair Representation of Ibo Traditional Life

The first part of the novel presents the traditional world of the Ibo with specificity and vibrancy . The imbedded descriptions of the patterns of interaction, daily routines and seasonal rituals of Ibo life creates an overwhelming impression of community and shared culture. We see the established system of values which regulates collective life and how closely related this is to natural cycles and environments. The Ibo’s moral values are contained in sayings and stories, rituals and festivals. Achebe depicts a comprehensive and sustaining social, spiritual, economic, agricultural, and legal order. (Chapters to consider: 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 10, 12, 19)

While Ibo society is marked by the internal coherence of its organization and the poetry of its rituals, this coherence is partially formed by the repression of the individual and the inflexibility of social norms. Achebe shows the violence, dehumanization, and discrimination vulnerable groups experience in Umuofia due to the rigid adherence to tradition and superstition. This includes the customary abandonment of newborn twins, the sacrificial murder of Ikemefuna in the name of justice, and the discriminatory caste structure that denies inclusion to the osu (Chapters 7, 18).

Obierika’s questioning of the stern logic of some customs suggests that many laws are enacted from a sense of duty and inevitability rather than from a firm conviction in their justice or efficacy (Chapter 13). The cultural demand for conformity places a huge moral and psychological burden on individuals who must reckon with the sometimes heartless will of the gods . This internal tension is epitomized in the character of Okonkwo, discussed below.  

Clash of Cultures

When the Ibo are confronted with rival institutions a mirror is held up to their society. Fall Apart honestly considers and reflects on Ibo practices, customs, values, and beliefs. The novel is a frank articulation of the nature of the African past and its relevance to the present and future . Achebe wants to illuminate Ibo culture to dispense with lingering colonial prejudices, but he is not sentimental or nostalgic for the past. Instead he is shifting through it to identify the valuable aspects of Ibo culture to bring into the future and help define Nigeria’s post-independence identity .

Achebe recognises that the colonial encounter which led, swiftly and seemingly inevitably, to the disintegration of Ibo culture revealed its profound weaknesses. Achebe suggests that with the arrival and contrast against another culture, a cultural reckoning was inevitable for the Ibo. However, cultural reckoning and revaluation is not the same thing as destruction and erasure . The British colonialists were a hostile force seeking cultural domination. By pointing out some of the weaknesses of the Ibo tradition, Achebe in no way excuses or justifies colonial domination or diminishes the pain and tragedy of the cultural erasure that occurred.

Colonial Domination

The anti-colonial position and purpose of the novel is powerfully clear. Achebe depicts the process of colonial initial establishment and the resultant cultural suspension of Ibo society. The British colonizers believed in their inherent cultural superiority and arrived in Umuofia with the intention to “bring civilization” (p.151) to Africa. They wanted to achieve full control by supplanting Ibo religion and culture with their own.

The British arrived quietly and non-confrontationally with their religion and the clans allow them to stay, misinterpreting their silence as peaceability . An Ibo proverb warns that there is danger in silence and nothing to fear from someone who reveals their motivations (Chapter 15). Obierika recognizes how the white man’s strategy disguised their intentions and gave them the freedom to grow and fortify. He explains the political consequences for the clan, now divided by the new religion, they can no longer act as one (Chapter 20). Without strength in unity, the Ibo are vulnerable to further encroachment of British control in their other institutions .

As only a small number of Ibo initially converted to Christianity, the church was only able to establish itself firmly in the villages because of the Ibo’s religious tolerance (Chapter 2, 22). Mr Brown learns about Ibo religion and his willful blindness to its complexity shows how the colonizers justified their colonial rule and imposition through labelling their subjects ‘primitive’ . Mr Brown understands that Christianity held no appeal for people well integrated in Ibo society, concluding that “a frontal attack on it would not succeed” (p.132) and thus introduces education as a new method of cultural displacement and erasure . Additionally, trade also increased the Ibo’s dependence on the introduced economy (Chapter 21).

From the very first introduction of the colonizers we understand that violence and fear were tools of oppression and dominance , forcing the Ibo to submit and keeping them unresisting (Chapter 15, 20, 23). Not only do the British impose foreign rule on the Ibo and judge them by standards they do not recognize, the District Commissioner’s personal brand of ‘justice’ is corrupt and hypocritical. When the elders are arbitrarily and falsely imprisoned, he tells them that what they have done “must not happen in the dominion of our queen” (p.141), combining personal corruption with a state apparatus of paternalism, hegemony, and occupation (Chapter 20, 23).

Dogmatic zealot, Reverend Smith, encourages fanaticism in his converts, motivating them to insult and humiliate the clan (Chapter 22). Under Reverend Smith’s wrathful guidance, the colonial agenda becomes transparently aggressive . The grief and pathos of the Ibo’s situation and collective trauma is displayed evocatively in the final episodes as Achebe depicts this painful moment of acute crisis (Chapter 22, 23, 24, 25).

A recurring thematic question in Things Fall Apart is to what degree the collapse of the Ibo and the downfall of Okonkwo are due to their own internal weaknesses or the whims of a pernicious fate . 

The Ibo understand fate to be in a dynamic and somewhat ambiguous relationship with personal agency . This is evident in their proverb “when a man says yes his chi says yes also” (p.20) which acknowledges and privileges the role of an individual’s choices in shaping their destiny (Chapter 4). The saying “as a man danced so the drums were beaten for him” (p.135) also relates this idea – fate is a response to one’s behaviour. Okonkwo is warned that killing Ikemefuna, his surrogate son, is the “kind of action for which the goddess wipes out whole families” (p.49).This demonstrates the clan’s belief that the goddess’s (or fate’s) punishments are not arbitrary but the result of individual action (Chapter 8).

Although there is an element of chance in Okonkwo’s gun accidentally exploding and killing someone, his exile carries the suggestion of just comeuppance in its echo of the guns failure to shoot when purposely aimed at Ekwefi (Chapter 5, 13). Likewise, although the arrival of the Christians was unexpected and chanced, Nwoye’s rejection of his father is traceable directly to Okonkwo’s choice to kill Ikemefuna (Chapter 7). The desertion of people injured by Ibo traditions is a blow to the clan that feels equally earned (Chapters 16, 17, 18).  

After his exile, Okonkwo believes his chi has turned against him (Chapter 14). He renunciates the wisdom of his elders by denying the active role he had in directing the course of events. His refusal to reflect on the connection between his actions and punishment reflect his fatal flaws: hubris and willful lack of self-knowledge. By refusing to self-analyze and self-correct, Okonkwo loses the opportunity of redemption. Comparably, the Ibo, despite believing in a relationship between action and fate, do not reflect on the cause of their kinsmen’s desertion to Christianity. Achebe provides numerous examples of the clan’s dogma and brutal traditions denying people such as Ikemefuna or twins control over their lives (Chapter 2, 7). It was the shortcomings of the Ibo social and religious order that made members susceptible to the attraction of a competing value system with a more articulated concept of individuality. The Ibo’s cultural lack of self-apprehension meant they could not adjust their traditions to save themselves .

However, just as Achebe shows how individuals in the clan are at the mercy of rigid overarching authority, he shows how the fateful forces of history constrain human agency . The British’s hostile intention to erase and supplant the Ibo way of life is a punishment greater than the Ibo deserve and a force stronger than they can rise to. In his description of the grief and trauma of colonial imposition, Achebe demonstrates his compassion and sorrow for the Ibo as they faced the sweeping and unforgiving forces of change in their moment of historical crisis . 

Sample Essay Topics

1. "Things Fall Apart demonstrates how the values and customs of a society help us to deal with the familiar but not with change." Discuss.

2. "Traditional ideas of honour dominate Okonkwo's life and finally they destroy him." Discuss.

3. "Nwoye knew that it was right to be masculine and to be violent, but somehow he still preferred the stories his mother used to tell." How does Achebe explore masculinity in Things Fall Apart ?

Now it's your turn! Give these essay topics a go. For more sample essay topics, head over to our Things Fall Apart Study Guide to practice writing essays using the analysis you've learnt in this blog!

A+ Essay Topic Breakdown

Whenever you get a new essay topic, you can use LSG’s THINK and EXECUTE strategy , a technique to help you write better VCE essays. This essay topic breakdown will focus on the THINK part of the strategy. If you’re unfamiliar with this strategy, then check it out in How To Write A Killer Text Response .

Within the THINK strategy, we have 3 steps, or ABC. These ABC components are:

Step 1: A nalyse

Step 2: B rainstorm

Step 3: C reate a Plan

Let's look at an essay prompt in this video below:

[Video Transcript]

In Things Fall Apart , women suffer the most and are victimised by men. Discuss.

Whenever you are breaking a prompt down. Ask yourself...

  • What are the key words/ ideas that you need to address?
  • Which theme is the prompt referring to?
  • Do you agree with prompt? Or do you disagree with it?

The keywords of this prompt would be women, suffer,, victimised and men. The prompt requires us to address the role of women in the text and the ways in which they suffer in a society that is pervaded by patriarchal values. It also asks us, ‘Who is to blame?’ Are men solely responsible for the maltreatment or are there other causes to their suffering? The word ‘most’ in this prompt is actually there to give us a bit of room for discussion. Yes, women do suffer, but do they suffer the most? Or do men suffer as well?

Now that we’ve thought about the prompt, we can move on to the second step of the THINK part of the THINK and EXECUTE technique. To find out more about this unique strategy, I’d recommend downloading a free sample of our How to Write a Killer Text Response eBook!

Now, before we write our ideas in beautiful topic sentences, it’s often easier to simplify everything first. One way to do this is to work out whether the paragraph agrees or disagrees with the prompt at hand. We could follow this structure…

‍ Yes, the prompt is true because X Yes, another reason it is true is X While it is true, it is limited by X

By elucidating the ways in which women are seen as inferior to their male counterparts, the writer establishes his critique on a society that victimises and oppresses women. From the outset of the book, Okonkwo is characterised as a violent man who ‘rules his household with a heavy hand’, placing his wives in perpetual fear. The frequent beating and violence fortifies the portrayal of him as a man who is governed by his hatred of ‘gentility and idleness’, further showing the terror that his wives are forced to be living in.

"Do what you are told woman. When did you become one of the ndichie (meaning elders) of Umuofia?"

He also sees his wife’s mere act of questioning as disrespect, as evidenced through the ways in which he implies that she is overstepping her role.

“There were many women, but they looked on from the fringe like outsiders"

This simile also shows how women are often marginalised and treated as outcasts, underlining the overarching yearning for social justice throughout the text. This pitiful image of women looking ‘on from the fringe’ also helps Achebe relay his criticism of gender double standards and the unfairness that Igbo women are forced to live with. Achebe’s sympathy for women’s suffering and condemnation of men’s mistreatment towards are also evident through his depiction of a society that normalises misogyny.

‘His mother and sisters worked hard enough, but they grew women’s crops… Yam, the king of crops, was a man’s crops’

The personification of the crops, in particular, the men’s crops, the ‘yam’, being the ‘king of crops’ establishes this gender hierarchy in yet another way. More specifically, the position of men in the social hierarchy is highlighted and the negative connotation attached to the ‘women’s crops’ undermine their hard work, rendering it in significant. While women are the main victims of Igbo gendered prejudice, Achebe does not disregard the undue burden that societal expectations impose on men.

‘He was afraid of being thought weak.’

Achebe explores the burdens of unrealistic expectations that are placed on both men and women. This quote exemplifies societal expectations on men to be strong, powerful and fearless leaders who never show emotions. Achebe’s sympathies regarding these expectations show us that this is an important critique in Things Fall Apart that we can analyse.

If you find this helpful, then you might want to check out our Things Fall Apart: A Killer Text Guide where we cover 5 A+ sample essays (written by a 50 study scorer!) with EVERY essay annotated and broken down on HOW and WHY these essays achieved A+ so you reach your English goals! Let's get started.

The Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response

How To Write A Killer Text Response Study Guide

How to embed quotes in your essay like a boss

How to turn your Text Response essays from average to A+

5 Tips for a mic drop worthy essay conclusion

With contributions from Lindsey Dang.

Get our FREE VCE English Text Response mini-guide

Now quite sure how to nail your text response essays? Then download our free mini-guide, where we break down the art of writing the perfect text-response essay into three comprehensive steps. Click below to get your own copy today!

things fall apart essay topics pdf

Access a FREE sample of our Things Fall Apart study guide

  • Learn how to brainstorm ANY essay topic and plan your essay so you answer the topic accurately
  • Apply LSG's THINK and EXECUTE strategy across 5 sample A+ essays
  • Think like a 50 study scorer through advanced discussions like structural feature analysis, views and values and different interpretations and lenses - we've broken them down into easy-to-understand concepts that students of any level can replicate

things fall apart essay topics pdf

Updated 19/01/2021

1. What Is Text Response? 2. What Are You Expected To Cover? (Text Response Criteria) 3. School Assessed Coursework (SAC), Exams and Allocated Marks 4. How To Prepare for Your Text Response SAC and Exam 5. How To Write a Text Response

1. What Is Text Response?

Like its name, Text Response is when you respond to a text. The most popular texts are novels and films; however, plays, poetry and short stories are also common. Your response will be in the form of an essay, in which you discuss themes, ideas and characters. Recall all the novels and films you've studied since Year 7 (there'll be quite a few!). You should be very familiar with the process of watching a film or reading a novel, participating in class discussions about themes and characters, and finally, submitting an essay based on the text.

As you graduate into higher year levels, you spend each year revising and improving on TEEL, learning to better incorporate quotes and formulating even longer essays than the year before (remember when you thought you couldn't possibly write an essay more than 500 words?).

The good news is, all of that learning is now funnelled into VCE’s Text Response, one of the three parts of the VCE English study design. Text Response, officially known as ‘Reading and Responding’ in the study design, is the first Area of study (AoS 1) - meaning that the majority of students will tackle the Text Response SAC in Term 1. Let's get into it!

2. What Are You Expected To Cover? ( Text Response Criteria)

What are teachers and examiners expecting to see in your essays? Below are the VCE criteria for Text Response essays.

Note: Some schools may express the following points differently, however, they should all boil down to the same points - what is necessary in a Text Response essay.

a) Critically analyse texts and the ways in which authors construct meaning;

Much of the ‘meaning’ in a novel/film comes instinctively to readers. Why is it that we can automatically distinguish between a protagonist from an antagonist? Why is it that we know whether or not the author supports or denounces an idea?

Here you need to start looking at how the author constructs their texts and why they have made that choice. For example, the author describes a protagonist using words with positive connotations (kind, brave, charming), whereas the antagonist is described with words using negative connotations (vain, egocentric, selfish).

For example, 'in Harry Potter , by describing the protagonist Harry as "brave", the author JK Rowling exhibits the idea of how possessing bravery when making tough choices or facing challenges is a strong and positive trait.'

b) Analyse the social, historical and/or cultural values embodied in texts;

Society, history and culture all shape and influence us in our beliefs and opinions. Authors use much of what they’ve obtained from the world around them and employ this knowledge to their writing. Understanding their values embodied in texts can help us as readers, identity and appreciate theme and character representations.

For example, 'through the guilty verdict of Tom Robinson in To Kill A Mockingbird , Harper Lee expresses the belief that the American legal system in the 1930s was not always fair or just.'

For more information on context and authorial intent in VCE English, read Tim's blog, Context and Authorial Intention in VCE English, or Olivia's on what authorial intent is and why it's important .

c) Discuss and compare possible interpretations of texts using evidence from the text;

Be open to the idea that many texts can be interpreted in many ways. Texts are rarely concrete and simple. Take The Bible , a book that is one of the most popular and famous books in history but is interpreted differently by every person. Acknowledging more than one perspective on a certain aspect of the text, or acknowledging that perhaps the writer is intentionally ambiguous, is a valuable skill that demonstrates you have developed a powerful insight into your text.

For example, 'in The Thing Around Your Neck , feminist readers condone Adichie's stories which all revolve around women either as protagonist or as narrators, giving voice to the disempowered gender in Nigerian society.'

‍ d) Use appropriate metalanguage to construct a supported analysis of a text;

While you should absolutely know how to embed quotes in your essay like a boss , you want to have other types of evidence in your Text Response essay. You must discuss how the author uses the form that he/she is writing in to develop their discussion. This encompasses a huge breadth of things from metaphors to structure to language.

For example, 'The personification of Achilles as "wolf, a violator of every law of men and gods", illustrates his descent from human to animal….' or 'Malouf’s constant use of the present voice and the chapter divisions allow the metaphor of time to demonstrate the futility and omnipresence of war…'.

To learn more about metalanguage, read our ' What Is Metalanguage? ' post.

e) Control and effectiveness of language use, as appropriate to the task

When examiners read essays, they are expected to get through about 12-15 essays in an hour! This results in approximately 5 minutes to read, get their head around, and grade your essay - not much time at all! It is so vital that you don’t give the examiner an opportunity to take away marks because they have to reread certain parts of your essay due to poor expression and grammar.

For further advice on the above criteria points, read Emily's (English study score 46): Year 12: How To Turn Your Text Response Essays From Average to A+ .

3. School Assessed Coursework (SAC), Exams and Allocated Marks

Reading and Creating is assessed in Unit 1 (Year 11) and Unit 3 (Year 12). The number of allocated marks are:

  • Unit 1 - dependant on school
  • Unit 3 English – 30 marks
  • Unit 3 EAL – 40 marks

Exactly when Text Response is assessed within each unit is dependent on each school; some schools at the start of the Unit, others at the end. The time allocated to your SAC is also school-based. Often, schools use one or more periods combined, depending on how long each of your periods last. Teachers can ask you to write anywhere from 800 to 1000 words for your essay (keep in mind that it’s about quality, not quantity!)

In your exam, you get a whopping total of 3 hours to write 3 essays (Text Response, Comparative and Language Analysis). The general guide is 60 minutes on Text Response, however, it is up to you exactly how much time you decide to dedicate to this section of the exam. Your Text Response essay will be graded out of 10 by two different examiners. Your two unique marks from these examiners will be combined, with 20 as the highest possible mark.

things fall apart essay topics pdf

4. How To Prepare for Your Text Response SAC and Exam

Preparation is a vital component in how you perform in your SACs and exam so it’s always a good idea to find out what is your best way to approach assessments. This is just to get you thinking on the different study methods you can try before a SAC. Here are my top strategies (ones I actually used in VCE) for Text Response preparation that can be done any time of year (including holidays - see How To Recharge Your Motivation Over the School Holidays for more tips):

a) Reread your book (or rewatch the film)

After all the learning and discussion you’ve had with your teacher and peers, you should have now developed a solid foundation of knowledge. Rereading a book enables you to refresh your memory on subplots, popular passages and most importantly, helps you fill in any missing gaps in knowledge. Take this as an opportunity to get familiar with the parts of the texts you're less confident with, or to examine a particular theme that you know you're weaker in (HINT: A good place to start is to make sure you know the difference between themes, motifs and symbols !)

b) Do a close analysis

This is like an advanced version of rereading a book. A 'close analysis' - a term stolen from VCE Literature (thanks Lit!) - is basically where you select a passage (a short chapter or a few pages), and analyse it in detail.

As you move through the passage, you can pick out interesting word choices made by the author and try to interpret why they have made this choice. Doing a close analysis will immensely strengthen your metalanguage analysis skills, and also give you the opportunity to stand out from other students because you can offer unique and original analysis and evidence in your essay. I know this can be a bit confusing, so this video below shows a full close analysis of a Macbeth passage in action:

c) Read and watch Lisa's Study Guides' resources

Doing this study all by yourself can be rather daunting, so we've got your back. We specialise in supporting VCE English by creating helpful videos, study guides and ebooks. Here are some just to get your started:

YouTube Videos

We create general Text Response advice videos like this:

We also create text-specific videos:

And if you just need general study advice, we've got you covered too:

Check out our entire YouTube channel (and don't forget to subscribe for regular new videos!).

Study Guides

Our awesome team of English high-achievers have written up study guides based on popular VCE texts. Here's a compilation of all the ones we've covered so far:

After Darkness by Christine Piper

Cosi by Louis Nowra

‍ ‍ Extinction by Hannie Rayson

‍ Flames by Robbie Arnott

False Claims of Colonial Thieves by Charmaine Papertalk Green and John Kinsella

‍ Go Went Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck

‍ Like a House on Fire by Kate Kennedy

‍ Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare

‍ Old/New World Selected Poems by Peter Skrzynecki

‍ ‍ On The Waterfront by Elia Kazan

‍ Ransom by David Malouf

‍ Rear Window by Alfred Hitchcock

‍ Runaway by Alice Munro

‍ Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel

Sunset Boulevard by Billy Wilder

‍ The Crucible by Arthur Miller

‍ The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman ‍

The Erratics by Vicki Laveau-Harvie

‍ ‍ The Golden Age by Joan London

‍ The Lieutenant by Kate Grenville

‍ The Secret River by Kate Grenville

‍ To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

‍ William Wordsworth: Poems Selected by Seamus Heaney

‍ ‍ Women of Troy by Euripides (Don Taylor's version)

‍ Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks

Tip: You can download and save many of these study guides for your own study use! How good is that?

things fall apart essay topics pdf

And if that isn't enough, I'd highly recommend my How To Write A Killer Text Response ebook.

Most people seem to the think the most difficult part of Text Response is the writing component - and they're not completely wrong. However, what I've found is that not even students place emphasis on the brainstorming, preparation and planning of Text Response.

Think about it - if you don't come to the table with the best ideas, then how can you expect your essay to achieve A+? Even if you write an exceptional essay, if it doesn't answer the prompt, your teacher won't be sticking a smiley face on your work. We need to avoid these common teacher criticisms, and I have no doubt you've experienced at least once the dreaded, 'you're not answering the prompt', 'you could've used a better example' or 'more in-depth analysis needed'.

Enter my golden strategy - the THINK and EXECUTE strategy . This is a strategy I developed over the past 10 years of tutoring, and I've seen my students improve their marks every time. The THINK and EXECUTE strategy breaks up your Text Response into two parts - first the THINK, then the EXECUTE. Only with the unique THINK approach, will you then be able to EXECUTE your essay to its optimum potential, leading yourself to achieve those higher marks.

To learn more about the THINK and EXECUTE strategy, download my ebook sample on the shop page or at the bottom of this blog, or check out the video below:

‍ d) Get your hands on essay topics

Often, teachers will provide you with a list of prompts to practice before your SAC. Some teachers can be kind enough to hint you in the direction of a particular prompt that may be on the SAC. If your teacher hasn’t distributed any, don’t be afraid to ask.

We have a number of free essay topics curated by our team at LSG, check some of them out. Also go scroll back up to our list of study guides above, as most of those also have essay prompts included:

‍ ‍ All the Light We Cannot See Essay Topics ‍ Like a House on Fire Essay Topics ‍ ‍ The Handmaid's Tale Essay Topics ‍ ‍

e) Brainstorm and write plans

Once you've done some preliminary revision, it's time to write plans! Plans will help ensure you stick to your essay topic and have a clear outline of what your essay will cover. This clarity is crucial to success in a Text Response essay.

Doing plans is also an extremely time-efficient way to approach SACs. Rather than slaving away hours upon hours over writing essays, writing plans can will save you the burnout and will get you feeling confident faster.

I've curated essay topic breakdown videos based on specific VCE texts. In these videos, I explore keywords, ideas and how I'd plan an essay with corresponding examples/evidence.

f) Write essays

Yes, sad, but it’s a fact. Writers only get better by actually writing . Even if you just tackle a couple of essays then at least you will have started to develop a thinking process that will help you to set out arguments logically, utilise important quotes and time yourself against the clock. It will help you write faster as well – something that is a major problem for many students. With that said, let's get into how to write a Text Response next.

Take a look at some of the essays our amazing LSG team have written:

After Darkness Essay Topic Breakdown

All the Light We Cannot See Essay Topic Breakdown

‍ Extinction A+ Essay Topic Breakdown

‍ Station Eleven Essay Topic Breakdown ‍ ‍

Women of Troy Essay Topic Breakdown ‍

If you need any more tips on how to learn your text in-depth, Susan's (English study score 50) Steps for Success in Text Study guide provides a clear pathway for how to approach your text and is a must read for VCE English students!

And, if you're studying a text you hate (ugh!) be sure to check out Lavinia's guide which teaches you how to do well even when you don't like your text !

5. How To Write a Text Response

Before you start writing, make sure you're familiar with The Five Types of Text Response Prompts . Understanding the different types will help you move beyond a 'basic' one-size-fits-all structure.


In an introduction, you're expected to have the following:

  • Context (or background)
  • Author's name
  • Title of text
  • Main arguments

Here's an example from Vindhya (English study score 46), in her post Dissecting an A+ Essay Using 'The Golden Age' by Joan London :

Perhaps nothing exemplifies the power of love and recognition more than the bond between Albert Sutton and his older sister, Lizzie, in Joan London’s ‘The Golden Age’. Many of London’s characters exhibit suffering that requires compassion and support to heal and grow, to distinguish present from past. However, London explores the perspectives of such characters from different aspects of trauma, and emphasise that love and recognition do not always work to heal and mature. Frank Gold, the novel’s resident “sneaky” boy who adjusts to newfound life in the Golden Age Convalescent Home seeks love as an adult, rather than eliciting sympathy as a supposed victim. Here love and recognition are unsuccessful in amending Frank’s troubles when given from the perspective of an outsider, a judgemental onlooker. In a similar sense, Ida Gold seeks recognition not from Australia, who she views as a ‘backwater’, but validation in herself after having been ousted from her Hungarian identity. London, however, makes sure to emphasise the impact that Sullivan has on Frank Gold’s life. Sullivan, a boy only a few years older than Frank, seems content with his future, with his fate, despite his sacrifice of rugby and conventional life. There is a lacking sense of urgency for love and recognition in Sullivan’s life, rather, it appears that Sullivan accepts his fate, regardless of his father’s sympathy or support. Thus, London explores a myriad of ways in which love and recognition may or may not heal wounds inflicted upon individuals.

Try to keep your introduction to the point. There's no need to prolong an introduction just to make a set number of sentences. It's always better to be concise and succinct, and then move into your main body paragraphs where the juicy contents of your essay resides.

Body Paragraph

Most of you will be familiar with TEEL. TEEL can stand for:

  • T opic sentence
  • L inking sentence

If your teacher or school teaches you something slightly different - that's okay too. At the end of the day the foundations are the same.

Early in the novel, London makes reference to Norm White, the resident groundskeeper of The Golden Age Convalescent Home. Norm White hands Frank Gold a cigarette, 'as if to say a man has the right to smoke in peace'. Here, there is a complete disregard for rule and convention, an idea that London emphasises throughout the text. This feature provides a counter-cultural experience for Frank, pushing him to realise that he is a strong human being rather than a mere victim. This is a clear contrast to the “babyishness” of the home, and is used as evidence of true humanity in an era where society judged upon the unconventional. Frank yearns for a traditional Australian life after his trauma in Hungary; 'his own memory…lodged like an attic in the front part of his brain'. Hedwiga and Julia Marai’s caring of him pushed him towards fear and reluctance to trust, yet also pressured him to seek acceptance in a world that ostracises him for his Jewish heritage and polio diagnosis. This here is why Frank desires a mature, adult connection – love that regards him as an equal human being. Frank seeks Elsa’s love and company as she too loathes being reduced to a victim, an object of pity. Frank thereafter uses humour to joke of his wounds; 'we Jews have to be on the lookout'. Elsa sees 'a look in his eyes that she recognised', thus their bond enables both characters to heal. London alludes that Frank requires love and recognition not from the perspective of a sorrowful onlooker, rather he longs to be recognised as a mature adult.

Conclusions should be short and sweet.

Although trauma is often treated with love and compassion, London details different perspectives on this idea. Whilst Frank Gold requires a specific kind of recognition, Ida and Meyer seek validation in themselves and their relationship, whilst Sullivan is at ease with his fate and does not yearn sympathy from his father.

For further detail from Sarah (English study score 45), read her advice on 5 Tips for a Mic-Drop Worthy Essay Conclusion .

That's it for the Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response . Good luck!

*Originally posted in 2011, this blog post has been revised for the latest English study design.

Last updated 20/10/19

Planning is an essential part of any successful text response essay. It helps you ensure that you’re answering the prompt, utilising enough quotes and writing the most unique and perceptive analysis possible! The hard part of this is that you only have about FIVE MINUTES to plan each essay in the Year 12 English exam… (more info on the best way to tackle that challenge in this video !)

So, I developed the FIVE TYPES of essay prompts to help students streamline their planning process and maximise every minute of their SACs and exams.

By identifying the type of prompt you’re being challenged with immediately, a number of parameters or guidelines are already set in place. For a specific type of prompt, you have specific criteria to meet – for example, in a metalanguage-based prompt , you immediately know that any evidence you brainstorm in your planning stage should be based around the literary techniques used in your given text.

If you’d like the full picture on our best FREE advice on Text Response, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response here .

1. Theme-Based Prompt

‘Ambition in the play Macbeth leads to success.’ Discuss. ( Macbeth )

When you’re presented with a theme-based prompt, you can automatically shift your brainstorming and planning towards the themes mentioned in the prompt along with any others that you can link to the core theme in some way.

In regard to this Macbeth prompt, for example, you could explore the different ways the theme of ambition is presented in the text. Additionally, the themes of guilt and power are intimately related to ambition in the text, so you can use those other ideas to aid your brainstorming and get you a step ahead of the rest of the state come exam day.

2. Character-Based Prompt

‘Frankenstein’s hubris is what punishes him.’ Discuss. ( Frankenstein )

These prompts are pretty easy to spot – if you see a character’s name in the prompt, there you have it; you have a character-based prompt on your hands.

Once you know this, you can assume that each example you brainstorm has to be relevant to the specific character named in the prompt in some way. Also, you can explore how the actions of characters don’t occur in isolation – they’re almost always interrelated. Remember, however, that the actions of characters are always connected to the themes and ideas the author is trying to convey.

This type of prompt also grants you some freedoms that other types don’t give. For example, unlike a Theme-based prompt, a character-based prompt means that it’s perfectly fine to write about characters in the topic sentences of your body paragraphs.

3. How-Based Prompt

‘How does Grenville showcase Rooke’s inner conflict in The Lieutenant ?’ ( The Lieutenant )

Unlike other prompts, the ‘How’ positions you to focus more on the author’s writing intentions. This can be achieved by discussing metalanguage – language that describes language (read my blog post about it here ). These prompts tell you immediately that you need to be thinking about the literary techniques explored in the text and explain how they affect the narrative.

Rather than using specific techniques to frame your specific arguments, it’s best to use them as evidence to support arguments that attack the main themes/ideas mentioned in the prompt.

4. Metalanguage or Film-Technique-Based Prompt

‘Hitchcock’s use of film techniques offers an unnerving viewing experience’. Discuss. ( Rear Window )

This type of prompt is very similar to How-based prompts, specifically in the fact that the discussion of literary techniques is essential.

For this type of prompt specifically, however, the actual techniques used can form more of a basis for your arguments, unlike in How-based prompts .

5. Quote-Based Prompt

“Out, damned spot!” How does Shakespeare explore the burden of a guilty conscience in Macbeth ? ( Macbeth )

Countless students ask me every year, “What do I do when there’s a quote in the prompt?!” My reply to these questions is actually fairly straightforward!

There are two main things that you should do when presented with this type of prompt. Firstly, contextualise the quote in your essay and try to use it in your analysis in some way. Secondly, interpret the themes and issues addressed in the quote and implement these into your discussion. The best place to do both of these is in a body paragraph – it weaves in seamlessly and allows for a good amount of analysis, among other reasons!

When faced with unknown prompts in a SAC or your exam, it's reassuring to have a formulaic breakdown of the prompt so that your brain immediately starts categorising the prompt - which of the 5 types of prompts does this one in front of me fall into? To learn more about brainstorming, planning, essay structures for Text Response, read our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response .

Like a House on Fire is usually studied in the Australian curriculum under Area of Study 1 - Text Response. For a detailed guide on Text Response, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response .

  • Historical Context
  • Essay Planning
  • Essay Topics

1. Historical Context

Kennedy’s anthology of fifteen short stories, Like a House on Fir e, explores the impacts of familial and social issues on an individual’s sense of identity and humanity, illustrating the vast spectrum of human condition. Having lived a majority of her life in Victoria, Australia, Kennedy’s collection follows the stories of various protagonists whose voices are characteristic of Australian culture and society. As the text is set in the backdrop of rapid Australian modernisation, the novel also depicts the paradoxical nature of technology, as various characters are depicted to be torn between confronting or embracing this fundamental change. Despite approaching the stories of characters conflicted by modern and social challenges with both humour and cynicism, Kennedy’s lack of judgement is notable; it is with this empathetic stance that she is able to the universal nature of human emotions to her readership. 

Kennedy explores the theme of identity mainly through physical injury, as various characters with physical trauma find themselves to be agonisingly limited within the confines of their condition. In Like a House on Fire , the narrator’s sense of identity becomes intertwined with his subsequently decreased masculinity, as his back injury leaves him unable to physically take care of his family, and his wife begins to undertake stereotypically masculine roles within the household. In tandem with this, Roley’s wife in Little Plastic Shipwreck is rendered humourless and witless due to her brain injury, distorting her once enthusiastic self into one shadowed by her illness; further emphasising the link between physical and mental identity. 

Order and Disorder

The inherent tension between order and chaos is continually examined throughout the anthology, particularly in Like a House on Fire, in which perfectionistic order and scatter minded disorder are embodied in the unnamed narrator and his wife respectively. As the two individuals are unable to establish a compromise between their contrasting personalities, Kennedy suggests that this lack of cooperation is the core reason for the deterioration of their marriage, and their subsequent misery. The notion of disorder is also symbolised by the domestic setting itself, as Kennedy depicts various characters who feel pervasive ennui and dissatisfaction within the ‘chaotic mess’ of their household environments.

Each protagonist in the collection is portrayed as possessing some object of longing, whether it be material or emotional. Kennedy utilises scattered verses of prose within her writing to communicate these human desires, building upon their significance poetically. In Static , Anthony attempts to negotiate his own wishes with those of his wife and family, leading him to wonder whether anything present in his life has been created by his own will or merely his eagerness to please others. His desire for various types of happiness, embodied in material concepts such as money or children, suggest that the human condition is built upon the foundation of dissatisfaction; that innate longing is what ultimately defines us as human.

The theme of love is present in each story of the collection, often used as an instrument through which the characters can heal and grow from their physical or spiritual pain. While suggesting that true love endures all hardship in Like a House on Fire , Kennedy also illustrates the various sacrifices one must make in order to protect the ones you love. Such is depicted in Five-Dollar Family , as a new mother makes the difficult decision of leaving her ‘loser’ boyfriend to give her child a chance at the best life possible, despite the unfortunate situation he has been born into. 


The vital importance of communication within families is emphasised in the anthology, as the lack of effective communication perceivably exacerbates dysfunctional relationships. The crushing regret of a son is explored in Ashes , as he laments his lack of communication with his father who he can no longer speak to. However, Kennedy empathetically depicts the difficulty of communicating potentially painful messages to loved ones in Waiting , as the protagonist anxiously agonises over the prospect of telling her husband that she may have another miscarriage following an excruciating string of lost children. 

In tandem with longing, Kennedy asserts that empathy is vital to the survival and happiness of a human being. This notion is aptly depicted in Little Plastic Shipwreck , in which the death of Samson the popular show dolphin results in Roley’s revelation of his manager’s complete lack of empathy, and subsequently the abundance of his own. Similarly, the salient importance of empathy is emphasised in Flexion , as the cold-heated and harsh victim of a brutal tractor incident repairs his marriage by allowing himself to feel more empathy for those who have supported his recovery and been understanding of his bitterness. 

The anthology centres around the concept of family, as both dramatic events unfold directly due to altercations and misunderstanding within the household. By depicting both the dramatic and mundane events that contribute to creating dysfunctional families, Kennedy asserts that kindness and understanding is vital to the maintenance of a healthy and loving family. The power of family is also depicted in Like a House on Fire , as the protagonist’s dissatisfaction with life is instantly washed away by the actions of his children, who remind him that despite his life-threatening injury, his family is his constant source of love and support. 

If you'd like to see how themes like these can be identified and analysed in one of Kennedy's short stories, you might like to check out our Close Analysis Of 'Cake' From Like A House On Fire blog post!

By the way, to download a PDF version of this blog for printing or offline use, click here !

3. Essay Planning

Whenever you get a new essay topic, you can use LSG’s THINK and EXECUTE strategy , a technique to help you write better VCE essays. If you’re unfamiliar with this strategy, then check it out in How To Write A Killer Text Response .

Question 1: ‘Gender plays no role in the tragic identities of the characters in Like a House on Fire.’ To what extent do you agree?

Suggested contention: despite the ubiquitous nature of hardship, the short stories of like a house on fire explore the effect of gender roles on individuals’ sense of self-worth., body paragraph 1: .

  • Pain is depicted to have no partiality to either gender in Like a House on Fire. 
  • Much of the trauma explored throughout the anthology is a result of lack of emotional connection or familial misunderstanding arising through individual actions, rather than due to stereotypes associated with gender. 
  • Kennedy suggests that there is no gender more at fault for these issues, but rather that it is mindset that determines one’s identity and fate, especially in relationships. For example, just as the protagonist’s wife in Flexion makes the mistake of cruelly wielding her physical dominance over her husband, the passive boyfriend in Five-Dollar Family is cruel in his apathy toward his girlfriend and their newborn baby.     

Body paragraph 2: 

  • Despite this, Kennedy explores the social views that plague men as a result of their gender, compelling to limit their identity to meet these fatal expectations. 
  • The concept of masculinity is explored throughout the collection, often presented as an inferiority complex for many male protagonists due to their physical disabilities. The societal idea that men should be physically strong in order to be able to provide for his family is heavily condemned in Like a House on Fire , as Kennedy depicts the destructive consequences of such on one’s sense of self-worth. 
  • For example, the narrator of Like a House on Fire perceives his own physical weakness as unmanly, and subsequently himself as an unfit and useless father. As he is unable to pick up the  family’s Christmas tree, the tree seller looks towards him with disdainful judgment, perceiving the protagonist’s wife lifting the tree to be ‘destroying the social fabric’. 
  • In addition to this, the narrator’s extreme attempt to physically help the family results in the destruction of the precious family nativity scene, symbolising the idea that social constructs of masculinity inevitably ends in destruction, as the narrator’s inability to recognise his physical limitations only exacerbates the problem. 

Body paragraph 3: 

  • In tandem with this, the collection of short stories also examines the social limitations placed upon women solely due to their gender. 
  • The difficulty for women to balance their roles of mother and career woman is explored in Cake , in which the protagonist Liz fails to separate one from the other, leading her to feel dissatisfaction in both. Kennedy ostensibly denounces the social expectations of women to be domestic helpers, as Liz faces judgement at work for bearing a child, whereas her husband is exempt from any judgement despite it also being his son. 
  • The complicated and personal concept of pregnancy is further depicted in Waiting , as the protagonist agonises over the fact that she may lose another child due to a miscarriage. As the fear of disappointing others takes over her own pain and anguish, readers of the collection are invited to consider the harrowing expectations placed on women to be successful mothers. 

Question 2: ‘Like a House on Fire shows that family relationships are never perfect.’ Do you agree?

Suggested contention: through the constant depiction of dysfunctional families in like a house on fire, kennedy asserts the importance of communication and empathy in repairing broken relationships, and suggests that perfect families are unrealistic. .

  • Every story in the collection depicts a family undergoing some kind of hardship, whether it be financial, emotional or spiritual. Through her depiction of broken families, Kennedy suggests that emotional stress and tension within families is sometimes inevitable, even in a loving and supportive environment. 
  • The title of the collection, Like a House on Fire , is emblematic of the dual nature of families, as while the phrase symbolises the chaos and disorder of one’s family dynamic, it also symbolises the love and extreme passion that often coexists alongside it. 
  • For example, while the protagonist in Like a House on Fire reminisces upon the ‘fiery’ sexual and emotional happiness of their marriage, he also deplores their current period of domestic stress, describing it as a ‘house on fire’. 
  • Kennedy depicts the need for family members to engage in open and honest communication with one another to overcome the effects of trauma. 
  • For example, in Ashes , Chris is only able to find closure by finally understanding the mindset off his parents through effective communication. His newly found ability to express his true emotions to his mother allows him to finally perceive the grief that was masked by her supposedly ‘cruel’ actions, and subsequently finally achieve a stable relationship with her. 
  • Kennedy also advocates for the exercise of empathy between family members in order to find harmony within dysfunction. 
  • This is apparent in Flexion , in which the seemingly emotionless protagonist and his wife undergo their respective journeys of expressing empathy for the other. As their marriage significantly improves due to their increased understanding of each other, Kennedy promotes the importance of vulnerability and openness within families. 

Beyond the Basics: 

How does Kennedy’s short story format add to the reader’s understanding of the themes uncovered in the novel? 

  • The range of diverse, Australian voices depicted in the anthology work to portray the vast spectrum of the human condition. 
  • The concise narrative present in each of the fifteen stories work to provide the readership with an extremely personal point of view that emphasises the emotions and mindset of the protagonist, furthering the sense of authorial empathy and compassion. 
  • It is through this almost voyeuristic advantage we subsequently possess as readers, that we are able to fully understand the depth of each character’s humanity and sense of identity, as well as the various struggles that follow the course of an individual’s life.
  • Kennedy’s ordering of the short stories also contributes to the reader’s depth of understanding. There is no apparent chronological order present in the collection, but rather a varied order of stories, depicting its diverse range of voices. For example, while the key themes and tones of the anthology remain consistent throughout, other factors such as age, gender and life experience of the protagonist vary in order to provide contrasting character viewpoints. 
  • As such, this variation in narrative voice allows Kennedy to present her stories as universal human experiences, emphasising the ubiquitous nature of the themes present in Like a House on Fire . 
  • Finally, the varied structure within each individual story lends an optimistic tone that underscores the entirety of Kennedy’s work. While some stories such as Flexion begin with the inciting event, others emphasise the chain of events that occur in leading up to the key event, as depicted in Ashes . As the undertones of hope and faith are present throughout the collection, the varied plot structure of each story allows Kennedy to assert that no matter the circumstance of hardship, one can always find a glimpse of optimism within its depths. 

If you'd like to see another essay topic breakdown, you might like to check out our Like a House on Fire Essay Topic Breakdown blog post!

4. Essay Topics

The following essay topics are extracted from our Like a House on Fire Study Guide :

  • In Like a House on Fire, Kennedy illustrates that perfect families do not exist, and that family dysfunction is inevitable. To what extent do you agree?
  • The characters in Like a House on Fire are largely defined by social expectations of their gender. Discuss.
  • In Like a House on Fire, how does Kennedy show that in even times of hardship, human strength will prevail?
  • ‘The range of narrative points of views used in Like a House on Fire illustrate the characters’ deeply personal responses to life’s challenges.’ Discuss.
  • ‘…As the lifetime habit of keeping his responses to himself closed his mouth in a firm and well-worn line.’ How does Kennedy present communication as a key issue in the relationships in Like a House on Fire?

If you'd like to see A+ essays on these essay topics, complete with annotations on HOW and WHY the essays achieved A+ so you can emulate this same success, then you'll definitely want to check out our Like a House on Fire Study Guide ! In it, we also cover advanced discussions on topics like authorial views and values, symbols and motifs and context completely broken down into easy-to-understand concepts so you can smash your next SAC or exam! Check it out here .

5. Resources

Download a PDF version of this blog for printing or offline use

Like a House on Fire Essay Topic Breakdown

How To Get An A+ On Your Like A House On Fire Essay

Close Analysis Of 'Cake' From Like A House On Fire

The Importance of the Introduction

We’ve explored historical context, themes, essay planning and essay topics over on our Like a House on Fire by Cate Kennedy blog post. If you need a quick refresher or you’re new to studying this text, I highly recommend checking it out!

‘Liz sits there helpless’

• From the beginning of the short story we can see that Liz isn’t, or doesn’t feel in control of her situation. The step by step process where she needs to ‘put the key in the ignition and turn it. Fire up the car and drive away’ showcases how the smallest details of starting the car, something that should be so simple instead requires immense mental effort on her behalf.

‘And he’s in there, alone, where she’s left him’.

• Her guilt bubbles to the surface here because it’s as though she’s the villain here, and she’s to blame for leaving him alone.

‘Abandoned him to a roomful of rampaging strangers’

• What’s really interesting here is her description of the other children. Instead of seeing this as an opportunity for Daniel to befriend others and have a great time, she describes them as ‘rampaging strangers’, giving us a sense that Daniel is subject to an unfamiliar environment that is wild, frenzied, rioting.

“Guerilla warfare”, “Jungle gym”, "seasoned commanders”

• These "fighter” phrases reveal Liz’s anxious mindset, as she imagines a world where her son is almost in the wilderness, every man for himself, as though it’s the survival of the fittest - and which Liz so fearfully express, “not that there’s going to be anybody with enough time to notice that Daniel needs help”, is not an environment where Daniel belongs.

“She digs in her bag for her lipstick, her fingers searching for the small cylinder, and pulls out a crayon, then a battery, then a tampon, then a gluestick.”

• Her everyday objects are splashed with Daniel’s belongings - the crayon, the gluestick, and demonstrate how intertwined her life is now with her child. This foreshadows her return to her pre-baby life - that things will not be the same.

“The smell of the place, that’s what throws her, the scent of it all, adult perfumes, air breathed out by computers and printers and photocopiers.”

• Even her sense of smell betrays her being away from Daniel. There’s a sense of alienation, of nausea that shows readers like us that Liz doesn’t feel like she belongs. This is in contrast to later in the story when she is reunited with Daniel and is comforted by ‘inhaling[ing] the scent of him again’.

“Same computer, same shiny worn spot on the space bar…"

• The repetition of ’same’ actually heightens how much has actually changed for Liz. Her entire world is now Daniel, whereas everything in the office is as it used to be. Therefore, there’s this sense that the people’s lives in the office remain unchanged, highlighting again Liz’s alienation.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, they’re right, of course they are.”

• This sarcastic internal monologue reflects Liz’s current state of mind, where she’s experiencing a disconnect from her coworkers, and ’the land of the living’.

"Delete, she presses. Punching the key like a bird pecking. Delete, delete, delete.”

• We can feel Liz’s exasperation at this stage. The simile ‘like a bird pecking’ automates Liz’s actions in the workplace, as though she is doing it by switching to a ‘mechanical form’ of herself. The repetition of ‘delete, delete, delete’ gives us the sense that she’s frustratingly attempting to ‘delete’ her self-acknowledged, perhaps over-the-top anxiety surrounding Daniel, or trying to delete herself out of her situation. Whichever is unclear and left up to interpretation. Perhaps both ring true.

‘Returning to work after maternity leave’

• Liz’s narrative interspersed with new mum’s pamphlet. The juxtaposition of the pamphlet’s words ‘being a stay-at-home mum can begin to seem mundane and repetitive’ is contrasted with Liz’s love of motherhood - she is at odds with what society tells her she should be feeling.

‘[Daniel]’d have his thumb in his mouth right now. Not smiling, that’s for sure.’

• There’s a self-projection of anxiety here with Liz  assuming that the childcarers are unable to look after Daniel properly, and that he’s suffering.

‘God, these endless extended moments where you’re left in limbo, the time dangling like a suspended toy on a piece of elastic.’

• This simile highlights how her mindset is completely consumed with Daniel, as she likens her daily experiences with objects and things related to Daniel and childhood. She struggles to switch between her identity as a mother, and her previous identity as a colleague in the workplace.

‘Caroline, Julie and Stella had laughed dutifully enough, but their faces had shown a kind of pained disappointment, something faintly aggrieved.’

• Perhaps this is Cate Kennedy's commentary on society and motherhood. The expectations others have on you as a new mother, and how you should be feeling.

‘He doesn’t run over when he sees her’.

• The opening of this chapter is blunt and brutal. Liz has longed to see Daniel all day, her anxiety getting the best of her, and yet at the moment of their reunion, it’s not as she expects. In this sense, we can to feel that Liz is very much alone in her anxiety and despair and, not the other way around with Daniel.

’She’s fighting a terrible nausea, feeling the sweat in the small of her back.’

• Unlike other stories in this collection, her pain isn’t because the absence of love, but because of its strength. Her love for Daniel is so intense that it’s physiological, making her unwell to have been away from him.

• The symbol of cake represents her pre-baby life, a time when she was concerned with the ‘account of Henderson’s’ and ‘delete fourth Excel column’. Her priorities have now shifted, and the celebrated ‘cake’ tradition in the workplace, one that is at the centre of several conversations, is no longer to significance to Liz. Her husband, Andrew’s attempt to celebrate Liz’s first day back at work with cake is highly ironic. The societal expectation that Liz is happy to be back at work even extends to her husband, and heightens how Liz is very much alone in her experience.

If you found this close analysis helpful, then you might want to check out our Like a House on Fire Study Guide where we analyse EVERY story in the text and pinpoint key quotes and symbols!

Watch our YouTube Video on Like A House On Fire Essay Topic and Body Paragraphs Breakdown

Like a House on Fire by Cate Kennedy

Have you ever wondered how you can read your books so efficiently that you will be able to identify the most important passages, quotes, symbols, author’s views and values etc. all in one go? Well, I’m going to share some handy tips you can adopt while annotating a novel that will hopefully help you achieve this. Warning – if you are a reader who likes to preserve their books and keep them crispy clean, this study guide probably isn’t for you. However, keep in mind that annotating texts is a powerful step in getting to know your text and optimising your essay responses.

Before we get started, what exactly is ‘annotating’? To annotate means to add notes to a text where you provide extra comments or explanations (usually in the margins of the book). It is very much an activity for yourself, because it allows you to become an  active reader –  where you are engaged in thinking about the plot, themes, characters etc. as you are reading and jotting down key thoughts. As a result, active readers are more likely to become immersed in the story, absorb the ideas better, be more open-minded and therefore usually develop their own unique interpretation of the text. While annotating may not come so naturally to some of you, this guide below should definitely equip you with a good starting ground!

1. Think of your text as a colouring book.  Use different coloured highlighters for different themes. This way when you’re rummaging through your book to find a certain quote to support a theme, say you specifically only highlight ‘romance’ theme in pink, it’s much easier for you to find the pink than to look through a whole book highlighted all in green. Think of it as creating a trail for you to follow throughout the book. Creating a legend at the start of the book (for example, in the contents page) can help you keep track of which colour stands for which theme.

2. Circle new vocabulary.  Look it up and then write their definitions next to the word. Next, keep a word bank in a workbook or on a word document containing any words you’ve learnt. Now you’ve successfully killed two stones with one bird –  you’ve broadened your vocabulary and you’ve got a handy sophisticated vocabulary list you can always refer to when it comes to essay writing!

3. Write notes in the margins.  Here you can summarise the significant points of a passage without needing to re-read the whole thing again. Use a pencil rather than pen. If you don’t like writing on paper, you can always use sticky notes and stick them to the pages. However, avoid writing full comprehensive notes in the margins. You’re not trying to write another book inside the empty sections of a book. Use a separate workbook or a word document for that!

4. Be open to different interpretations.  Just because your teacher or a study guide interprets the text in particular way, doesn’t mean that you need to agree. If you see things from a different angle, that’s an advantage for you. Remember that you can be ambiguous with your ideas, understanding a certain character or theme from multiple perspectives offers you a variety of ideas that can be applied in your essay. This idea is echoed by English assessors in the VCAA 2013 Examination Report,

…students should be encouraged to have confidence in their own reading and demonstrate a personal understanding of their text, rather than relying exclusively on commercially produced material. All texts are complex works of art with a wealth of opportunity for exploration. There is no ‘expected’ response to a topic, and the most successful pieces were those that were thoughtful and fresh.

5. Got burning questions that pop up?  Don’t dismiss what you don’t understand! Put down a question mark and do some research. The better you understand your text now, the greater understanding you will have of events that occur later in the text.

6. Mark literary devices.  Symbols, metaphors, alliteration, assonance – the list goes on. Use shapes such as circles, triangles, squares and create a legend in order to keep track of the different literary devices that present themselves throughout the text. Bear in mind that the best essays always include a well-rounded discussion about the author’s choices in literary techniques and how they develop specific themes and/or characters.

7. Dog-ear important passages . Some key passages can be lengthy (spreading over several pages), and it can be a pain to highlight pages and pages of a book (it might too much for your eyes to handle too – ouch!) so instead, fold the corners of those pages down so that you know exactly where that key event occurs.

8. Find unique phrases/quotes.  You’ll come across the same quotes that are repeatedly mentioned in class, study guides and essays that other students have written. To stand out, you should try to find those quotes that are equally powerful but are somewhat overlooked or underrated.

9. Annotate study notes and study guides.  These notes are written by another reader who has developed their own ideas about the text – this doesn’t mean that you necessarily have to share the same ideas as there is always opportunity to disagree with another’s opinion. Draw smiley faces or frowns in areas where you agree or disagree. This can be the basis of an interesting discussion in your own essay.

10. Don’t be afraid to destroy that book!  Yes, it’s nice to have a book crispy and clean, but think of annotating as a way to own that book! Show that you know the in and outs of the text so well that if someone else were to pick it up, they would have no idea where to even begin! Having proper notes in the right places and annotations will make the biggest difference.

Keep in mind that annotating does not equal skimming (where you briefly speed-read through your text). If you’re planning to only flick through the book, you are probably not going to find those unique passages or under-used yet powerful quotes. Take it slow and easy!

How can the context of a film be utilised to add complexity to an analysis?

Writing a film analysis can be daunting in comparison to analysing a written text. The task of dissecting a motion picture consisting of dialogue, camera shots and dialogic sound is challenging, but an understanding of a film’s social, cultural and political background can elevate your analysis from standard to spectacular. Thus, before analysing Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 thriller ‘Rear Window’, it is important to consider its cultural, political and social context:

Cultural Context

  • The Greenwich Village setting of ‘Rear Window’ is located in Lower West Manhattan, New York, and was known as America’s ‘bohemian capital’ during the 1950s, in which avant-garde artists freely explored unconventional lifestyles.
  • Hitchcock’s decision to use Greenwich Village as the backdrop of the film links its image of human suffering to the failed vision of American progressivist culture.
  • Despite acting as the main location of progressive culture, such as the beginning of the international gay rights movement, Greenwich Village was also the setting for the broken dreams of its eclectic residents.
  • This cyclical nature of hope and defeat can be observed in the film, as the audience can perceive the frustrated songwriter destroying his latest work, and Miss Lonely hearts desperately seeking true love in the seedy bars and gloomy alleyways of the ‘bohemian heaven’.
  • Additionally, it is this social radicalism of Jeff’s neighbours that provides the basis for his voyeuristic habits; by portraying their individual eccentricities though their respective apartment windows, Hitchcock offers to Jeff a range of human peculiarities, which he eagerly observes through his ‘portable keyhole’.

Political Context

  • ‘Rear Window’ encapsulates the rampant Mccarthyism, and subsequent suspicion, at the time of its release in 1954.
  • The fear of Communist influence in the USA led to heightened political repression from the government, and Americans could only prove their loyalty to the country only by offering others’ names to the government.
  • As such, Jeff’s insubstantial speculation about Thorwald murdering his bedridden wife is disturbingly reflective of the social strife in 1950s America, as thousands accused their neighbours for treason or subversion without concrete evidence.
  • Along with heightened political surveillance followed the allure of voyeurism; just as Jeff is contained to his wheelchair, and can merely gaze through his rear window into his wider world - the courtyard, so were Americans during the Cold War; expected to only ‘gaze’, and leave all the ‘involvement and engagement to the politicians’.

Social Context

  • The suburban setting of‘Rear Window’ reinforces the sense of confinement and suspicion rampant during the 1950s.
  • After WWII ended in 1952, millions of US soldiers returned to a multitude of suburban homes built using mass production techniques, all overwhelmingly close to another. The Greenwich Village of ‘Rear Window’ is an example of one of these suburbs.
  • The crowded Greenwich Village apartment complex of the film acts as an effective narrative device, as Hitchcock employs the physical proximity of the apartments to reinforce the overwhelming sense of voyeurism and paranoia amongst neighbours.

How to Analyse a Scene

The Film’s Opening Sequence:

As the blinds roll up to reveal the apartment complex, a medium shot of the wide-open windows of each apartment immediately convey to the audience an environment of an uncomfortable openness. However, despite this, the separation of each apartment by brick walls as a separate entity on its own serves as a symbol of the widespread suspicion characteristic of the McCarthyian era. Within the frame of the main window, the windows of each apartment act as mini frames within the big frame, multiplying the sense of voyeurism present in the shot.

things fall apart essay topics pdf

Although seemingly insignificant, the brown tabby cat that runs across the steps of Greenwich Village represents freedom and individual autonomy, later comparable to the character of Lisa in the film. The compounding sense of surveillance during the 1950s add more meaning to the freedom symbolised by the cat, which can then be contrasted to the suppressed independence of the protagonist, who is seen invalid in a wheelchair in the next shot:

things fall apart essay topics pdf

By this extreme close-up shot of Jeff sleeping in his wheelchair during the opening sequence, Hitchcock immediately places the viewer in an uncomfortable position as the original and ultimate voyeur, surpassing the intimate boundaries of the protagonist. The camera’s focus on the beads of sweat on Jeff’s forehead signify the intense heat of summer in Greenwich Village, confirmed by the following close up shot of 94F on the thermometer:

things fall apart essay topics pdf

The stifling temperature of the season foreshadows imminent tension about to unfold in the film, as does the following close-up shot:

things fall apart essay topics pdf

The slow panning from Jeff’s head to his broken left leg in a cast, in tandem with the ominous, epitaph-like words, ‘Here lie the broken bones of L.B Jefferies’, increase the impending sense of tragedy.

things fall apart essay topics pdf

Jeff’s profession as a photographer becomes gradually more evident, as the camera slowly pans from focusing on Jeff’s injury to around his room. This close shot of a destroyed, seemingly irreparable camera, literally reflects the cyclic nature of broken dreams characteristic of Greenwich Village, and also signifies that Jeff too has been hurt (literally) by radical pursuits in his progression. It is important to note that Jeff’s room is plain and lacks any decorative sophistication, establishing his character as a simple, ‘everyday’ American man.

things fall apart essay topics pdf

The only things adorning Jeff’s small room are his many photographs, all taken by himself. Despite varying in size and setting, they all share a single point of similarity; they all focus on sights of destruction, such as the race car crash or the remains of a volcanic eruption. The framed nature of these photographs signify Jeff’s appreciation for tragic devastation, establishing further doom in the film by lending a darker note to his voyeuristic tendencies.

things fall apart essay topics pdf

The last photograph the camera focuses on in the opening sequence is the picture taken by Jeff of an elegant woman, who bears a striking resemblance to Lisa.

things fall apart essay topics pdf

This image of ‘Lisa’ in the negative literally symbolises Jeff’s negative perception of his girlfriend Lisa at the beginning of the film. In contrast, the following shot of ‘Lisa’ in the ‘positive’ foreshadows the development of the film, as he begins to perceive Lisa as a possible life partner:

things fall apart essay topics pdf

Want to save this for later? Download a PDF version of this blog here .

Finding out that your school has selected to study a Shakespeare play as your section A text can be a pretty daunting prospect. If I’m honest, I wasn’t all too thrilled upon discovering this either...it seemed as though I now not only had to worry about analysing my text, but also understanding what Shakespeare was saying through all of his old-fashioned words. 

However, let’s not fret - in this post, I’ll share with you some Measure for Measure specific advice and tactics, alongside excerpts of an essay of mine as a reference. 

Before you start reading, How To Approach Shakespeare: A Guide To Studying Shakespeare is a must read for any student studying Shakespeare.

Historical Context 

Having a basic understanding of the historical context of the play is an integral part of developing your understanding of Measure for Measure (and is explored further in Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare ). For example, for prompts that open with “What does Shakespeare suggest about…?” or “How does Measure for Measure reflect Shakespeare’s ideas about…?” it can be really helpful to understand Shakespeare’s own position in society and how that influenced his writing. 

There’s no need to memorise certain parts of Shakespeare’s history - as that would serve no purpose - just try to gauge an understanding of what life was like in his time. Through understanding Shakespeare’s position in society, we are able to infer his stances on various characters/ideologies in the play. 

  • Measure for Measure is often regarded as an anti-Puritan satire. Although Shakespeare’s religion has been a subject of much debate and research, with many theories about his faith being brought forward, many believe that he was a secret Catholic. He is believed to be a ‘ secret’ Catholic, as he lived during the rise of the Puritans - those who wished to reform the Church of England and create more of a focus on Protestant teachings, as opposed to Catholic teachings. It was often difficult for Catholics to practice their faith at this time. 
  • Angelo and Isabella - particularly Angelo, are believed to embody puritanism, as shown through their excessive piety. By revealing Angelo to be “yet a devil,” though “angel on the outward side,” Shakespeare critiques Puritans, perhaps branding them as hypocritical or even unhuman; those “not born of man and woman.” Thus, we can assume that Shakespeare would take a similar stance to most of us - that Angelo wasn’t the greatest guy and that his excessive, unnatural and puritanical nature was more of a flaw than a virtue. 

Tips for Moving Past the Generic Examples/Evidence Found in the Play 

It’s important to try and stand out with your examples in your body paragraphs. If you’re writing the same, simple ideas as everyone else, it will be hard for VCAA assessors to reward you for that. Your ideas are the most important part of your essay because they show how well you’ve understood and analysed the text - which is what they are asking from you, it’s called an ‘analytical interpretation of a text,’ not ‘how many big words can you write in this essay.’ You can stand out in Measure for Measure by: 

1. Taking Note of Stage Directions and Structure of Speech

Many students tend to simply focus on the dialogue in the play, but stage directions can tell you so much about what Shakespeare was really trying to illustrate in his characters. 

  • For example, in his monologue, I would often reference how Angelo is alone on stage, appearing at his most uninhibited, with his self-interrogation revealing his internal struggle over his newfound lust for Isabella. I would also reference how Shakespeare’s choice of syntax and structure of speech reveal Angelo’s moral turmoil as he repetitively asks himself “what’s this?” indicating his confusion and disgust for his feelings which “unshapes” him. 
  • Isabella is shown to “[kneel]” by Mariana at the conclusion of the play, in order to ask for Angelo’s forgiveness. This detail is one that is easily missed, but it is an important one, as it is an obvious reference to Christianity, and symbolises Isabella’s return to her “gentle and fair” and “saint” like nature. 

2. Drawing Connections Between Characters - Analyse Their Similarities and Differences. 

Drawing these connections can be a useful way to incorporate other characters not necessarily mentioned in your prompt. For example, in my own English exam last year, I chose the prompt “ ...Power corrupts both Angelo and the Duke. Do you agree? ” and tried to pair Angelo and Isabella, in order to incorporate another character into my essay (so that my entire essay wasn’t just about two characters).

  • A favourite pair of mine to analyse together was Angelo and Isabella. Although at first glance they seem quite different, when you read into the text a little deeper you can find many similarities. For example, while Angelo lives alone in his garden, “succumbed by brick,” requiring “two keys” to enter, “nun,” Isabella, wishes to join the nuns of Saint Clare where she “must not speak with men” or “show [her] face.” Shakespeare’s depiction of the two, stresses their seclusion, piety and restriction from the “vice” plaguing Vienna. What’s important about this point is that you can alter your wording of it to fit various points that you may make. For example, you could use this example to prove to your assessor how Isabella’s alignment with Angelo signals Shakespeare’s condemnation of her excessive puritanical nature (as I did in my body paragraph below) or, you could use these same points to argue how Angelo was once indeed a virtuous man who was similar to the “saint” Isabella, and that it was the power that corrupted him (as you could argue in the 2019 prompt). 
  • Another great pair is the Duke and Angelo. Although they certainly are different in many ways, an interesting argument that I used frequently, was that they both were selfish characters who abused their power as men and as leaders in a patriarchal society. It is obvious where Angelo did this - through his cruel bribery of Isabella to “lay down the treasures of [her] body,” however the Duke’s behaviour is more subtle. The Duke’s proposal to Isabella at the conclusion of the play, as he asks her to “give [him her] hand,” in marriage, coincides with the revelation that Claudio is indeed alive. It appears that the Duke has orchestrated the timing of his proposal to most forcefully secure Isabella and in this sense, his abuse of power can be likened to Angelo’s “devilish” bribery. This is as, through Shakespeare’s depiction of Isabella, it is evident that she has little interest in marriage; she simply wishes to join a convent where she “must not speak with men,” as she lives a life of “strict restraint.” The Duke is aware of this, yet he demands Isabella to “be [his]”-  wishing to take her from her true desire and Shakespeare is able to elucidate Isabella’s distaste through her response to this: silence. By contrasting Isabella’s once powerful voice - her “speechless dialect” that can “move men” - with her silence in response to the Duke’s proposal, Shakespeare is able to convey the depth of the Duke’s selfishness and thus his similarity to Angelo.

We've got a character list for you in Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare (just scroll down to the Character section).

What’s important to realise about these bits of evidence is that you can use them in so many different prompts, provided that you tailor your wording to best answer the topic. For example, you could try fitting at least one of the above examples in these prompts: 

  • ‘Give me your hand and say you will be mine…’ The characters in ‘ Measure for Measure’ are more interested in taking than giving. Discuss. 
  • ‘More than our brother is our chastity.' Explore how Shakespeare presents Isabella's attitude to chastity throughout Measure for Measure .
  • ‘I have seen corruption boil …' To what extent does Shakespeare explore corruption in Measure for Measure , and by what means? 
  • ‘Measure or Measure presents a society in which women are denied power.’ Discuss.

How To Kick Start Your Essay with a Smashing Introduction

There’s no set way on how to write an introduction. Lots of people write them in many different ways and these can all do well! This is the best part about English - you don’t have to be writing like the person sitting next to you in order to get a good mark. I personally preferred writing short and sweet introductions, just because they were quick to write and easy to understand. 

For example, for the prompt...

“...women are frail too.” 

To what extent does ‘Measure for Measure’ examine the flaws of Isabella? 

...my topic sentences were...

  • Isabella is depicted as a moral, virtuous and pious woman, but it is this aspect of her nature that paradoxically aligns her with the “tyrannous” Angelo. 
  • Shakespeare explores the hypocrisy and corruption of Isabella as a flaw, as she deviates from her initially “gentle and fair” nature.
  • Despite exploring Isabella’s flaws to a large degree, Shakespeare does indeed present her redemption at the denouement of the play. 

...and my introduction was: 

William Shakespeare’s play, ‘Measure for Measure’ depicts a seventeenth century Viennese society in which disease, misconduct and licentiousness are rife. It is upon a backdrop of such ordeals that Shakespeare presents the character of Isabella, who is initially depicted as of stark contrast to the libertine populate of Vienna. To a considerable extent, ‘Measure for Measure’ does indeed examine the flaws of the “gentle and fair” Isabella, but Shakespeare suggests that perhaps she is not “saint” nor “devil,” rather that she is a human with her own flaws and with her own redeeming qualities. 

Instead of rewording my topic sentences, I touched on them more vaguely, because I knew that I wouldn’t get any ‘extra’ points for repeating them twice, essentially.  However, if you feel more confident in touching on your topic sentences more specifically - go ahead!! There are so many different ways to write an introduction! Do what works for you! 

Body Paragraphs 

This body paragraph included my pairing between Angelo and Isabella. My advice would be to continue to incorporate the language used in the prompt. In this paragraph, you can see me use the word “flaw” quite a bit, just in order to ensure that I’m actually answering the prompt , not a prompt that I have studied before. 

Isabella is depicted as a moral, virtuous and pious woman, but it is this aspect of her nature that paradoxically aligns her with the “tyrannous” Angelo. Where Angelo is “of ample grace and honour,” Isabella is “gentle and fair.” Where Angelo believes in “stricture and firm abstinence,” Isabella too believes that “most desire should meet the full blow of justice.” This similarity is enhanced by their seclusion from the lecherous society in which they reside. Angelo lives alone in his garden, “succumbed by brick,” requiring “two keys” to enter, whilst Isabella desires the life of a nun where she “must not speak with men” or “show [her] face.” This depiction of both Angelo and Isabella stresses their seclusion, piety and restriction from the “vice” that the libertine populate is drunk from. However, Shakespeare’s revelation that Angelo is “yet a devil” though “angel on the outward side,” is perhaps Shakespeare’s commentary on absolute stricture being yet a facade, a flaw even. Shakespeare presents Isabella’s chastity and piety as synonymous with her identity, which ultimately leaves her unable to differentiate between the two, as she states that she would “throw down [her] life,” for Claudio, yet maintains that “more than our brother is our chastity.” Though virtuous in a sense, she is cruel in another. Although at first glance, Shakespeare’s depiction of Isabella’s excessive puritanical nature appears to be her virtue, by aligning her with the “devil” that is Angelo, it appears that this is indeed her flaw. 

Conclude Your Essay by Dazzling Your Assessor!  

My main tip for a conclusion is to finish it off with a confident commentary of the entire piece and what you think that the author was trying to convey through their words (in relation to the topic). For example, in pretty much all of my essays, I would conclude with a sentence that referenced the entire play -  for example, how it appeared to be such a polarising play, with largely exaggerated, polarising characters/settings (eg. Angelo and the Duke, or the brothels that stood tall next to the monastery): 

Ultimately, Shakespeare’s play ‘Measure for Measure,’ depicts Isabella as a multifaceted character. She is not simply one thing - not simply good nor bad -  her character’s depiction continues to oscillate between the polar ends of the spectrum. Although yes, she does have flaws, so too does she have redeeming qualities. Though at times deceitful and hypocritical, she too is forgiving and gentle. Thus, as Shakespeare’s play, ‘Measure for Measure,’ does centre on polarising characters in a polarising setting, perhaps through his exploration of Isabella’s flaws alongside her virtues, he suggests that both the good and the bad inhabit us.

Measure for Measure is usually studied in the Australian curriculum under Area of Study 1 - Text Response. For a detailed guide on Text Response, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response .

Are you an EAL student worrying about the listening component of the new study design?

Are you worried? If you are, fear not, I am here to help!

Here are some extremely useful tips that I have acquired from completing both Japanese and Chinese listening exams. They are very applicable to the EAL exam and will hopefully make you feel more confident about this new component!

  • As EAL students we are allowed to bring bilingual dictionaries into the exam, TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THAT! You will be amazed at how useful your dictionary can be.
  • Use your reading time efficiently! Take a close look at your listening tracks’ questions! Search your dictionary for tricky vocabularies that are embedded in the question. Make each second count!
  • Look out for the key question words! If you spot “when” and “why” in the question, then you know for sure that you need to listen out for location and time!
  • Pay attention to the tone.
  • Take note of any adjectives, phrases and words that express the character’s (in the listening track) thoughts, feelings and concerns.
  • There is a space in the exam paper for you to take notes, USE THAT SPACE! Write down all the key information you can possibility hear from the track! According to the examiner’s report those students who wrote notes in the space provided tend to score much more higher than those who don't.
  • Don't waste time wondering what the track just played! Listen carefully for the next sentence, missing out on one piece of information is better than two!


Some of you out there might be thinking “Listening is easy! I just need to write down the correct answer, it's a piece of cake.” Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for EAL listening or any VCE Language listening SAC or exam. The VCAA examiners will look at the accuracy of your answer, grammar and spelling. They even look at how well you phrase your response!

If you are aiming for a perfect listening response you MUST take a look at my breakdown of the examiners’ marking criteria!

Marking Criteria

For the listening component of the exam/SAC the examiners (and your own teachers) will be marking your answers base on TWO main points

  • Your ability to understand and convey general and specific parts of the listening track
  • Your ability to convey information accurately and appropriately
  • Appropriateness of vocabulary
  • Accurate use of grammar, spelling and punctuation.

Are you feeling more confident for the VCE EAL Listening section with a couple of handy hints in your pocket? I hope you are! Give it a go, it is not as scary as you think!

1. Summary 2. Themes 3. Symbols and Analysis 4. Quotes 5. Sample Essay Topics 6. Essay Topic Breakdown

Alice Munro is a Canadian Nobel-Prize-winning author of short stories , and Runaway , first published in 2004, is a collection of eight such stories (though kind of actually only six, because three of them are sequential). These stories examine the lives of Canadian women throughout the last century, but not all of them are necessarily realistic to what daily life actually looks like. Rather, Munro uses borderline-supernatural events (which some critics say feel staged or contrived) to shed light on the tensions and challenge s of gender in modern life.

This can mean that some of the stories are quite hard to follow; they go through all these twists and turns, and the lines between stories start blurring after a while. Let’s go through each in a bit more detail before jumping into our analysis.

2. Story-by-Story Characters and Summary

The titular story is about a woman Carla , her husband Clark , their goat Flora , and their elderly neighbour Sylvia Jamieson . There are many runaways in the story: Carla ran away from her middle-class home to marry Clark, Flora the goat literally runs away, a scandalous lie about Sylvia’s late husband gets a bit out of hand, and now Sylvia is helping Carla run away once again, this time from Clark. Few of these runaways are really very successful: this story is really interrogating why and how.


The next three stories are sequential, and revolve around Juliet , a well-educated classicist who is working as a teacher in the first story, ‘Chance’ - it is set in 1965 and she is 21. In this story, she meets her lover Eric Porteous on a train, then finds him again six months later. Eric is sleeping around with a few women in light of his wife’s declining health and eventual passing, but by ‘Soon’ he and Juliet have settled down and had a baby together - Penelope .

‘Soon’ focuses more on the relationship between Juliet and her parents, in particular her mother Sara . Juliet feels a bit out of place now at home, and feels guilty about not being more present for Sara. In turn, ‘Silence’ depicts her own daughter running away from her. Juliet returns to her studies and only hears about Penelope’s life through a chance encounter with a friend who reveals that Penelope is now a mother herself.

The next story is about Grace , an older woman revising the family home of her husband Maury Travers . Their marriage never had a lot of passion in it really - Grace was always more interested in Maury’s family - but both of them were just doing what was expected of them. The contrast comes from Maury’s brother Neil , a doctor who accompanies Grace on a hospital trip when she cuts her foot. This trip becomes longer and more sensual, feeling adulterous even though very little actually transpires between them - the story raises questions around what counts as cheating, and what marriages should entail. 

‘Trespasses’ is slightly deliberately disorienting from the start (which is actually the end of the story). We go on a flashback in the middle to learn about a father, Harry , and his daughter Lauren . One day when moving house, Lauren finds a cardboard box - Harry explains that it contains the ashes of a dead baby who he and his wife Eileen (Lauren’s mother) had had before Lauren. This leads to Lauren questioning if she was adopted, which is further complicated by Delphine , a worker at a hotel who seems to think Lauren is her biological daughter. The ending (which was teased at the beginning) is the evening of confrontation between the four characters where the truth is finally revealed. 

Conversely, ‘Tricks’ has a more linear plot to follow. Robin is a carer for her asthmatic sister Joanne , but she’s taken to watching Shakespeare plays in the next town once a year. One year, she meets a European clockmaker Danilo who plans to meet her next year when she is back in town - but this doesn’t go to plan at all. It’s only 40 years later that Robin finds out Danilo had a twin brother, which is why the plan had gone downhill.

The last story in the collection is arguably the most complex, and it’s broken into 5 parts to reflect that complexity. It follows Nancy as she ages from a fresh high school graduate to an old woman by the end of the sequence, including her marriage to the town doctor Wilf . Importantly, the stories also cover her friendship with Tessa , who has the supernatural powers mentioned in the title. However, by the third story, Tessa has been abandoned in a mental hospital and she has lost her powers. Throughout the stories, we also see Ollie , Wilf’s cousin (or a figment of Nancy’s imagination according to this analysis), who seems to be responsible for Tessa’s demise.

Let’s start tracing some of the common themes between the stories.

A key theme explored throughout many of the stories is marriage and domesticity . There’s a strong sense that it’s an underwhelming experience : it doesn’t live up to expectations and it particularly dampens the lives of the women involved. Nancy’s marriage to Wilf in ‘Powers’ only happens because she feels guilty - 'I could hardly [turn him down] without landing us both in…embarrassment' - but, as a result, she loses her fun, intellectual streak as he tells her to put down her book, 'give Dante a rest'. A similar fate befalls Juliet, who gives up her study in the process of becoming married.

 Marriage is also sometimes explored as a deliberate choice , even if it might have unintended consequences - for example, Carla’s marriage to Clark is described as a life that she 'chose'. This interpretation is more unclear though, and is contradicted in other stories like Passion, where Grace’s marriage is described as 'acquiescence ', acceptance without protest. It’s even contradicted to some extent in the same story: Munro compares Carla’s marriage to a 'captive' situation, where she might’ve chosen to enter the marriage, but after that has little say in how it goes.

This sounds a bit trite, but the title is a key theme as well - just not necessarily in the physical sense . Consider all of these different definitions and how they pop up in the stories. In ‘Runaway’, Carla and the goat run away, but also the lie Carla tells Clark about Leon, a runaway lie that taints his relationship with Sylvia completely. Some runaways are described as accidents - 'she – Flora – slipped through' - while others are much more deliberate. The question here is how much control we actually have over our own lives . Not a lot, it would seem.

The other side of runaway/s is to think about who the victim in each runaway is. Does somebody run away because they are 'in a bad situation, the way it happens', a victim of circumstance , or do they run away because they feel guilty , or because they’re abandoning someone else, the true victim of being left behind? Carla does seem like more of a victim of circumstance with good reason to run away, but think about Nancy leaving Tessa behind in ‘Powers’: ‘“I’ll write to you”, she said…she never did.’

This question about who the real victim is might be the hardest to answer for ‘Silence’. Juliet’s daughter abandons her, but it’s not like there’s a strong history of positive mother-daughter relationships in their family: Juliet wasn’t able to give Sara what she needed ( 'she had not protected Sara') and in turn isn’t able to quite give Penelope what she needs either (Penelope having a 'hunger for the things that were not available to her in her home '). At the same time, Penelope’s abandonment does feel quite callous and inexplicable , even if Juliet feels like it’s what she deserves; Munro suggests at the end of the story that a reunion would be an 'undeserved blessing[]'. The intertextuality with Aethiopica reveals Juliet’s good intentions, her similarity to the 'great-hearted queen of Ethiopia', but it doesn’t quite give us the satisfaction of a neat resolution either.

Ethics and Morality

Finally, Munro’s stories also raise questions around morality . Besides what we’ve already covered - adultery, runaways - there are further questions raised around parenthood , particularly in ‘Trespasses’. Harry seems to share a bit too much information with his child, who really doesn’t need to know about the dead baby just yet. Lauren is 'not short of information', and it’s worth questioning where that boundary should be for a child of her age.

But not all ethical questions have simple answers : as in ‘Tricks’ they can sometimes just have 'outrageous', cruel punchlines that don’t reveal themselves for decades. Munro doesn’t necessarily have all the answers on this one. She brings up complex moral situations but does not pass judgment on any.

4. Symbols & Analysis

Greek elements.

Throughout the stories, Munro brings in a few elements of Greek mythology or literature . The intertextuality in ‘Silence’ is one example, drawing on the classical text Aethiopica , but there are a few more scattered throughout the stories: the constellations of Orion and Cassiopeia in ‘Chance’ and an oracle-like figure in Tessa, a main character in ‘Powers’. All of these elements have some significance:

  • Cassiopeia is known for her arrogance and vanity, which parallels with the way Juliet detaches herself from her life ('she had made herself into a rather superior, invulnerable observer' - despite her very real vulnerabilities)
  • Orion is known for his forbidden romance with the virgin goddess Artemis, which parallels with Eric’s romance with Juliet (Juliet being relatively inexperienced with men herself, with all of her experiences being 'fantasy')
  • Oracles in mythology are like mouthpieces of the gods who can prophesy about the future. They were often women, so oracles were unusually influential in their male-dominated societies. The question is whether this parallels with Tessa at all: even though she has these supernatural powers, are there other forms of power she might lack instead?

In general, intertextuality is a way to enrich a text by drawing parallels and linking characters to existing stories or archetypes. Here, Munro uses classical texts to add dimension to her characters in a way that is almost-but-not-quite commentary. Pre-existing Greek myths are a way for us to see what’s really going on .

(Rail)Roads and Transit

The other symbol that comes up a few times in the stories is roads or railroads - basically places where runaways might happen . ‘Chance’ is set in the middle of a train journey, ‘Tricks’ involves a couple of train journeys, ‘Runaway’ maps the roads leading in and out of Carla’s home, and almost all of ‘Passion’ takes place on the road. If we broaden ‘places where runaways might happen’ to include planes as well, then we can add ‘Powers’ and ‘Silence’ to the list.

All of these spaces are what might be called liminal - they’re ‘in-between’ spaces with an air of suspense about what can happen. It’s probably most prominent in ‘Passion’, where Grace describes the events of that road trip as a 'passage” in her life, both physically and metaphorically. In general though, they’re the settings where the wildest and most significant events tend to happen.

  • 'She—Flora—slipped through.'
  • 'She (referring to Carla) chose this life with Clark.'
  • 'She is just in a bad situation, the way it happens.'
  • 'She saw him as the architect of the life ahead of them, herself as the captive, her submission both proper and exquisite.'
  • 'She might be free.' - this is the second last line in the story. Note the ambiguity here (and through all these quotes, to be honest) about which ‘she’ is being referred to (Carla, Flora or even Sylvia)
  • 'Juliet was twenty-one years old and already the possessor of a B.A. and an M.A. in classics.'
  • 'The problem was that she was a girl. If she got married—which might happen…—she would waste all her hard work.'
  • 'She had made herself into a rather superior, invulnerable observer.'
  • '…the two of them (referring to Sara and Juliet) intertwined. And then abruptly, Juliet hadn’t wanted any more of it.'
  • 'But she had not protected Sara. When Sara had said, soon I’ll see Juliet , Juliet had found no reply. Could it not have been managed?…She had put everything away.'
  • Penelope supposedly had a 'hunger for the things that were not available to her in her home.'
  • 'Penelope does not have a use for me.'
  • 'She hopes as people who know better hope for undeserved blessings, spontaneous remissions, things of that sort.'
  • Grace, watching a movie with Maury, felt 'rage…because that was what girls were supposed to be like. That’s what men - people, everybody - thought they should be like. Beautiful, treasured, spoiled, selfish, pea-brained. That was what a girl should be, to be fallen in love with.'
  • 'It was not in her nature, of course, to be so openly dumbfounded, so worshipful, as he was.'
  • 'Describing this passage, this change in her life, later on, Grace might say - she did say - that it was as if a gate had clanged shut behind her. But at the time there was no clang - acquiescence simply rippled through her.'
  • Lauren 'had been brought up to believe that children and adults could be on equal terms with each other.'
  • 'How could she be sure that they had not got her as a replacement? If there was one big thing she hadn’t known about, why could there not be another?'
  • 'Forgive us our trespasses' - note the ambiguity of ‘trespasses’ (does it mean sins as in the prayer, or overstepping boundaries, or both?)
  • 'Some of the best-looking, best-turned-out women in town are those who did not marry.'
  • 'A means to an end, those tricks are supposed to be.'
  • 'I couldn’t stand for the poor man (referring to Wilf) to have had two girls turn him down’
  • 'I used to have a feeling something really unusual would occur in my life, and it would be important to have recorded everything. Was that just a feeling?'
  • 'She could be upset to see you leave without her. So I’ll give you an opportunity just to slip away.'
  • 'He has nearly forgotten that he ever believed in her powers, he is now only anxious for her and for himself, that their counterfeit should work well.'

Having great quotes is one thing, but you also want to make sure you know How To Embed Quotes in Your Essay Like a Boss !

6. Sample Essay Topics

  • What does Runaway teach us about romance?
  • Carla, Grace and Tessa are more similar than different in terms of their relationships with the men in their lives. Do you agree?
  • How does Munro contrast younger and older women in Runaway ?
  • What does the setting contribute to the overall effect of Runaway ?
  • 'Forgive us our trespasses.' What types of boundaries are created and overstepped in Runaway ?

7. Essay Topic Breakdown

Whenever you get a new essay topic, you can use LSG’s THINK and EXECUTE strategy , a technique to help you write better VCE essays. This essay topic breakdown will give you a brief glimpse on the THINK part of the strategy. If you’re unfamiliar with this strategy, then check it out in How To Write A Killer Text Response .

‘Forgive us our trespasses.’ What types of boundaries are created and overstepped in Runaway ?

Step 1: Analyse

This quote is from ‘Trespasses’ and captures the double meaning of the word as both overstepping physical boundaries and sinning in the moral or religious sense . It’s likely we’ll want to talk about both interpretations - physically trespassing but also encroaching on boundaries in immoral ways. Note that the prompt also includes the action words ‘created’ and ‘overstepped’, meaning that there’ll be a pretty diverse range of examples that we’ll need to use to answer this prompt comprehensively.

Step 2: Brainstorm

Let’s start with physical boundaries : Carla’s marriage and the fences on her property and the US-Canada border in ‘Powers’ come to mind. Then, we’ve got non-physical boundaries: emotionally as in ‘Chance’ and ethically as in ‘Trespasses’. This is where we start getting into whether these boundaries are created or overstepped .

Clark creates boundaries for Carla and her attempts to break free from them are unsuccessful. The border in ‘Powers’ is more of an excuse for Nancy to neglect Tessa, a boundary she creates and never makes the effort to overstep. Finally, the ethical boundaries in ‘Trespasses’ are overstepped from the get-go. How can we synthesise these ideas into one essay?

Step 3: Create a Plan

I think the trick with questions like this is not to just allocate different types of boundaries and/or different action words to each paragraph. Try to think of creative ways to string these ideas together that also build towards a bigger picture or overall contention about the text as a whole. This example plan explores physical and emotional boundaries but makes a bigger argument that they are often associated with regret in Munro’s stories.

‍ Paragraph 1 : Physical boundaries are both the most intentional and the most difficult to overstep.

  • Carla’s farmstead is isolated and bordered by roads; her marriage to Clark and her life on this farmstead is likened to a 'captive' situation, with Clark being the 'architect' of it all
  • Munro ends Runaway on a pessimistic note about Carla’s ability to leave this boundary: 'She might be free'
  • International borders also constitute physical barriers, and these are used by Nancy in ‘Powers’ to avoid responsibility; because this is an active decision (‘“I’ll write to you”, she said…she never did.’), it’s a barrier that never really gets broken. Similar to Penelope in ‘Silence’

Paragraph 2 : Munro’s stories, however, focus more on emotional boundaries , and the way these are applied varies greatly. This variation underscores their complexity .

  • Emotional boundaries when created can prevent intimacy: Juliet 'ma[kes] herself into a rather superior, invulnerable observer' so as to avoid commitment. These boundaries come back to bite when she has a daughter
  • Conversely, they cause a great deal of harm when overstepped: for example, ‘Trespasses’ sees 'crazy and dangerous' adults toy with the life of a child, constantly assuming that she 'can take it' when in fact this is not the case

Paragraph 3 : Regardless, Munro’s characters often come to regret the boundaries they erect or overstep.

  • Carla’s ambivalence about her marriage is tinged with regret either way: when she’s there, she wants to escape, and when she escapes, she questions if she has 'anything left in [her]'
  • Juliet reflects on the boundaries she puts up between herself and Penelope and realises that 'spontaneous remissions' between them are undeserved and impossible
  • In ‘Powers’, Nancy struggles with the guilt of abandoning Tessa: many years later, she still wants to 'open [the past] up' and understand her motives. However, it is too late, and the boundaries are already there
  • Munro does not suggest that boundaries are inherently good or bad, but her stories show how they can be sources of regret when treated improperly

Runaway is usually studied in the Australian curriculum under Area of Study 1 - Creative Response. Check out Audrey's blog on how to approach Runaway as a Creative Response for more.

For a detailed guide on Creative Response as a whole, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Creative Writing .

Get exclusive weekly advice from Lisa, only available via email.

Power-up your learning with free essay topics, downloadable word banks, and updates on the latest VCE strategies.

latest articles

Check out our latest thought leadership on enterprise innovation., developing interpretations sac guide: interpreting alias grace.

things fall apart essay topics pdf

Why Genre Matters in VCE Literature: An Analysis of Dracula

Reckoning & the namesake: quote analysis by theme.

things fall apart essay topics pdf

Keep in touch

Have questions? Get in touch with us here - we usually reply in 24 business hours.

Unfortunately, we won't be able to answer any emails here requesting personal help with your study or homework here!

things fall apart essay topics pdf

Copyright © Lisa's Study Guides. All Rights Reserved. The VCAA does not endorse and is not affiliated with Lisa's Study Guides or vcestudyguides.com. The VCAA provides the only official, up to date versions of VCAA publications and information about courses including the VCE. VCE® is a registered trademark of the VCAA.

03 9028 5603 Call us: Monday to Friday between 3pm - 6pm or leave us a message and we'll call you back! Address: Level 2 Little Collins St Melbourne 3000 VIC

Academia.edu no longer supports Internet Explorer.

To browse Academia.edu and the wider internet faster and more securely, please take a few seconds to  upgrade your browser .

Enter the email address you signed up with and we'll email you a reset link.

  • We're Hiring!
  • Help Center

paper cover thumbnail

Things Fall Apart Theme Essay

Profile image of Txawjntse Vang

2019, Things Fall Apart Theme Essay

Here's one of the essays I wrote in 10th grade... Just doing giveaways for mono Help me grow on this bihhhhhhhh....

Related Papers

Affonso kristeva

things fall apart essay topics pdf

Andy Ukpong

The African people have varying behaviours, mannerisms, beliefs, thought patterns and way of interaction and all of these differences formed their culture and impacted their way of life. However, with the coming of the Europeans to Africa came cultural infiltration, pollution as well as alteration. This research analyses Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart (1958) from the angle of masculinity and culture clash (traditional vs. western) as brought about by westernisation. The method of investigation is analytical and descriptive, using the formalist approach: that is looking at the actions, events, sentences and interactions of the characters in order to identify and discuss how males are portrayed, paying attention to issues of cultural realism, behaviours, actions and statements of the characters. The findings of the research confirmed that African viewpoint of masculinity and culture tends to be opposed to that of the Europeans, as the actions and behaviours appropriate to a man in each society tend to differ. This led to different clashes from religious, cultural, ideological, to social beliefs. The research reached the conclusion that cultural clashes exist in the work and contributed to the final play-out of the story, where the traditional belief system had to make way for western ones; making things (cultural beliefs) fall apart. The research reveals that the male characters have both cultural and individual masculine idiosyncrasies and that the complexities of male roles confirm the pluralistic and slippery nature of masculinity.

Mukunda Kandel

D'Angelo Jovaughn Jenkins

Adegbite Tobalase

The African people are a unique race, different in colour, behaviour, mannerism, beliefs, thought patterns and way of interaction; all of these formed their culture and way of life. However, with the coming of the Europeans to Africa came cultural infiltration, pollution as well as alteration. This research analyses Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart from the angle of masculinity and culture clash (traditional vs. western) as brought about by westernisation. The African viewpoint of masculinity and culture tends to contrast that of the European, as the actions and behaviours appropriate to a man in each society tend to differ. This led to different clashes from religious, cultural, ideological, to social beliefs. The research reached the conclusion that cultural clashes exist in the work and contributed to the final play-out of the story, where the traditional belief system had to make way for western ones, making things (cultural beliefs) to fall apart.

Suhair Fuaad Hajo

A first reading of the novel reveals the fact that what fall apart in Things fall apart are Igbo’s cultures and traditions. Accordingly a lot of readings have been done on the novel with almost similar disclosures; considering it as a postcolonial novel and as Achebe’s response to the white racism embedded in European literature, which presented Africa as a primitive and socially retrograde nation. Hence, reading Things Fall Apart from a new and distinct perspective with the aid of trances from reader response criticism, this study aims to answer the question of; what really falls apart (in Things Fall Apart) and how? Through a close and transactional reading of the novel this study demonstrates that Igbo’s culture and religion didn’t fall apart but changed and in fact, what falls apart in Things Fall Apart is Okonkwo, the protagonist of the novel. By studying and comparing his conducts, before and after killing Ikemefona it reveals that his mortal sin parts him beyond the limits of his cultural conventions, in the process of gaining his individual purposes, which later leads to his downfall.

Elisabeth Horan

In Chinua Achebe's masterpiece of the destructive forces of colonial conquest in Africa, "Things Fall Apart", Okonkwo is driven to control his family and achieve power through fear and violence; using his masculinity to destroy any signs of femininity in his sons. Ironically, in the end, Okonkwo is reduced to a feminine status by the British colonizers that overthrow his power with fear and violence as well, leaving him stripped of power and his masculinity - transformed into what he feared most: of becoming effeminate and powerless like a woman and like his father -who he resented and was ashamed of.


Zara Bilimoria

Mary J. N. Okolie

Mary J . N . Okolie

Neza Jean d'Amour

Purwarno Purwarno

Journal of Nigeria English Studies Association

Ignatius Chukwumah

Academic paper

Jean Damascene Ngendahayo

alex kangentu

Christopher Anyokwu

Research in African Literature (RAL) 45(2) pp.168-183

Françoise I Ugochukwu


Gabriel Bazimaziki

IOSR Journals publish within 3 days

And the Centre Refuses to Hold: Homage to Things Fall Apart @ 60

Amechi Akwanya

Sherezade Afanador Jiménez

Ámel Màdridistà

Damian Opata

Mani Bharathi

Okike: An African Journal of New Writing

Prof Edward Owusu

Andrew M Mbuvi

Emma Arogundade

shamal nerway

Vidhya Rajan

Niyi Akingbe


Module on African Literature

Tsegaye Abie

Sherry mohamed

Zahra Sadeghi

IJELLH Volume 7, Issue 2,


Belkacem Belmekki

Toufiq Alam

International Journal of Linguistics, Literature and Translation (IJLLT)

Akinola Monday

Philosophia Africana

Laura Kunreuther


  •   We're Hiring!
  •   Help Center
  • Find new research papers in:
  • Health Sciences
  • Earth Sciences
  • Cognitive Science
  • Mathematics
  • Computer Science
  • Academia ©2023


  1. History Essay: Essay on things fall apart

    things fall apart essay topics pdf

  2. things fall apart pdf

    things fall apart essay topics pdf

  3. (PDF) Things Fall Apart Theme Essay

    things fall apart essay topics pdf

  4. Things Fall Apart-post colonialism and Globalization essay

    things fall apart essay topics pdf

  5. Essay about Imperialism in Things Fall Apart, Thesis by Chinua

    things fall apart essay topics pdf

  6. things fall apart essay

    things fall apart essay topics pdf


  1. Things Fall Apart Chapter 20 full audio book

  2. Things Fall Apart as a postcolonial novel

  3. Things fall apart, by Chinua Achebe: Part 1, Chapter 1

  4. Things Fall Apart 💔 in summary by Chinua Achebe #youtubeshorts #shorts #learning

  5. Things Fall Apart Chapter 1 full audio book

  6. Things Fall Apart Novel by Chinua Achebe Plot wise Summary, Critical Analysis, Themes, Writing Style


  1. What Is a Literary Essay?

    A literary essay is a short, non-fiction composition that covers virtually any literary topic imaginable. Many modern literary essays are quite long with thousands of words.

  2. What Are Examples of Subtopics in an Essay?

    The subtopic of an essay is a topic that supports the main topic of the essay and helps to bolster its credibility. An example of a subtopic in an essay about transitioning to a new school might be difficulty making new friends or learning ...

  3. How Long Is a 200 Word Essay?

    An essay containing 200 words is limited in length, requiring between three and five paragraphs depending on the sentence structure and vocabulary used. An essay is a short piece of writing about a particular topic.

  4. Things Fall Apart Essay Prompts

    Things Fall Apart Essay Prompts. Remember: Your essay should focus on analysis-not plot summary. Though you will need to refer to

  5. Suggested Essay Topics

    Suggested Essay Topics · 1. Think about the role of weather in the novel. · 2. Women suffer great losses in this novel but also, in certain circumstances, hold

  6. Summer essay

    ▷ Clear topic - deconstruct the prompt. ▷ Understanding what you are writing about is vital to writing a good introduction and essay. 3. Page 4. Introduction

  7. 117 Things Fall Apart Essay Topic Ideas & Examples

    ⭐ Good Research Topics about Things Fall Apart · Culture and Humanity: “Things Fall Apart” and “The Gods Must Be Crazy” · Achebe's “Things Fall

  8. Study Help Essay Questions

    1. Why did Achebe choose to take the title of his novel, Things Fall Apart, from William Butler Yeats' poem "The Second Coming"? 2.

  9. Things Fall Apart

    Sample Essay Topics · 1. "Things Fall Apart demonstrates how the values and customs of a society help us to deal with the familiar but not with change." Discuss.

  10. Things Fall Apart Essential Questions

    Last names which start with letters M-Z will complete this part for topic sets 5-8. *Students will compose an in-class essay in response to a

  11. The WordSmith Prompts http://www.litworks.com 1 Please ensure

    How does Chinua Achebe, in Things Fall Apart, help us to 'reinhabit the past'? 4. How far have novelists you have studied developed a sense of community in

  12. 10 Smart Topics for Your Things Fall Apart Analysis

    Explore a Theme in Your Essay · Topic #2: Discuss the theme of tradition versus change in the novel · Topic #3: Describe how the theme of

  13. (PDF) Things Fall Apart Theme Essay

    These are the questions we ask each other and other people when we are betrayed by our culture. In the novel, Okonkwo has many responsibilities from being a

  14. Things Fall Apart Journal Topics Answers

    ≡Essays on Things Fall. Apart. Free Examples of Research ...Things fall apart is a catastrophe novel composed by Chinua Achebe. Okonkwo, who is