Comparing and Contrasting Abraham and Okonkwo's Sacrificial Acts

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SWBAT analyze how C. Achebe transforms the Biblical story of Abraham and Isaac by comparing and contrasting Abraham and Okonkwo's sacrifice of their sons.

Big Idea

Students explore the complexities of faith and the responsibility of fatherhood.

Let's Get Started: Abraham and Isaac, What do You Know?

10 minutes

Today's class will focus on literary allusion, specifically the use of the Biblical story of Abraham and Isaac in Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.  

First I ask students to define allusion on their own on paper. I call on a couple of students to share their answers, then I put a standard definition of allusion on the smart-board.  "

  • An allusion is a reference in a literary work to a person, place, or thing in history or another work of literature. Allusions are often indirect of brief references to well-known characters or events. 

Next, I explain that we are going to talk about scripture or passages from the Bible and Torah. We will look at religious text as literature.  The goal is to analyze the story and identify the connection the story has to Things Fall Apart(RL 9-10. 9).  

I ask the students to respond to the following question aloud, "Who are Abraham and Isaac? What is their story?"

I take volunteers to share their responses. Then, in the next section of the lesson, students will read the relevant section of the Bible. 

Building Knowledge: Abraham and Issac a Biblical Allusion

20 minutes

I pass out the reading on the sacrifice of Isaac (RL 9-10.9).  There are two questions before the story.

What does it mean to sacrifice? 

Why are sacrifices necessary?

I want students to think about the concept of sacrifice before we read the text. We read the text out loud as a class.  I give them 10 minutes to re-read answer answer four questions about the text.  I tell them they can discuss the text and the questions with their table mates (SL.9-10.1), however each student has to write an original answer (W.9-10.10). 

Now it is time discuss the text, using the questions to guide the discussion.  

1.  What does God tell Abraham to do?  Why does God want him to do it?   

2.  What does Isaac ask his father about the sacrifice?  Do you think Isaac understands his role in the sacrifice?

3.  What does the Angel say to Abraham about the sacrifice?  And what does the Angel promise Abraham? 

4.  Yeats claims that “Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world”.  Is the story of the sacrifice of Isaac an example or anarchy or order?  Explain your answer.  

5.  How are the sacrifice asked of Abraham and Okonkwo similar and how are they difference?

I want to bring into focus the second part of question three: What does the Angel promise Abraham?  Abraham's loyalty to God is rewarded with prosperity for his descendants.  I want the students to be able to contrast Okonkwo's experience in question five.  He is told not to participate in the sacrifice but does anyway. Ultimately, the death of Ikemefuna is the beginning of Okonkwo's fall from esteem in his village.  




Building Knowledge: The Sacrifice of Ikmefuna

20 minutes

Now, we will transition from the sacrifice of Isaac to chapters 4, 5, 6, and 7 of Things Fall Apart.  

First, I ask, How well did Ikemefuna assimilate into the village and Okonkwo"s home?

After the students share their answer, I tell them to get out their homework.  The homework will guide our class discussion (RL.9-10.1 and SL.9.10.1). 

  • 1. How do you think the following people feel about the death of Ikemefuna? Use evidence from the text to support your answer.
  • a. Okonkwo  b. Nwoye    c. other members of the clan in Umuofia
  • 2. Do you agree or disagree with this statement: Okonkwo would lose the respect of his community if he did not participate in the death of Ikemefuna. Agree Disagree  Use evidence from the text to support your answer. 
  • 3. The killing of Ikemefuna violates western cultural norms and values. Consider our common cultural practices associated with crime and punishment, what western practice would the clan in Umuofia view as a violation of cultural norms or values? Give a detailed explanation of your answer.

I assign different groups to answer different parts of the questions. I give them about 5 minutes to prepare and then each group will report out.

Next I ask them to consider Chinua Achebe's seven purposes for writing we wrote on giant post-its. The class inferred these purposes from the New York Times obituary for Chinua Achebe.  I ask them if their have read any evidence to support any of the purposes.  I give them a few minutes to discuss it in their groups.  I go around to each group and ask them to share an their example and then write it on the post-it under the correct purpose. 

Applying Knowledge: Writing Letters like Isaac and Nwoye

30 minutes

The last section on the sacrifice of Isaac is a writing prompt.  

  • Imagine you are Isaac or Nwoye (chose one).  On a separate sheet of paper, write a letter to your father.  Explain your thoughts and feelings on sacrifice—for Nwoye, make sure to consider the Igbo community, culture, and its traditions.  

 I want students to write a narrative in the form of a letter. Before the begin writing, I ask them to consider what information needs to be in the letter.  I write their responses on the white board.  Next, I ask them, what impact can the order you share the information in the letter have on your audience? Students need to consider the sequence of the narrative and how that sequence influences the audiences engagement with the text (W 9-10. 3c).

In order to connect with the audience and the text, students have to place themselves in a cultural context other than their own (RL 9-10.6).  They will make inferences about the character and the cultural context in order to develop the narrative. 

Once I have answered all the questions about the prompt and the sequencing of the letter.  I give the class time to write.  I remind them that they need to make references to the appropriate text.    

Closing: Writing Share and Homework

10 minutes

With about 10 minutes remaining in the class, I ask the students to share their letters with their neighbors to get some feedback.  I direct the partners to give verbal feedback on the cultural context, sequencing of information, and characterization.  

If time remains, I will ask for volunteers to share what they have written so far with the class.  

Students will finish the letter for homework.