Chike’s School Days


Chinua Achebe

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Chike’s School Days Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Chinua Achebe's Chike’s School Days. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Chinua Achebe

Chinua Achebe was born in the Igbo village of Ogidi, Nigeria. In his youth, he always excelled at school, and eventually won a scholarship to study medicine at the University of Ibadan. However, he switched to English literature while in college, and soon after began to write short stories, many of which took as their theme traditional African spiritualities. Things Fall Apart, his most well-known novel, was published in 1958 to international acclaim. In addition to writing, Achebe also worked as a reporter. He supported and served as an ambassador for Biafra during the 1967-1970 war for Biafran independence from Nigeria. He tried to enter politics but was disappointed by the level of corruption and elitism he discovered in the system. In the 1970s, he moved to the United States, where he worked as a professor of literature at Bard College and then as a professor of Africana studies at Brown University.
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Historical Context of Chike’s School Days

“Chike’s School Days” takes place around the same time that Achebe himself was growing up—the beginning stages of the British occupation of Nigeria. The story relates the ways in which various characters navigate the imposition of this new culture onto their way of life, either by adopting that culture or resisting it. At the historical moment when Achebe wrote the story, postcolonial literature was becoming an internationally recognized genre. Writers and intellectuals alike were grappling with themes such as colonialism and resistance in their work, and this cultural environment likely contributed to Achebe’s choice of subject matter. 

Other Books Related to Chike’s School Days

As an example of postcolonial literature, “Chike’s School Days” thematically relates to Achebe’s canonical novel, Things Fall Apart. Both narratives center on the destruction of local African cultures at the hands of the British. The key difference between the two is that “Chike’s School Days” starts at the beginning, so to speak, examining the ways in which colonial influence affected children, whereas Things Fall Apart explores the impact of British oppression on Igbo adults. Another book by Achebe that is deeply related to “Chike’s School Days” is Chike and the River, which also follows the character of Chike as he navigates school for the first time. Achebe wrote Chike and the River in order to provide African schoolchildren with a book whose protagonist is a young boy who shares their cultural background.  Also relevant is Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, which also explores the ways in which colonial oppression affects children growing up. Another important theme in Rushdie’s novel is the power and meaning of names, a concept that Achebe engages with at the very beginning of “Chike’s School Days.” Finally, The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver addresses similar themes as “Chike’s School Days,” but from the opposite angle. In The Poisonwood Bible, a white missionary family living in the Congo struggles to reconcile their faith and values with those of the local people. While the family set out to convert the villagers to Christianity, strong resistance among the locals renders this mission impossible, and as Congo gains its independence while the family is on their mission, the political situation becomes dangerous for foreigners. In a way, The Poisonwood Bible and “Chike’s School Days” bookend the narrative of colonial influence on the African continent: Achebe’s story presents the beginning of colonialism as a form of violence to local traditions, and Kingsolver’s novel illustrates the end of colonialism and liberation of local peoples as a threat to colonial families. 
Key Facts about Chike’s School Days
  • Full Title: Chike’s School Days
  • When Written: 1960
  • Where Written: Nigeria
  • When Published: 1972
  • Literary Period: Postmodern; Postcolonial
  • Genre: Short Story
  • Setting: A small Igbo village in in early 20th-century colonial Nigeria
  • Climax: The schoolteacher describes the “explosive mechanism” of seed dispersal to Chike’s class.
  • Antagonist: British colonialism
  • Point of View: Third Person

Extra Credit for Chike’s School Days

It Runs in the Family. Like the narrator, Chike, Chinua Achebe was part of the first generation among his family to be raised Christian rather than within the traditional Igbo religion. However, as a young adult, Achebe became fascinated with forms of African spirituality, and his studies heavily influenced his writing.

Not a One-Hit Wonder. Chike is also the protagonist of Chike and the River, a children’s book by Achebe that he wrote to address his concerns about the understanding his children would develop about race, as they studied in mostly white schools in Lagos.