Things Fall Apart | Study Guide

Chinua Achebe

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Things Fall Apart | Character Analysis

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Okonkwo

Okonkwo is a man who values masculinity, strength, and respect above all else. He is seen as a leader within his clan and his family, which includes three wives and a number of children. A man of action, Okonkwo overcomes his poor background and achieves great success. Unoka, Okonkwo's father, was lazy and a poor provider, and Okonkwo is driven to be everything his father was not. Okonkwo's rigidity causes great harm, first within his family—the killing of Ikemefuna and the rift with Nwoye—and then within society. Okonkwo is unable to adapt when the white man/missionaries come to his village. He commits suicide rather than adhere to the rules of the changed society.

Unoka

Unoka is viewed by Okonkwo and the clan as lazy, although he was also a gifted musician and a gentle man. Rather than working, Unoka preferred to play his flute and drink wine. He was seen as a coward because he was afraid of war. He had poor harvests because he was unwilling to put in the effort to care for the land. When Unoka died, he was in debt to all of his neighbors.Okonkwo cannot see his father's good qualities and hates him. He lives his life with the intention of avoiding anything his father enjoyed.

Ikemefuna

Ikemefuna comes to the clan as a form of payment for a murder that one of his tribesmen committed. The elders place Ikemefuna with Okonkwo, who puts his first wife in charge of the boy. Ikemefuna misses his family but comes to feel at home in Umuofia. He becomes popular within the family, particularly with Okonkwo's oldest son, Nwoye. Okonkwo is also fond of Ikemefuna, though he does not reveal his feelings and eventually participates in Ikemefuna's murder.

Nwoye

Nwoye seems to have adopted some of Unoka's traits, which upsets Okonkwo. Okonkwo worries that Nwoye will grow up behaving as his grandfather behaved. Because of his concern, Okonkwo is even harder on Nwoye and beats him regularly. Nwoye begins to change under the influence of Ikemefuna. When Ikemefuna is killed, Nwoye retreats into himself and is cut off from his father. With the arrival of the missionaries, Nwoye revives. He breaks away from his father and becomes a Christian convert.

Ekwefi

Ekwefi is Okonkwo's second wife. Ekwefi was attracted to Okonkwo when she saw him defeat Amalinze the Cat in wrestling. She could not marry him because he was too poor. After he achieves success, she leaves her husband and goes to Okonkwo, who takes her in with no questions.She is particularly close with her only child, Ezinma. After losing nine children, Ekwefi was a broken woman. When Ezinma lived beyond infancy, Ekwefi rejoiced. She treats her daughter more like an equal than a child. The loss of children has also created a connection to Okonkwo, who accepts behaviors from her that he does not from his other wives. He shows her more care and concern.

Ezinma

Ezinma is the only child of Okonkwo's second wife, Ekwefi. She is particularly close to her mother. Okonkwo also favors Ezinma. He feels a connection to her and appreciates her boldness. Her behaviors and attitude make Okonkwo wish she were a boy. Ezinma feels a similar fondness for her father.

Obierika

Obierika is the closest thing Okonkwo has to a confidant. Like Okonkwo, he has achieved status within the clan. He has multiple wives and children. He marries off one daughter, and his son is a wrestling champion. When Okonkwo is forced to leave Umuofia, Obierika cares for his land and property.Unlike Okonkwo, Obierika is more nuanced in his thinking and is able to express himself. He rebukes Okonkwo for participating in the murder of Ikemefuna, tells him to have patience with his children, and cautions him about the power of the missionaries. When Okonkwo dies, Obierika speaks up on his behalf and calls him a great man.

Questions for Characters

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