Things Fall Apart | Study Guide

Chinua Achebe

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Course Hero, "Things Fall Apart Study Guide," July 28, 2016, accessed July 16, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Things-Fall-Apart/.

Things Fall Apart | Part 1, Chapter 5 | Summary

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Summary

Now it is time for the Feast of the New Yam. The celebration includes giving thanks to the earth goddess, feasting with relatives, and enjoying the great wrestling match. "Men and women, young and old, looked forward to the New Yam Festival," the narrator says.

Okonkwo is happier working and does not enjoy feasts. Still, he hosts his large family and insists everything be prepared properly. His second wife, Ekwefi, bears the brunt of his foul mood as he finds a reason to beat her. He then nearly kills her when she mocks his poor aim as a hunter. He shoots at her with his gun but misses.

Ekwefi particularly enjoys the festival's wrestling contest. Each year the contest reminds her of the time long ago when she fell in love with Okonkwo. He had won the match—and her heart—in "the greatest contest within living memory." Although they did not marry then, she later left her husband to become Okonkwo's wife.

Ezinma, Ekwefi's daughter, calls her mother by her first name. The two converse as if they are equals. Okonkwo is especially fond of Ezinma but rarely shows it.

Analysis

This chapter paints a picture of one of Umuofia's most important festivals, the Feast of the New Yam. Held just prior to the yam harvest, the festival is a time of relative inactivity for Igbo men.

Okonkwo, however, cannot cope with idleness. Nervous energy builds and explodes when he finds an outlet in beating Ekwefi. Wife beating is tolerated in his culture. Once again the actions motivated by Okonkwo's anger do not put him in conflict as long as he is in balance with Igbo traditions.

Readers learn more about Ekwefi in this chapter. In leaving her husband to become Okonkwo's wife, she shows an independence and desire that is unique among the women of Umuofia. Her daughter, Ezinma, has similar traits and is also beautiful like her mother.

The chapter is the first to mention guns, a symbol of Western culture. Okonkwo's inexperience with handling a gun will present a conflict for him later in the novel as well.

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