Things Fall Apart | Study Guide

Chinua Achebe

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Things Fall Apart | Part 1, Chapter 7 | Summary

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Summary

After three years in Okonkwo's household, Ikemefuna has become like an elder brother to Nwoye. Okonkwo is pleased by the impact Ikemefuna has on Nwoye. He wants his son to "grow into a tough young man capable of ruling his father's household." Nwoye grumbles about women when they ask him to do chores, even though he is happy to prove himself. Okonkwo is glad to see this attitude because a male clan member is "not really a man" if he does not control his women and children.

In his hut, Okonkwo tells the boys violent, bloody stories. Nwoye prefers his mother's stories, which have a moral, but he stays with his father to please him.

While Okonkwo and the boys are working together, locusts descend and settle everywhere. Locusts rarely appear, and they are looked upon as a delicacy. Ezeudu, a fearless old warrior, stops by as Okonkwo and the boys are eating locusts. Privately, he reports to Okonkwo that the Oracle has ordered the clan to kill Ikemefuna. He cautions Okonkwo not to play a role in this because the boy "calls you his father."

Ikemefuna is told he is being taken home. While walking through the forest with Okonkwo and the men, Ikemefuna feels uneasy. However, he is comforted by the fact that Okonkwo is there. When the men strike Ikemefuna with their machetes, he calls out to Okonkwo, who goes to him and strikes the final blow.

Upon Okonkwo's return home, his family realizes what has happened. Nwoye is devastated. Thinking about Ikemefuna's fate, he recalls a memory of the Evil Forest. He heard the cry of twins who were left in the forest to die, and something inside him "had given way." Okonkwo's return from Ikemefuna's execution gives Nwoye the same feeling.

Analysis

This chapter depicts the transformation that Ikemefuna's presence has caused in Okonkwo's family. Ikemefuna has become a role model for Nwoye in a way that Okonkwo has never been, and his influence helps the younger boy mature. Nwoye has become more masculine, which pleases Okonkwo and brings the two of them closer. Earlier in the novel, Ikemefuna was described as a sacrifice and "ill-fated." That foreshadowing of Ikemefuna's fate has now come to fruition.

The locusts' arrival and reception foreshadow the missionaries' incursion in Chapter 15, where the metaphor of white men as locusts is introduced. When locusts appear in Chapter 7, it is as though a "shadow fell on the world, and the sun seemed hidden behind a thick cloud." The locusts cause darkness. There's a contrast between the darkness that announces the locusts' arrival and the joy people have in seeing and eating them.

Okonkwo's fear of being viewed as weak forces him into an action he regrets: participating in Ikemefuna's murder. Despite not being able to look when the initial blow is struck, Okonkwo strikes the final blow because he is "afraid of being thought weak." His true weakness—an excessive concern with how others see him—overrides his affection for his adopted son.

The chapter ends on an ominous note and foreshadows a deeper change in Nwoye.

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