Review and Analysis on Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart"

This is a chapter by chapter summation of the book “Things fall apart, as well as an analysis on key plot points. The chapter titles are not present in the book, but they summarize the content of the chapter. Feel free to use however.

Chapter 1: A Brief Telling of Okonkwo’s Past

This chapter mainly focuses on the history of the protagonist, Okonkwo. It introduces him as a man who built himself up from nothing, and shows his many good traits, in comparison to his Father.

“Okonkwo was well known throughout the nine villages and beyond. His fame rested on solid personal achievements.” PG 1

This quote shows the focus on Okonkwo’s fame and hints at this past achievements and history.

Chapter 2: Ikemefuna and the Virgin

This Chapter revolves around the dramatic series of events that eventually lead to Ikemefuna coming to live with Okonkwo. Ikemefuna was presented as compensation, along with a young girl, for the murder of a member of the clan by another clan.

“And so for three years Ikemefuna lived in Okonkwo’s household.” PG 10

The quote embodies the theme of the chapter: Ikemefuna coming to live with Okonkwo’s family.

Chapter 3: Okonkwo’s Hard Beginnings

This chapter is centered around Okonkwo’s first year planting yams on his farm. The first year was a very bad one for planting, and the narrator recounts Okonkwo’s misfortune and despair.

“The year that Okonkwo took eight hundred seed yams from Nwakibie was the worst year in living memory.” PG 19

This quote personifies the feel of the chapter, by clearly stating that Okonkwo by no means had an easy time starting his own life.

Chapter 4: The Week of Peace

The Week of Peace is this chapter’s main focus, and also the story of how Okonkwo violated it by beating his wife.

“It was the first time for many years that a man had broken the sacred peace.” PG 26

The quote shows how unusual and taboo it was for a man to break tradition during the Week of Peace.

Chapter 5: Before the Feast of the New Yam

This chapter builds towards the highly anticipated Feast of the New Yam, a great celebration in the village.

“The Feast of the New Yam was approaching and the village was in a festival mood.” PG 31

The quote explains how the village was anticipating the great feast, and the general mood of the clan.

Chapter 6: Ezinma and the Wrestling Match

Ezinma, the favorite daughter of Okonkwo, makes her first appearance in this chapter. The chapter also includes the wrestling match that takes place for the Feast of the New Yam. Another main point was Okonkwo almost killing his third wife by shooting his gun at her.

“Who will wrestle for our village? Okafo will wrestle for our village.” PG 44

The quote names Okafo, the winner of the wrestling match during the Feast of the New Yam. Okafo threw his opponent in a climactic final scene of the chapter.

Chapter 7: Okonkwo Murders Ikemefuna

The chapter starts on a good note with the arrival of the locusts, which are good to eat. It turns bad shortly thereafter, when Okonkwo is informed that Ikemefuna must die. In the end, it is Okonkwo himself who slays his adopted son.

“That boy calls you father. Do not bear a hand in his death” PG 49

Here, Obierika warns Okonkwo not to kill Ikemefuna, because the boy sees Okonkwo as a father. Okonkwo, however, does not heed this warning, because he thinks he will be viewed as weak if he does.

Chapter 8: Depression

After Okonkwo murders his adoptive son, he oddly sinks into a depressed state. He does not eat, drink, or sleep for many days. Finally, after visiting to his friend, Okonkwo starts to feel better.

“Okonkwo did not taste any food for two days after the death of Ikemefuna.” PG 55

Okonkwo became very distraught after killing his adopted son, and this quote shows that feeling.

Chapter 9: Ezinma Almost Dies

Ezinma is apparently afflicted with a curse known as an ogbanje, or “Wicked Child”. It is an evil spirit who haunts a woman’s womb and kills all of her children shortly after they are born. The Oracle believes Ezinma is now dying as a result of the ogbanje.

“Ezinma is dying” PG 66

This quote shows a mother’s distress over the sickness and near death of her child. It personifies the spirit of the chapter.

Chapter 10: The Egwugwu

The egwugwu are village men who impersonate spirits and administer justice. The women and children fear the egwugwu, even though they suspect they are only the village men.

“Each of the nine egwugwu represented a village of the clan.” PG 78

The egwugwu are spiritual arbiters of the clan, and the quote implies their dominance over each village.

Chapter 11: The Cunning Tortoise

The chapter begins with a folktale about a cunning tortoise that takes advantage of his friends, the birds, and later is betrayed by them because of his greed. Later in the chapter, the Oracle takes Ezinma back to her cave, and Okonkwo and his youngest wife share a bonding moment as they follow their daughter.

“Tortoise’s wife sent for him and gathered all the bits of shell and stuck them together.” PG 88

The chapter includes the folk tale about the greedy Tortoise, and how in the end he was punished for his greed. The quote is from the end of the tale.

Chapter 12: Ezinma and the Uri

Ezinma is returned, healthy and safe, back to her hut. Okonkwo was up all night, traveling back and forth between the Oracle cave and his house, very worried about his favorite daughter. Later, Obierika’s daughter’s uri (betrothal ceremony) is held.

“We are giving you our daughter today. She will be a good wife to you.” PG 103

Okonkwo’s friend Obierika is giving his daughter away for marriage during a ceremony called an ‘uri’. This quote is from the ending of the ceremony.

Chapter 13: Okonkwo Kills Again

A village elder dies, and Okonkwo attends his elaborate funereal. At the funereal, Okonkwo’s gun fires off randomly, and kills a fellow clansman. Because of this, Okonkwo and his family is sentenced to seven years of exile.

Chapter 14: The Motherland

Okonkwo arrives in his motherland, where he is received warmly by his kinsmen. They help him establish a new farm, but Okonkwo is not very enthusiastic. He is distraught over the fact that he has lost the chance to ever become a clan lord in his Fatherland.

Chapter 15: Obierika’s Visit

Obierika visits Okonkwo to give him some of the money from the sale of Okonkwo’s yams. Obierika also tells of the town Abame, which was destroyed by a white man on “an iron horse” (a bicycle). Here Achebe foreshadows Okonkwo’s own demise.

Chapter 16: Nwoye’s Choice

Obierika returns, telling about the unsettling turn of events back home. The white missionaries have arrived in both the motherland and the fatherland. Their arrival is very controversial, and Okonkwo refuses to talk about his son Nwoye, who has shamed his father by associating with the missionaries.

Chapter 17: The ‘Evil’ Forest

The missionaries request a plot of land to build a church on. The village elders appoint them real estate in the Evil Forest. The missionaries gladly accept the land, and the elders are confident that the forest will drive them away. To their dismay, it does not. Nwoye returns to his father’s home for a short period, in which Okonkwo chokes him by the neck. Nwoye then leaves for a white man’s school to learn to read and write.

Chapter 18: The Church Grows

Through the course of the chapter, the reader learns about many additions to the church. Most of them are from title-less, worthless men and outcasts. The village decides to ostracize the Church for a crime committed by a member, but soon thereafter they remove the ostracism.

Chapter 19: The Exile Ends

After seven years in exile, Okonkwo can finally return to his fatherland. He prepares a feast for his kinsmen to show his thanks for their hospitality and generosity over the last seven years.

Chapter 20: The Warrior’s Return

Okonkwo returns to his clan, but is greatly dismayed by the feminization of his once fierce and warlike clansmen. The Church has undermined most of the clan’s beliefs and customs. Okonkwo talks with Obierika and they discuss the deterioration of their once mighty clan.

Chapter 21: Mr. Brown

Much of the clan does not think the church is a bad thing. The head missionary, Mr. Brown, has set up trading posts, a hospital and a school. The clan has become a more affluent, prosperous place because of the Church. Okonkwo still hates everything about the church and its followers, and is still focused on returning to his prior lofty status.

Chapter 22: Smith

The benevolent Mr. Brown becomes ill, and is replaced by the strict, no-nonsense Reverend James Smith. Relations with Smith rapidly deteriorate until a point where the clansmen burn the church down. At the end of the chapter, Okonkwo feels very pleased with the way things turned out.

Chapter 23: Jumped

The District Commissioner requests a council with some clan leaders to discuss the burning of the church. The clansmen comply, expecting to discuss the problem as equals with the commissioner. When they arrive however, they are jumped by soldiers and thrown in jail. A bail of 250 cowries is posted for their release.

Chapter 24: The Turning Point

After the imprisoned clansmen return, a meeting is held to decide on a course of action for the nine tribes. During the meeting, messengers arrive to break apart the gathering. Okonkwo immediately kills one of the messengers. The other clansmen react to Okonkwo’s action with surprise and the meeting is concluded. Okonkwo realizes his clan will not go to war, and so he returns home.

Chapter 25: The Pacification of the Lower Niger

In the final chapter, Okonkwo kills himself because he cannot conform to the way his clan has evolved. They refuse to go to war against the white man, and so Okonkwo refuses to live. The District Commissioner discovers Okonkwo hung from a tree, and decides to add it to his book.

Proverb Analysis

“If a child washed his hands he could eat with kings.” PG 8

In simple terms, this proverb states that age is not a prerequisite for greatness. Greatness can be achieved at a young age as long as the young person has shed the immaturity associated with In today’s world, young men become billionaires before they turn 30. Others join the armed services, and others still become politicians. Age is not an impediment when it comes to success. Determination and perseverance toward a goal, as well as education determine whether one is successful or not. I believe that age does not matter when greatness is determined. If I worked hard enough at something, and set a goal, and then accomplished that goal, I could be renowned for something I did.

“The sun will shine on those who stand before it shines on those who kneel under them.” PG 8

Simply put, fortune favors the accomplished, those who work hard, and those who lead. This is in reference to the great lords of the clan, and how fortune comes with the position of superiority. This is true in today’s world as well. Fortune favors the rich, it favors the powerful, and the accomplished, those with the means to make things happen for themselves. All others receive less in terms of easy passage in life.

Although many people may say it is unfair that rich get preferential treatment in many cases, I believe, for the most part, if someone claws their way to the top, they can rightfully take a comfortable seat once they’ve made it there.

Epigraphs on Three sections of the work

Achebe has divided his work, titled Things Fall Apart, into three parts, each with a distinct redirection of the plotline occurring within it. The first part consists of the introduction of Okonkwo, the protagonist, and many aspects of his village and lifestyle. Achebe moves into the second part of the story directly after Okonkwo is exiled from his village for accidentally killing a clan-mate. This part focuses on Okonkwo’s life in his Motherland, and the dramatic change in African society resulting from European colonial influence. Finally, the third section of the story revolves around Okonkwo’s return to his homeland, and his adaptation (or lack thereof) to the radically new clan society.

In the first part of Things Fall Apart, the reader is introduced to a tribal African society, and becomes familiar with many customs and traditions the native people follow. The story loosely follows the life of Okonkwo, a self-made man who has struggled throughout his life to shed the shroud of shame inherited from his lazy father. We learn Okonkwo is a strong willed man, and very hard working, but also very hot tempered, and prone to bouts of rage toward his family members. The plot continues, until an anticlimactic turning point where Okonkwo accidentally kills another member of the clan and is exiled for 7 years. This is the point where Achebe begins to turn the storyline towards the decline of the traditional lifestyle and society, and the rise of the Church in tribal life. After this one small event, Okonkwo has lost much of his life’s work aimed toward becoming a great clan leader.

When Okonkwo arrived at his Motherland, where he must spend the next 7 years, he is warmly welcomed by his extended family. Despite this, Okonkwo feels very frustrated on account of losing all of his progress towards becoming a clan lord. Achebe emphasizes how Okonkwo plans out his return to his homeland, while at the same time describing the growing influence the church has on the African tribal lifestyle and society. The author also focuses on Okonkwo’s personal battle with the Church. Achebe shows how the Church is able to influence Okonkwo’s older son, Nwoye, into joining them, and then later into attending one of their schools. This causes Okonkwo a good deal of distress, and eventually he gives up on his son as an effeminate weakling. This is the first of many events where the Church is a direct contributor to Okonkwo losing a part of his status and influence. Achebe continues with this theme going into part three.

Part three is the final struggle between the new way of life the colonial Church system has influenced, and the traditional society represented by the tragic hero, Okonkwo. In the concluding scene of the story, Okonkwo struggles to reestablish himself in a dramatically changed society in his homeland. The Church has become a permanent fixture in tribal society, and it grows stronger as more and more tribes-people are enticed by the gentler and more prosperous lifestyle. Okonkwo scorns his people for becoming ‘weak and effeminate’ and letting the Church become such a fixture in the once ‘fierce and mighty’ clan. Achebe finishes the story with a spiral of events that lead Okonkwo to two choices: Either he can accept the Church and adapt to the modern society, or he can cease to be. The protagonist chooses the latter, and the story ends having shown the course of events that led to the ‘Falling Apart’ of the traditional African society. Achebe very clearly defined each part of his story up until the conclusion in this manner.

Epigraph 1:

“Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value.” – Albert Einstein

This quote summarizes Okonkwo’s goal to become as successful as possible during the first part of the book. In the process, he did not learn good values which would have been the keys to his success. He ended up as an angry, intolerant man who was dissatisfied with society.

Epigraph 2:

“Life is like stepping onto a boat which is about to sail out to sea and sink.” – Shunryu Suzuki Roshi

The above quote personifies Okonkwo’s frustration and helplessness after the events that led to his exile. Okonkwo gave up hope on achieving his life’s greatest goals, and through this, he lost his way.

Epigraph 3:

“If you're being bullied, suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”—Elizabeth Harris Burch

In the end of Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo cannot adapt to his changing environment, and so he ends his own life. The quote makes the point that suicide was not the best choice available, even though it seemed as if all hope was lost.

Okonkwo's Obituary

Ukonkwo son of Unoka

Ukonkwo, age approximately fifty, of Umofia, Nigeria, died sometime during the mid-19th century. Ukonkwo died most likely as a result of suffocation. That suffocation was caused by the thick rope strung around his neck. It should also probably noted that the rope’s other end was tied to a tree. He is survived by his three wives and numerous children, including his son Nwoye, who hates him. He is preceded in death by his adopted son, Ikemfuna, whom he also killed. He is also survived by his friend Obierika. He was an accomplished man in Umofia, winning many wrestling matches, and displaying valor in war, until he was exiled for murder of a young clan-mate. He should be remembered as a brave, wise, and strong man, but not as a compassionate one.

Works Cited

Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. Austin: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, [1995]. Print.

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