Study Guide

Things Fall Apart

by Chinua Achebe

Things Fall Apart Quotes

Essential Quotes

Essential Quotes by Character: Okonkwo

Essential Passage 1: Chapter 1

Okonkwo was well known throughout the nine villages and even beyond. His fame rested on solid personal achievements. As a young man of eighteen he had brought honor to his village by throwing Amalinze the Cat. Amalinze was the great wrestler who for seven years was unbeaten, from Umuofia to Mbaino. He was called the Cat because his back would never touch the earth. It was this man that Okonkwo threw in a fight which the old men agreed was one of the fiercest since the founder of their town engaged a spirit of the wild for seven days and seven nights.

Summary
Okonkwo, the protagonist of the story, is a prominent member of the Igbo tribe in Nigeria in the 1890s, prior to the widespread control of Great Britain, the colonial power of the time. He is a man of action rather than reflection. His fame is centered on his strength, especially his physical strength. From an early age, he has shown himself proficient in the art of wrestling, which is of great importance in the villages of Umuofia. Defeating the most prominent wrestler in the area, Okonkwo gains a reputation as one of the finest men in the area, and he has great hopes to prosper even more. In a culture where courage is exhibited through physical prowess, Okonkwo has few peers. As long as action is required, Okonkwo can be counted on to lead the way. This allows him to acquire titles, three wives, a successful farm, and a place among the leaders of the community.

Essential Passage 2: Chapter 14

Okonkwo and his family worked very hard to plant a new farm. But it was like beginning life anew without the vigor and enthusiasm of youth, like learning to become left-handed in old age. Work no longer had for him the pleasure it used to have, and when there was no work to do he sat in a silent half-sleep.

His life had been ruled by a great passion—to become one of the lords of the clan. That had been his life-spring. And he had all but achieved it. Then everything had been broken. He had been cast out of his clan like a fish onto a dry, sandy beach, panting. Clearly his personal god or chi was not made for great things. A man could not rise beyond the destiny of his chi. The saying of the elders was not true—that if a man said yea his chi also affirmed. Here was a man whose chi said nay despite his own affirmation.

Summary
Okonkwo accidentally killed the son of one of the clan members, when his gun explodes and a piece of the metal pierces the youth’s heart. Because it was an accident, Okonkwo is punished to seven years’ exile to his mother’s homeland. His home is destroyed, and Okonkwo and his family leave with only a few of his possessions. In his new home, Okonkwo tries to start over from scratch. He begins a new farm, but he no longer enjoys work as he used to. Before, he was working toward becoming one of the lords of the clan, and he had come close to succeeding. He had accumulated two titles and many yams. However, now that he is in exile, his plans have been dashed. Okonkwo begins to doubt the teachings and traditions of his elders. Okonkwo does not believe that his chi will respond positively to his work and efforts. His faith in his gods begins to slip.

Essential Passage 3: Chapter 25

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(The entire section is 1404 words.)

Essential Quotes by Theme: Pride

Essential Passage 1: Chapter 1

When Unoka died he had taken no title at all and he was heavily in debt. Any wonder then that his son Okonkwo was ashamed of him? Fortunately, among these people a man was judged according to his worth and not according to the worth of his father. Okonkwo was clearly cut out for great things. He was still young but he had won fame as the greatest wrestler in the nine villages. He was a wealthy farmer and had two barns full of yams, and had just married his third wife. To crown it all he had taken two titles and had shown incredible prowess in two inter-tribal wars. And so although Okonkwo was still young, he was already one of the greatest men of his time. Age was respected among his people, but achievement was revered. As the elders said, if a child washed his hands he could eat with kings. Okonkwo had clearly washed his hand and so he ate with kings and elders.

Summary
Okonkwo is a man of “solid achievements,” based on his physical strength and ability to grow and harvest an abundance of yams (a sign of individual wealth among the Igbo). He had great reason to be proud of his achievements, and even more so when contrasted with those of his father. Unoka was the exact opposite of his son. He had taken no titles (which resulted in increased status in the clan); he was also heavily in debt. Unoka was a laughing stock among the nine villages. Yet his son bore none of the weaknesses that debased his father. Through Okonkwo’s hard work, he gained wealth, yet Unoka’s laziness brought shame to his son. With a full barn and a full home, Okonkwo displayed himself as a man of property. He had not one barn but two. He had just acquired his third wife. His skill in battle also brought him honor. Even though he was young, he had become a leader in the community and seemed destined for greatness. It is through his achievements, not through his age, that Okonkwo is revered among the Igbo people.

Essential Passage 2: Chapter 8

“Nwoye is old enough to impregnate a woman. At his age I was already fending for myself. No, my friend, he is not too young. A chick that will grow into a cock can be spotted the very day it hatches. I have done my best to make Nwoye grow into a man, but there is too much of his mother in him.”

“Too much of his grandfather,” Obierika thought, but he did not say it. The same thought also came to Okonkwo’s mind. But he had long learned how to lay that ghost. Whenever the thought of his father’s weakness and failure troubled him he expelled it by thinking about his own strength and success. And so he did now. His mind went to his latest show of manliness.

Summary
Okonkwo takes great pride in his place in the clan. He is known for his strength and courage. Yet his oldest son, Nwoye, is nothing like him. He is lazy, resisting the level of commitment to work that his father has. He is weak, Okonkwo stating that “a bowl of pounded yams can throw him in a wrestling match.” Okonkwo sees similar weakness in his other two boys. It is only in his daughter Ezinma that he can see some of those traits which brought him so much renown. His friend, Obierika, tries to calm his fears, stating that the children are still very young and...

(The entire section is 1388 words.)