Things Fall Apart Questions and Answers
by Chinua Achebe

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How can you contrast Nwoye and Ikemefuna from Things Fall Apart?  

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Ikemefuna is a fifteen-year-old boy from Mbaino, who is given as a sacrifice to Umuofia. Okonkwo becomes Ikemefuna's guardian, and the boy becomes part of Okonkwo's family. Achebe writes that Ikemefuna is a likable, enthusiastic young boy, who gets along well with Okonkwo's family. Ikemefuna is skilled in making traps, identifying wildlife, and engaging in masculine activities. Okonkwo comes to favor Ikemefuna over his own son and hopes that Ikemefuna will be a positive influence on Nwoye. Okonkwo appreciates Ikemefuna's active nature and secretly admires the boy because he is afraid to show affection.

Unlike Ikemefuna, Nwoye is a sensitive boy who does not excel in physical activities. Nwoye enjoys hearing his mother tell stories and reminds Okonkwo of his father, Unoka. Okonkwo wishes that Nwoye was more aggressive, physically talented, and competitive. Following Ikemefuna's death, Nwoye ends up joining the Christian church and Okonkwo essentially disowns his son.

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bmadnick eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Ikemefuna becomes the son Okwonko wants Nwoye to be. He comes to live with Okwonko from another tribe as a peace offering, and Ikemefuna quickly adjusts to his new surroundings. He participates in all of the village's activities and knows so much about so many things. He's well-liked, and Okwonko hopes Nwoye will learn how to be a good son by watching Ikemefuna. Ikemefuna enjoys doing all of the things Okwonko and the other men do, and he gives great joy to Okwonko.

Nwoye is nothing like Ikemefuna, and he enjoys his mother's company much more than his father's. Nwoye isn't into all the male traditions and activities of the village, and Okwonko is afraid he's going to be like Okwonko's father and embarrass him. Okwonko had to work very hard to undo the damage his father had caused to the family's reputation. His father was considered lazy, and Okwonko wanted to be sure that no one  felt Okwonko was like his father. Nwoye even questions some of the ways of the tribe, and this is not acceptable at all. He's beaten by Okwonko for his "laziness", and this makes Nwoye pull even further away from the males of the village, especially his father. When Ikemefuna does come, he is good for Nwoye because Nwoye respects him. Because of this, Nwoye does try to spend more time with the men and participate in the male activities. After Ikemefuna's death, Nwoye is devastated.

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