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Things Fall Apart

by Chinua Achebe

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How does Okonkwo demonstrate his fondness for Ikemefuna?  

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In Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo is very guarded about displaying his affection for Ikemefuna. Despite his best efforts, however, Okonkwo demonstrates his fondness for the young man in subtle ways. More specifically, Okonkwo allows Ikemefuna to partake in duties that are typically reserved for a son. Indeed, over the three years that Ikemefuna resides in Okonkwo's household, the two develop a father-son bond:

"Even Okonkwo himself became very fond of the boy-- inwardly of course. Okonkwo never showed any emotion openly, unless it be the emotion of anger.... But there was no doubt that he liked the boy. Sometimes when he went to big village meetings or communal ancestral feasts he allowed Ikemefuna to accompany him, like a son, carrying his stool and his goat-skin bag" (28).

Oknonkwo attempts to veil his affection for Ikemefuna, but as their relationship progresses it becomes more and more obvious that the two share a bond. Indeed, in many ways, Ikemefuna is the son that Okonkwo wishes that Nwoye could be; Ikemefuna is well-regarded within the family, and he considers Okonkwo to be more of a father-figure than his own father.

The point in the novel in which it is most obvious that Okonkwo is emotionally attached to Ikemefuna comes after he has taken part in killing the young man. Okonkwo slays the boy in order to demonstrate his "manliness" to his peers, but is later deeply affected by his participation in the killing:

"He did not sleep at night. He tried not to think about Ikemefuna, but the more he tried the more he thought about him. Once, he got up from bed and walked about his compound. But he was so weak that his legs could hardly carry him" (63).

Even though Okonkwo attempts to maintain his staunch, authoritative facade, his fatherly bond with Ikemefuna is obvious at various points in the text.

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