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Things Fall Apart

by Chinua Achebe

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In Things Fall Apart, in what significant ways is Okonkwo affected by his time in exile? Make sure to include in your discussion the advice Okonkwo is given by Uchendu.

Okonkwo's exile has filled him with remorse, grief, and shame. He is no longer the confident, arrogant man he once was and struggles to cope with depression. Okonkwo has lost his titles and everything he has earned in Umuofia, which is extremely devastating and disheartening. Okonkwo's uncle Unchendu advises him to maintain a pleasant disposition and encourages him to be thankful for his mother's kinsmen.

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After Okonkwo accidentally kills Ezeudu's son's during a chaotic funeral ritual, he and his family are banished from Umuofia for seven years and exiled to his mother's homeland of Mbanta. Okonkwo's uncle Uchendu greets him, and Uchendu's five sons give Okonkwo a large number of seed yams to establish his farm. Despite Unchendu's hospitality and benevolence, Okonkwo remains depressed and struggles to accept the reality of his situation. Okonkwo's primary goal in life was to attain the most titles in his tribe and achieve a revered status among his peers. Tragically, Okonkwo lost his two titles and was forced to leave Umuofia in shame. Achebe writes,

Okonkwo had yielded to despair and he was greatly troubled. (103)

Unchendu recognizes that Okonkwo is grief-stricken and asks him why the Igbo say "Nneka," which means "Mother is Supreme." Unchendu proceeds to tell Okonkwo that when times are good, a man belongs to his fatherland. However, a man comes home to his motherland in order to seek solace and protection during difficult times, which is why they say "Mother is Supreme." Unchendu then warns Okonkwo to not "displease the dead" and says that he has an obligation to comfort his family and kinsmen. Unchendu also provides Okonkwo insight into his situation by stating that he is more fortunate than he thinks, telling him,

But if you allow sorrow to weigh you down and kill you they [Okonkwo's family] will all die in exile. (106)

Okonkwo considers his uncle's advice and attempts to cope with his difficult situation by focusing on his work. However, Okonkwo is not the same man he once was and remains filled with bitterness and remorse for his actions. When he returns to Umuofia after his exile, his village is completely different and the traditional culture has been undermined by the white Europeans.

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