Nwoye has a difficult relationship with his father Okonkwo because he does not conform to Okonkwo's rigid definition of masculinity. Okokwo equates bravery with rash, violent behavior. He conceals his emotions and avoids expressing any tenderness toward his wives and children, preferring to dominate them through threats and physical abuse. He considers music and the art of conversation to be womanly activities.
Ikemefuna, however, presents an image of manliness that is more balanced. He is comfortable in the company of women and children. He is a talented storyteller and musician and shows Nwoye how to make flutes out of bamboo. He is also clever and teaches Nwoye the names of different birds and how to build traps to catch small animals. Ikemefuna, therefore, becomes like a big brother to Nwoye, the kind of a role model that his father could never be.