Things Fall Apart Chapter 3 Summary and Analysis
by Chinua Achebe

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Chapter 3 Summary and Analysis

This chapter dips into Okonkwo's past, opening with a scene where his father Unoka pays a visit to the priestess of the god Agbala. He asks the priestess why his crops always fail, despite all the offerings he gives to the gods, and she tells him that he hasn't angered the gods; he's just lazy. So Unoka goes home and continues to plow the same barren soil. Okonkwo, realizing the futility of relying on his father, turns to a great man of their village for yam seeds to start his own farm. He has already proven himself as a wrestler, but is still a young man who must build a life and fight against the assumption that he will be lazy like his father. The great man, Nwakibie, loans him a starter crop of 800 yam seeds. With the seeds, Okonkwo establishes his farm. His first year turns out to be the worst Umuofia has even seen. "Since I survived that year," he says, "I shall survive anything."


When Unoka warns Okonkwo that it's more difficult for a proud man like him to fail alone, he's foreshadowing Okonkwo's inevitable fall, which comes at the end of the novel.


Kola Nuts. Once again, kola nuts are symbols of respect and fellowship. For more information on this, see Chapter 1, Symbols: Kola Nuts.

Machete. The priestess of Agbala tells Unoka that he's known for "the weakness of his machete," which in this context refers to his manhood and his abilities as a farmer. The priestess is essentially calling Unoka's masculinity into question, telling him that he has brought his misfortune on himself.

Palm-wine. Palm-wine, like kola nut, is consumed in social situations as a sign of fellowship. The thick dregs of the palm-wine are particularly meaningful and are given to a man named Igwebo, who it's said has "a job in hand," because he has recently gotten married. It's curious that Okonkwo, who must begin the hard work necessary to start a farm, isn't offered these palm-wine dregs, though he has what is arguably the hardest job of them all.

Yams.  In Igbo culture, yams are a symbol of one's wealth and prestige. Essentially, the more yams (and yam seeds) a man has, the richer and more powerful he is. Thanks to Unoka's laziness, Okonkwo is forced to borrow his first yam...

(The entire section is 589 words.)