Things Fall Apart Chapter 4 Summary and Analysis
by Chinua Achebe

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Chapter 4 Summary and Analysis

Umuofia's elders marvel at Okonkwo's sudden rise to fame, noting with some displeasure that he has no patience for men who can't prove themselves the same way he did. His great success leads to his being charged with the care of Ikemefuna, the young boy from Mbaino who (rightly) fears Okonkwo and his rages. Gradually, however, Ikemefuna starts to think of Okonkwo as his father and grows to love him.

One day, Okonkwo's youngest wife goes to plait her hair at a friend's house and doesn't return in time to cook the afternoon meal. This angers Okonkwo so much that he beats her, even though it disturbs the Week of Peace. This upsets his elders, and he's forced to make an offering to the god Ani. However, Okonkwo feels no real guilt and goes back to fussing over his seed yams. He tries to teach his eldest son Nwoye and his charge Ikemefuna how to prepare the yams, but they're too young, and he's disappointed in both of their work. In spite of this, Ikemefuna still loves his new father and only rarely thinks of his home.


Yams. As Achebe notes, "Yam stood for manliness." This further develops the yam as a symbol of great social status and masculinity. For more on this, see Chapter 3, Symbols: Yams.


Family. When Mbaino sacrificed Ikemefuna to Umuofia, they effectively broke up his family, separating him from everything he knew and loved. However, Ikemefuna gradually begins to see Okonkwo and Nwoye as his family, and they create a new extended family together. Unlike many Western cultures, the Igbo allow their men to have multiple wives, which creates a complex hierarchy of wives and children, with the first wife and eldest son having the highest rank after Okonkwo.

Fear.  There are three instances in this chapter where a character feels great fear: when Ikemefuna first moves in with Okonkwo's family, when Okonkwo's first wife incites him to anger, and when the village elders fear that Ani will seek...

(The entire section is 504 words.)