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Things Fall Apart

by Chinua Achebe

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Chapter 8 Summary and Analysis

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Okonkwo barely eats anything for two days, upset about Ikemefuna. Soon enough, however, he’s able to pull himself out of this depression and berates himself for acting, as he says, like “a shivering old woman.” He then visits his good friend Obierika, who needs Okonkwo’s help negotiating his daughter’s pride price with her suitor. Obierika rebukes Okonkwo for taking part in Ikemefuna’s death, but their argument is quickly brought to and end by a messenger who brings them news of a truly strange event: the oldest man in their sister village of Ire has died, but the drums have not beaten for him, because his first wife, who wailed over his body, died shortly after, and so they’ll have to wait to bury him until she is in the ground, as is the custom.

Okonkwo goes to tap his trees for palm-wine, then returns to Obierika’s hut for the negotiations. Obierika’s daughter Akueke, the soon-to-be married one, offers the men kola nuts, then returns to her mother’s hut to prepare food. Meanwhile, the men discuss her bride price, finally settling on a sum of twenty bags of cowries. Then they exchange stories of the strange customs practiced by a different village, where they don’t decide bride prices fairly. Obierika compares a white man to a piece of chalk, and the men laugh at the image of a man with leprosy, a disease known to them as “the white skin.”


Achebe uses a metaphor when he equates the disease leprosy with white skin, suggesting that the white men are a kind of disease that will blight the people of Nigeria.


Obierika uses a simile when he says that white men are “white like this piece of chalk.”


Palm-Wine. Once again, palm-wine is offered as a symbol of respect and fellowship. In this chapter, however, palm-wine takes on an added layer of meaning, as men who tap palm trees are given the title ozo, which is highly respected in Umuofia but means nothing in many other clans, such as the Abama and the Aninta. Thus, palm-wine is also a symbol of one’s social status.

Threads. When a man takes a title in Igbo villages, he wears the colored thread associated with the title on his ankle. Essentially, the more threads one wears, the more titles one has, and the more titles one has, the higher one’s social status.


Death. There has already been much death in this novel: the warriors Okonkwo killed, the girl that was slaughtered by men from Mbaino, and, of course, Ikemefuna. These are all untimely deaths, each stemming either from acts of war or sacrifice, and emphasize the violent nature of life and war in these villages. There haven’t been many natural deaths, however, and Ndulue’s is the only one so far to receive this much attention in the novel. His wife Ozoemena’s death is strongly suggested to have been caused by Ndulue’s, suggesting that the two were irrevocably linked by their love and that one could not live without the other. This is a rare sentiment in an often brutal novel and won’t be repeated.

Gender. Men in Igbo culture associate weakness with femininity. This idea is so deeply ingrained in their culture that Okonkwo actually berates himself for being sad about Ikemefuna’s death, referring to himself as a “shivering old woman” because of this uncharacteristic show of emotion. Similarly, when he hears the story of Ndulue, who couldn’t do anything without telling his wife, he shakes his head, considering this weak, though his friend Obierika quickly disabuses him of that notion: Ndulue was a great warrior and led Umuofia in his time. Love for a woman, Achebe implies, isn’t weak, no matter what Okonkwo thinks.

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