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Things Fall Apart

by Chinua Achebe

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Part Two, Chapter 14 Summary and Analysis

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Part 2 sees Okonkwo rage inwardly against his misfortune. Though he hates that he’s been exiled to his mother’s homeland of Mbanta, he understands that there’s no way to appeal his punishment and that he must accept his fate. His uncle Uchendu greets him, and Uchendu’s five sons pitch in to give Okonkwo a large number of seed yams so that he might build his farm. That year, the rain comes in the form of hail, which the villagers of Mbanta name “the nuts of the water of heaven.” Not long after the rains begin, one of Uchendu’s five sons gets married and Okonkwo attends the isa-ifi ceremony, which is held to confirm that the bride has been faithful to her suitor. Following the ceremony, the bride and groom start their life together, and Uchendu calls a family meeting.

Uchendu brings everyone together so that he can speak to Okonkwo. He poses a question: why is it that the Igbo say “Nneka” (meaning, “Mother is Supreme”)? Okonkwo doesn’t know. Uchendu, having anticipated this, tells Okonkwo that, like a child who seeks sympathy in its mother’s hut, a man comes home to his motherland to seek solace and protection. That’s why they say “Mother is Supreme.” Uchendu then tells Okonkwo that many men have suffered more than him and that his fate is not such a terrible one. Uchendu himself has buried twenty-two children, and his daughter has had to leave many twins to die in the Evil Forest. Twins, it’s believed, are evil spirits that take the form of children and must be disposed of in the forest.


Though Uchendu has buried twenty-two children, he says “[he] did not hang [himself].” Suicide is considered one of the most dishonorable acts a man can commit. Uchendu’s words foreshadow Okonkwo’s eventual suicide by hanging at the end of the novel.


Fire. Thus far in the novel, fire has primarily been made use of because of its destructive properties. It does, however, have other applications, and in this chapter, the image of fire is used to describe a long, oppressive heat wave that broke only when hail began to fall from the sky. “Fire” has been figured variously as a creator (a means of preparing meals), a destroyer (as in the destruction of Okonkwo’s compound), and, here, an oppressor. Achebe emphasizes its destructive qualities and in so doing highlights the violent actions of the novel’s many characters.


Achebe uses a simile when he says that Okonkwo had been cast out of his clan “like a fish onto a dry, sandy beach.”


Home. In part 1, “home” for Okonkwo meant Umuofia, Iguedo, his compound, and his farms. In part 2, the theme of “home” becomes more complicated, and as Okonkwo loses his home, he rediscovers his motherland. The motherland, Uchendu says, is a place of comfort, of physical and emotional safety, or even, as Okwonko seems to think, of licking one’s wounds. Okonkwo spends so much of his time moping, in fact, that Uchendu must teach him a lesson both about respecting women and (to put it bluntly) growing up. In many ways, Okonkwo is like a child, because he has never considered the possibility that his life might not be perfect and that he might not be perfect.

Identity. Having been exiled from his village, Okonkwo loses his identity. His entire life “had been ruled by a great passion—to become one of the lords of the clan.” Without that passion, he wilts. He becomes depressed. He doesn’t know who he is anymore. Achebe makes it clear that identity for Okonkwo is wrapped up in titles and possessions, in yams and sons, and in things that are all simple, quantifiable, and discrete. Okonkwo isn’t interested in emotional development. He isn’t a sentimental or a forgiving person, and he doesn’t want to be. His identity isn’t his personality. It’s his things. His prestige. Without that, he’s no one.

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