Things Fall Apart Characters
The main characters in Things Fall Apart are Okonkwo, Ikemefuna, Obierika, Enzima, Ekwefi, Nwoye, and Unoka.
- Okonkwo is the protagonist, whose downfall begins when he kills Ikemefuna.
- Ikemefuna is Okonkwo’s ward from a neighboring village, who regards Okonkwo as a father. When an oracle calls for Ikemefuna to be sacrificed, Okonkwo kills the boy himself.
- Obierika is Okonkwo’s best friend, who helps him in times of crisis.
- Ezinma is Okonkwo’s daughter, the only surviving child of Ekwefi.
- Ekwefi is Okonkwo’s second wife. She bears ten children, nine of which die.
- Nwoye is Okonkwo’s son, who converts to Christianity.
- Unoka is Okonkwo’s father, who died in debt.
Last Updated on January 3, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 322
The protagonist of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo is a stubborn, impatient, and fear-driven character who represents power, toxic masculinity, and traditional values. He is ashamed of his father, Unoka, because Unoka was constantly in debt to others and lived a financially unsuccessful life. This shame drives Okonkwo’s attitude and fear of failure. Okonkwo desires to be as unlike his father as possible. (Read extended character analysis of Okonkwo.)
Okonkwo’s father, Unoka, was a gentle and idle man who was fond of playing music. A foil to Okonkwo, Unoka was not a successful or respected man. He played music well and was able to weave and tell creative folktales. This is in direct contrast to Okonkwo’s rejection of music and insistence on only telling cold and gory war stories. Unoka’s draw to music and storytelling highlight his sensitive and creative nature that Okonkwo so despises. (Read extended character analysis of Unoka.)
Nwoye is the son of Okonkwo’s first wife. Within the family hierarchy, this positions Nwoye as the highest ranking and eldest son. Nwoye, like Unoka, serves as a foil to Okonkwo’s character. Nwoye often does not exhibit the supposedly manly qualities that his father values. Instead, he shares similarities with the kinder, gentler Unoka. He is sensitive, troubled by some Umuofian practices, and is drawn to music, hope, and the poetry of the new religion, Christianity. (Read extended character analysis of Nwoye.)
Obierika is Okonkwo’s closest friend; knew Okonkwo’s father, Unoka; and understands Okonkwo’s background. Unlike Okonkwo, Obierika is reflective and thoughtful. He often provides commentary on Okonkwo’s actions and on life in Umuofia. These characteristics make Obierika a foil to the more impulsive Okonkwo. Obierika is less driven to prove himself than Okonkwo, which allows him to see things more clearly. However, Okonkwo rarely heeds Obierika’s advice. (Read extended character analysis of Obierika.)
Last Updated on January 3, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 158
Ekwefi is Okonkwo’s second wife. She fell in love with Okonkwo while watching him during a wrestling match. Ekwefi would have been Okonkwo’s first wife, but he was unable to pay her bride price. However, Ekwefi was so impressed with Okonkwo that she left her husband for him later on.
Ekwefi is forty-five years old in Things Fall Apart and has suffered a great deal: nine out of ten of her children died in infancy. The Igbo people attribute this to an ogbanje, an evil child spirit that reenters its mother’s womb over and over, only to be born and then purposely die early in childhood.
Because of her many losses, Ekwefi deeply loves her only surviving daughter, Ezinma, and she is anxious about losing her. When Chielo visits as the spirit of Agbala and asks for Ezinma, Ekwefi—out of fear of losing her daughter—decides to follow them and places herself in danger.
Last Updated on January 3, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 197
Ikemefuna is a boy from the village of Mbaino. He is taken when he is young to the village of Umuofia—both as a political trade to avoid war and as repayment for the death of an Umuofian girl. Although Ikemefuna belongs to the entire clan of Umuofia, he is placed under Okonkwo’s care for three years, as decided by Umuofia’s elders.
Ikemefuna does not understand why he was taken. He does not know that his father killed a girl from Umuofia. He was too surprised to say goodbye to his family before he was taken away.
Despite this tragic beginning, Ikemefuna fits in well with Okonkwo’s family and grows very close to Nwoye, who regards him as the brother he...
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never had. Ikemefuna begins to call Okonkwo his father, and he slowly forgets his previous life.
After three years, the Oracle orders Ikemefuna’s sacrifice. Ikemefuna does not understand what is happening, and Okonkwo tells him he is being returned to his old family in order to avoid scaring him. Ikemefuna believes this right up until his death; he is first cut down by one of the clansmen and then killed by Okonkwo.
Last Updated on January 3, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 479
Ezinma is Ekwefi’s only child. She is Okonkwo’s favorite daughter and is wise beyond her years. Ezinma and Ekwefi are very close. They are more confidantes than mother and daughter.
Obiageli is Okonkwo’s first wife’s daughter.
Nkechi is Okonkwo’s third wife’s daughter.
Okonkwo’s eldest cousin, Uchendu, takes in and helps Okonkwo when he returns to Mbanta after his banishment.
A wealthy man of the village of Umuofia, Nwakibie holds the second highest title in the clan. He owns three barns, has nine wives, and has thirty children. Okonkwo asked him for his first yam seeds.
Anasi is the first wife of Nwakibie.
Ogbuefi is the oldest clan member in Umuofia. He was once a powerful warrior and is greatly respected. He warns Okonkwo about the decision of the elders to kill Ikemefuna. He tells Okonkwo that he cannot be a part of the killing because Ikemefuna sees Okonkwo as a father.
Chielo is the priestess of Agbala and the Oracle of the Hills and the Caves. When not channeling Agbala, she is a widow and friend to Ekwefi. Chielo comes to Okonkwo’s home channeling Agbala and takes Ezinma around the villages and to the oracle’s cave, which scares both Ekwefi and Okonkwo. Chielo also holds power in decision-making within the clan; for example, her affirmation is needed before the clan can go to war.
Mr. Kiaga is a convert and interpreter for the Christian missionaries. He builds a church in Mbanta. Mr. Kiaga also takes in Nwoye after he leaves his father and home. Although many Christian converts were uncomfortable admitting the osu, or outcasts, Mr. Kiaga accepts everybody, which in the end prevents the church from collapsing.
Mr. Brown is the white missionary responsible for bringing Christianity to Umuofia. Mr. Brown learns of the ways of the clan through Akunna, whose knowledge and kind understanding allow Mr. Brown to carefully yet steadily earn the trust of the Umuofians.
Akunna is a man from a village near Iguedo who converses with Mr. Brown about religion. It is through their conversations that Mr. Brown learns the ways of the Igbo.
Reverend James Smith
Reverend James Smith is a Christian missionary and Mr. Brown’s successor. Reverend Smith is a very different man from Mr. Brown. He does not accommodate or understand the Igbo people. Instead, he runs a strict church, and he sees Christianity as good and the Igbo religion as evil.
Enoch is a convert who, with the help of Reverend Smith, becomes zealous in his following of Christianity. To prove the falsity of the Igbo religion, Enoch unmasks the ancestral spirit of an egwugwu, which is a horrendous crime in Umuofia. Enoch’s action leads to a clash between the clan and the church.