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 dies in debt.
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, is a gentle and idle man that is fond of playing music. A foil to Okonkwo, Unoka is not a successful or respected man. He plays music well and is 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.)
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.
She 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 re-enters 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.
Ikemefuna is a fifteen-year-old boy from the village of Mbaino. He was taken when he was young to the village of Umuofia—both as a political trade to avoid war and as repayment for the death of an Umuofian woman. Although Ikemefuna belongs to the entire clan of Umuofia, he has been 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...
(The entire section is 1,139 words.)