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Things Fall Apart

by Chinua Achebe

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What quotations in "Things Fall Apart" support Okonkwo's downfall?

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One quote that hints at Okonkwo's downfall is seen in chapter 13. In this chapter, Okonkwo hears that Ezedu is dead. He reflects on the last conversation that they had before the respected man died:

A cold shiver ran down Okonkwo's back as he remembered the last time the old man had visited him. "That boy calls you father," he had said. "Bear no hand in his death."

Ezedu was a highly respected warrior in Okonkwo's community; still, Okonkwo acts against his advice:

Ezeudu had taken three titles in his life. It was a rare achievement. There were only four titles in the clan, and only one or two men in any generation ever achieved the fourth and highest. When they did, they became the lords of the land.

Ezedu's reference to "that boy" concerns Ikemefuna. Ikemefuna is a fifteen-year-old boy who is taken (along with a young virgin girl) from a neighboring clan. This clan gets involved in a conflict with Umuofia (Okonkwo's clan). Okonkwo is sent to Mbaino (the other clan) as an "emissary of war" (chapter 2). The other clan offers these two children to Okonkwo to maintain peace between the clans.

And so for three years Ikemefuna lived in Okonkwo's household (chapter 2).

While living with Okonkwo, Ikemefuna starts to be treated like part of his family. For most of this time, the conflict with the neighboring tribe is entirely forgotten:

For three years Ikemefuna lived in Okonkwo's household and the elders of Umuofia seemed to have forgotten about him. . . . He had become wholly absorbed into his new family (chapter 7).

Later, some of the town leaders come to speak privately with Okonkwo. After they leave,

Okonkwo sat still for a very long time supporting his chin in his palms. Later in the day, he called to Ikemefuna and told him that he was to be taken home the next day (chapter 7).

Okonkwo's body language suggests that something is upsetting him. We soon find out that the men have decided to kill Ikemefuna as an act of justice against the neighboring tribe. The men set out together (supposedly to take Ikemefuna back to his home). Eventually, Ikemefuna is told to keep walking forward and not to look back. He notices that Okonkwo moves to the back of the group, and Ikemefuna grows afraid. A man then raises his machete against Ikemefuna:

As the man who had cleared his throat drew up and raised his machete, Okonkwo looked away. He heard the blow. The pot fell and broke in the sand. He heard Ikemefuna cry, "My father, they have killed me!" as he ran towards him. Dazed with fear, Okonkwo drew his machete and cut him down. He was afraid of being thought weak.

In this scene, Okonkwo disregards Ezedu's advice. He participates in the killing of Ikemefuna (who is like a son to him). This murder (and his refusal to listen to Ezedu's wisdom) hints at Okonkwo's coming downfall.

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Okonkwo grows up to become a brave warrior who is known throughout Umuofia as a violent, but successful man. Okonkwo's drive to be successful comes from his determination to not follow in his father's footsteps. Achebe describes his personality by writing,

"And so Okonkwo was ruled by one passion – to hate everything that his father Unoka had loved. One of those things was gentleness and another was idleness" (13).

Okonkwo's fear of becoming gentle and his determination to be viewed as manly leads him to make several rash decisions which result in his downfall.

In Chapter 13, Okonkwo accidentally kills Ezeudu's sixteen-year-old son during a ceremony. Achebe writes,

"And then from the center of the delirious fury came a cry of agony and shouts of horror. It was as if a spell had been cast. All was silent. In the center of the crowd a boy lay in a pool of blood. It was the dead man's sixteen-year-old son, who with his brothers and had been dancing the traditional farewell to their father. Okonkwo's gun had exploded and a piece of iron had pierced the boy's heart" (124).

After killing Ikemefuna, Okonkwo's misfortune continues, and he is exiled from the village of Umuofia for seven years. Okonkwo's dream of attaining titles as a village leader is shattered by his offense against the earth goddess.

In Chapter 24, Achebe describes Okonkwo's thoughts about Umuofia's decision to deal with the white men. Achebe writes,

"If Umuofia decides on war, all would be well. But if they chose to be cowards he would go out and avenge himself" (199).

When the white messengers arrive and tell the villagers to disband their meeting, Okonkwo takes matters into his own hands. Achebe writes,

"In a flash Okonkwo drew his machete. The messenger crouched to avoid the blow. It was useless. Okonkwo's machete descended twice and the man's head lay beside his uniformed body" (204).

Okonkwo's bitterness and anger towards the white men, coupled with his inability to control his emotions, cause him to make the fateful decision to kill the messenger. Murdering the messenger is the final act which leads to his eventual suicide.

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In Things Fall Apart, what is a quotation that describes Ekwefi?

Ekwefi is Okonkwo's second wife and the mother of his favorite child, Ezinma. Achebe writes that Ekwefi was once the village beauty, and she fell in love with Okonkwo after witnessing him throwing the Cat during a wrestling match. She did not immediately marry him because he was too poor and could not afford to pay the bride-price. However, Ekwefi ran away from her family a few years later to marry Okonkwo. In the story, Ekwefi is forty-five years old and has suffered a great deal in life after losing nine children. She also has a unique relationship with Ezinma and Okonkwo. In chapter nine, Ekwefi bangs on Okonkwo's door to tell him that Ezinma is dying. Achebe writes,

Of his three wives, Ekwefi was the only one who would have the audacity to bang on his door. (53)

Ekwefi's audacity indicates that she does not subscribe to the traditional feminine role of her society. Later on, Ekwefi defies religious authority by following Chielo and Ezinma deep into the forest. Ekwefi reveals her courage and love for Ezinma by waiting outside of the cave with Okonkwo until Chielo returns to their compound with Ezinma on her back.

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In Things Fall Apart, what is a quotation that describes Ekwefi?

You might like to think about re-reading Chapter Five of this great novel, which is when we are given more information about Ekwefi and in particular how she came to be married to Okonkwo. In particular, we are told of her fascination and love for wrestling and how excited she becomes. Consider the following quote:

Many years ago when she was the village beauty Okonkwo had won her heart by throwing the Cat in the greatest contest within living memory. she did not marry him because he was too poor to pay her bride-price. But a few years later she ran away from her husband and came to live with Okonkwo... Now Ekwefi was a woman of forty-five who had suffered a great deal in her time.

This quote therefore tells us of Okonkwo's great strength and skill when he was younger, and how he was a charismatic personality and gained great glory and prestige for himself by triumphing over the Cat. In addition it tells us of Ekwefi's fascination with wrestling and how it resulted in her becoming Okonkwo's wife.

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Which quotes will help me write a character analysis essay on Okonkwo in Things Fall Apart?

Okonkwo has a rigid personality that is formed in childhood from his fear of being a failure like his father. Some quotes that show his fear of being weak or inadequate are as follows:

With a father like Unoka, Okonkwo did not have the start in life which many young men had. ... But in spite of these disadvantages, he had begun even in his father’s lifetime to lay the foundations of a prosperous future. It was slow and painful. But he threw himself into it like one possessed. And indeed he was possessed by the fear of his father’s contemptible life and shameful death.


Perhaps down in his heart Okonkwo was not a cruel man. But his whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and of weakness. It was deeper and more intimate than the fear of evil …It was not external but lay deep within himself. It was the fear of himself, lest he should be found to resemble his father.

These two quotes from the first chapter explain how deeply Okonkwo has suffered, perhaps to the point of trauma, from shame over his father's happy-go-lucky ways. His life is dominated by the fear he will end up humiliated, as he was as a child. Although he looks strong, he is a mass of inner fears.

Okonkwo's fears and adoption of his culture's toxic masculinity mean he can't reveal any vulnerability:

Okonkwo never showed any emotion openly, unless it be the emotion of anger. To show affection was a sign of weakness; the only thing worth demonstrating was strength.

This extends, tragically, to his murder of Ikemefuna, the foster son he loved. He would rather kill someone he cares for deeply than lose face in front of the other men:

He heard Ikemefuna cry, “My father, they have killed me!” as he ran towards him. Dazed with fear, Okonkwo drew his machete and cut him down. He was afraid of being thought weak.

As time goes on, Okonkwo is unable to adjust to change, either the change that comes when he is exiled for accidentally killing another man's son or that emerges when Christianity arrives in his village.

The setback of the accidental killing leads him to a despair that foreshadows his eventual suicide:

His life had been ruled by a great passion—to become one of the lords of the clan. That had been his life-spring. And he had all but achieved it. Then everything had been broken. He had been cast out of his clan like a fish onto a dry, sandy beach, panting. Clearly his personal god or chi was not made for great things.

Okonkwo kills himself rather than face that times have changed or that there could be a different way to live. The entry of Christianity into his village and the diminishment of the old ways is not something he can handle:

Okonkwo felt a cold shudder run through him ... He saw himself and his fathers crowding round their ancestral shrine waiting in vain for worship and sacrifice and finding nothing but ashes of bygone days, and his children the while praying to the white man’s god.

Okonkwo forms a rigid vision of the world as a child and is unable to mature. He clings to a narrow idea of who he should be and how he should act. Ironically, this leads him to the dishonor of suicide.

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What are quotes from Okonkwo that give readers insight into his personality in Things Fall Apart?

Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart centers on the strong traditional warrior Okonkwo as he adjusts to an evolving Umuofian landscape. Though Okonkwo is a man of relatively few words, the novel contains some key quotes that enable readers to get a better sense of the man who drives Achebe's classic tale. One notable quote occurs early in the text when Okonkwo asks Nwakibie for yams in a difficult harvest year:

I know what it is to ask a man to trust another with his yams, especially these days when young men are afraid of hard work. I am not afraid of work. . . I began to fend for myself at an age when most people still suck at their mothers' breasts. If you give me some yam seeds I shall not fail you (21).

Here, Okonkwo succinctly lays out the kind of man that he is. He is driven to succeed; he has had to work harder than many of his colleagues because his father's laziness held his family in poverty. This is an admirable trait that Okonkwo shows.

Okonkwo's intense fear of failure and being perceived as weak and "feminine" dominates his life. He works hard because he fears becoming his father. He defines masculinity in a toxic, rigid way. Indeed, his fear of being perceived as weak causes him to murder his adoptive son Ikemefuna. Okonkwo later questions why he is so shaken by his actions:

When did you become a shivering old woman. . . you, who are known in all the nine villages for your valor in war? How can a man who has killed five men in battle fall to pieces because he has added a boy to their number? Okonkwo, you have become a woman indeed (65).

These two quotes give readers piercing insight into Okonkwo as a character. His words allow us to see what he values and how his values are a double-edged sword.

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In Things Fall Apart, what is a quotation that describes Okonkwo?

Okonkwo, as the central protagonist of this brilliant story, is introduced to us in the very first chapter. In particular, you might like to analyse the following quote and what it tells us about the character of Okonkwo. It begins by telling us about how Okonkwo first gained fame by beating the wrestling champion:

That was many years ago, twenty years or more, and during this time Okonkwo's fame had grow like a bush-fire in the harmattan. He was tall and huge, and his busy eyebrows and wide nose gave him a very severe look.

Clearly one of the most important aspects about Okonkwo's character is the fact that his fame has only grown in the intervening years since he first gained glory and prestige by triumphing over the Cat. In addition, his physical appearance indicates that he is a man not to be trifled with, and presents him as a rather stern and strong individual.

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