Things Fall Apart Essential Quotes by Character: Okonkwo
by Chinua Achebe

Things Fall Apart book cover
Start Your Free Trial

Download Things Fall Apart Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Essential Quotes by Character: Okonkwo

Essential Passage 1: Chapter 1

Okonkwo was well known throughout the nine villages and even beyond. His fame rested on solid personal achievements. As a young man of eighteen he had brought honor to his village by throwing Amalinze the Cat. Amalinze was the great wrestler who for seven years was unbeaten, from Umuofia to Mbaino. He was called the Cat because his back would never touch the earth. It was this man that Okonkwo threw in a fight which the old men agreed was one of the fiercest since the founder of their town engaged a spirit of the wild for seven days and seven nights.

Okonkwo, the protagonist of the story, is a prominent member of the Igbo tribe in Nigeria in the 1890s, prior to the widespread control of Great Britain, the colonial power of the time. He is a man of action rather than reflection. His fame is centered on his strength, especially his physical strength. From an early age, he has shown himself proficient in the art of wrestling, which is of great importance in the villages of Umuofia. Defeating the most prominent wrestler in the area, Okonkwo gains a reputation as one of the finest men in the area, and he has great hopes to prosper even more. In a culture where courage is exhibited through physical prowess, Okonkwo has few peers. As long as action is required, Okonkwo can be counted on to lead the way. This allows him to acquire titles, three wives, a successful farm, and a place among the leaders of the community.

Essential Passage 2: Chapter 14

Okonkwo and his family worked very hard to plant a new farm. But it was like beginning life anew without the vigor and enthusiasm of youth, like learning to become left-handed in old age. Work no longer had for him the pleasure it used to have, and when there was no work to do he sat in a silent half-sleep.

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. A man could not rise beyond the destiny of his chi. The saying of the elders was not true—that if a man said yea his chi also affirmed. Here was a man whose chi said nay despite his own affirmation.

Okonkwo accidentally killed the son of one of the clan members, when his gun explodes and a piece of the metal pierces the youth’s heart. Because it was an accident, Okonkwo is punished to seven years’ exile to his mother’s homeland. His home is destroyed, and Okonkwo and his family leave with only a few of his possessions. In his new home, Okonkwo tries to start over from scratch. He begins a new farm, but he no longer enjoys work as he used to. Before, he was working toward becoming one of the lords of the clan, and he had come close to succeeding. He had accumulated two titles and many yams. However, now that he is in exile, his plans have been dashed. Okonkwo begins to doubt the teachings and traditions of his elders. Okonkwo does not believe that his chi will respond positively to his work and efforts. His faith in his gods begins to slip.

Essential Passage 3: Chapter 25

Then they came to the tree from which Okonkwo’s body was dangling, and they stopped dead.

“Perhaps your men can help us bring him down and bury him,” said Obierika.

“We have sent for strangers from another village to do it for us, but they may be a long time coming.”

The District Commissioner changed instantaneously. The resolute administrator in him gave way to the student of primitive customs.

“Why can’t you take him down yourselves?” he asked.

“It is against our custom,” said one of the men. “It is an abomination for a man to take his own life. It is an offense against the Earth, and a man who commits it will not be buried by his clansmen. His body is evil, and only strangers may touch it. That is why we ask your people to bring him down,...

(The entire section is 1,404 words.)