Things Fall Apart Additional Summary

Chinua Achebe

Summary

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Achebe’s title from William Butler Yeats’s poem “The Second Coming” invokes an ironic, apocalyptic vision warning of a new order from Africa that will destroy the status quo; thus, the novel describes the European destruction of Igbo culture but suggests a potential future shift of power reinvigorating Africa, a theme in Achebe’s later work Home and Exile. Things Fall Apart disproves white stereotypes of Igbo as primitive savages, amoral and unsophisticated, and asserts the viability of preconquest Igbo culture through the tragic story of Okonkwo and his village. A warrior determined to counter the reputation of his lazy imprudent father, Okonkwo wins community respect and titles for his hard work, public service, and martial courage. However, this hero, like William Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, is flawed. His obsessive fear of repeating his father’s failures drives him to extremes in a culture proud of its balance. Humorless and short-tempered, he beats his wife in the Week of Peace, alienates his son with reprimands, joins the ritual killing of a boy he considers a son just to appear manly, and accidentally shoots a youth, resulting in his seven-year banishment to his mother’s village.

This period of separation distances him from the communal life of Umuofia, so while still ambitious after his return, he now appreciates the bonds of kinship and the comfort of a community speaking with one voice. Unfortunately, he fails to...

(The entire section is 563 words.)

Summary

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Okonkwo’s father is cowardly, foolish, and poor in his life, an outcast at his death. When his father dies, Okonkwo, on the other hand, though still a young man, has three wives, two barns full of yams, two of his people’s titles, and a reputation as the strongest wrestler and the bravest warrior in the nine villages of Umuofia. Okonkwo takes great pride in these accomplishments, sometimes forgetting the assistance of his personal god, or chi, and of the man from whom he borrowed yams to start his own farm.

Despite his accomplishments, Okonkwo fears being seen as like his father. One of his great disappointments is his eldest son, Nwoye, who seems to inherit Okonkwo’s father’s weakness. Nwoye dislikes the men’s stories of war, preferring his mother’s childish stories. Okonkwo, who has a quick temper, often tries to beat these behaviors out of Nwoye.

A change happens when the village leaders put under Okonkwo’s care a Mbaino boy named Ikemefuna. Ikemefuna comes to Okonkwo’s village because the Mbainos killed a Umuofian woman; eventually the boy is to be killed in retribution. While living in Okonkwo’s compound, Ikemefuna exerts a good influence on Nwoye and wins the affection of everyone, including Okonkwo.

During Ikemefuna’s stay, the village observes the sacred Week of Peace that always precedes planting season. Violence is strictly forbidden for that week. Nonetheless, Okonkwo, in a fit of anger, severely beats his youngest wife. This angers the earth goddess. As punishment Okonkwo pays a fine. He repents inwardly but does not admit his error outwardly, and so it is said that he lacks respect for the clan gods.

Three years after Ikemefuna’s arrival, the village council decides it is time for him to be killed. The oldest man in the village warns Okonkwo not to take part, because...

(The entire section is 761 words.)