Things Fall Apart Summary
by Chinua Achebe

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Things Fall Apart Summary

Things Fall Apart is a novel by Chinua Achebe in which Okonkwo, an Igbo man, struggles to adapt as his village is overrun by missionaries.

  • Okonkwo is given charge of a boy named Ikemefuna, whom he views as a son. When an oracle declares that Ikemefuna must die, Okonkwo kills the boy himself so he won't appear weak.
  • Okonkwo is exiled after he accidentally kills another villager.
  • Okonkwo returns seven years later only to find his village plagued by missionaries.
  • Okonkwo tries to drive off the missionaries, but he receives little support from other villagers.
  • Okonkwo hangs himself, a shameful act in Igbo culture.

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Part I

Part I introduces readers to the main character, the Igbo warrior Okonkwo, who lives in Nigeria in the 1890s. Okonkwo is the son of a lazy debtor, Unoka, who was irresponsible and seemed to never work. Embarrassed by his bad heritage, Okonkwo sets out to become a great man, winning early fame as a wrestler by throwing Amalinze the Cat. On the strength of this fame, he's able to borrow seeds from a man named Nwakibie in order to start a farm. After years of hardship, he's able to pay his debt and become a wealthy farmer with several barns full of yams (a sign of great social status). In the process, he also marries three wives, who bear him many children, including Nwoye, his eldest son, and Ezinma, his favorite, whom he often wishes were a boy.

In recognition of Okonkwo's great wealth and status, he's charged with the care of a prisoner of war, a young boy named Ikemefuna who was sacrificed by his home village of Mbaino so they might avoid war with Umuofia, Okonkwo's clan, after men from Mbaino slaughtered one of the daughters of Umuofia. Unsurprisingly, Ikemefuna is afraid of Okonkwo at first, because the man is curt and violent and often acts rashly, spurred on by his extraordinary arrogance; but with time the boy begins to think of Okonkwo as his father, and though Okonkwo won't show anyone, he feels great affection for his charge. More so than for his own son, whom he considers weak.

One day, Okonkwo's youngest wife goes to her friend's house to plait her hair and doesn't return in time to make the afternoon meal. Okonkwo beats her, but because it is the Week of Peace, he's punished for this, because his tribesmen fear that his actions will anger the earth goddess Ani and lead to trouble in Umuofia. He's required to repent by giving a tribute to the goddess. Soon after, during the Feast of the New Yam, Okonkwo is again driven to anger by his youngest wife when, after witnessing his poor shooting, she makes a snide remark about his pistol, of which he's very proud. He shoots at her, but misses. The Feast continues, and Okonkwo and his wives all enjoy watching the ceremonial wrestling matches.

Locusts appear in the village. They appear to be a good omen, at first. People roast the locusts to eat as a delicacy, but their arrival portends the death of Ikemefuna, which has been decreed by an Oracle. Okonkwo and several men from Umuofia agree to lead Ikemefuna away from the village on the pretense of taking him back to Mbaino. On the way, the men try to kill Ikemefuna. Scared, the boy turns to Okonkwo, calling him father, but Okonkwo strikes him down, afraid of seeming weak. He's understandably upset by this, and the elders question his actions. He's able to help his friend Obierika negotiate his daughter's bride price, but soon after, Ezinma grows gravely ill, and a medicine man must be called to heal her. This contributes to Okonkwo's downward spiral.

Following incidents where the fate of an abused wife is determined by Umuofia's spirit ancestors and Okonkwo's daughter Ezinma is roused from her sleep by Chielo, the priestess of Agbala, the village gathers to celebrate the day of Obierika's daughter's uri , when her suitor brings palm wine for her parents and the other villagers. The joyous occasion is immediately followed by a somber one: the funeral of Ogbuefi Ezeudu, the oldest man in their village. During...

(The entire section is 1,210 words.)