Proud, ambitious, and ill-tempered, Okonkwo is the tragic hero of Things Fall Apart. An ambitious man who has risen from nothing to a man of importance in his tribe, Okonkwo rules his family with an iron fist. He is deeply dedicated to the traditions and social hierarchies of his people, and he is determined that his sons and daughters follow his demanding example. The indignities forced on him and his people by the British eventually prove to be too much for him. After an act of defiance which goes unsupported by his people, Okonkwo gives in to despair. He kills himself, partly so that he will not be executed under the white man's laws and partly because he is grieving for the death of his people.
Okonkwo's father. He died when Okonkwo was very young, and he was a failure. Shame for Unoka drives Okonkwo to work tirelessly. Unoka died in debt and humiliation; the memory of him gives Okonkwo a terrible fear of failure.
A young boy given to Umuofia by a neighboring village as tribute. Ikemefuna is sacrificed to prevent a war. He lives in Umuofia for three years, under Okonkwo's roof; Okonkwo looks at him as a son, and to Nwoye he becomes best friend and brother. He is killed by the tribe; out of fear that otherwise people will think him weak, Okonkwo participates in the boy's death.
Okonkwo's son. Nwoye is sensitive and thoughtful, but he is also somewhat lazy and sulky. Okonkwo is harsh with the boy, fearing that he will become like Unoka. After the death of Ikemefuna, something breaks in Nwoye. Later, he converts to Christianity, in part to escape his father. His betrayal embitters and outrages Okonkwo.
One of the oldest men in Umuofia. He warns Okonkwo not to participate in Ikemefuna's death. Later, at Ezeudu's funeral, Okonkwo's gun explodes and kills a boy, which leads to Okonkwo's exile.
Never named, Nwoye's mother is Okonkwo's first wife. She is a generous woman, and she has been fortunate in the number of children she has had.
Okonkwo's third and youngest wife. Okonkwo beats her savagely during the Week of Peace, and must pay a heavy fine to the earth goddess.
Okonkwo's second wife. In her youth, she was one of the great beauties of Umuofia. She has had ten children, but only one has survived. She is a formidable and brave woman, devoted to her surviving daughter, Ezinma.
Clever and brave, Ezinma starts as a precocious but sickly child. She is Okonkwo's favorite daughter, and seems to understand his moods. His attitude toward her shows the more tender side of his character. She grows into a beautiful and strong young woman.
Okonkwo's great friend, and another prosperous and powerful man in the tribe. Obierika is also thoughtful. He is less misogynistic than Okonkwo, and he has no love for unnecessary violence. He is a compassionate and just man.
Chielo/ Priestess of Agbala (Oracle of the Hills and the Caves)
In normal life, Chielo is a widow and an ordinary woman. But she is also the Priestess of Agbala, and when the power of prophecy comes to her she is possessed by the godhead. She is one of the most powerful figures of the clan; now important decision can be made without her approval.
Okagbue, the Medicine Man
The Medicine Man helps Ekwefi to try and make Ezinma "stay." They fear that she will die like the earlier children, but the Medicine Man succeeds in finding the supernatural cause of her sickliness.
Okonkwo's uncle. Elderly and wise, Uchendu is an impressive but gentle patriarch. Even Okonkwo submits to his authority.
Okonkwo's cousin. He informs Okonkwo that Nwoye is among the Christians.
A Christian African, Mr. Kiaga heads the congregation in Mbanto. He is a gentle and wise man, full of unshakeable faith.
A white man and missionary. He strives to compromise with the clan; though he is determined to win converts, he restrains the excessive and violent zeal of some of the converts. He eventually falls ill due to overwork.
Mr. Brown's replacement. Mr. Smith is neither wise nor compromising. Under him, the fanatics flourish. His foolishness brings the Christians of Umuofia into direct conflict with the clan.
The head of British government in Umuofia. He dispenses justice in total ignorance of local circumstances, and his attitude is arrogant and hypocritical.
Things Fall Apart Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Things Fall Apart is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Ikemefuna settles in with Okonkwo and his family. He becomes everything that Okonkwo wanted in a son. Ikemefuna is a good hunter and a tough boy. Okonkwo wishes his own son, Nwoye, would be more like Ikemefuna.