Things Fall Apart

Characters

  • Okonkwo is the novel's protagonist. He has three wives and eight children, and is a brave and rash Umuofian (Nigerian) warrior and clan leader. Unlike most, he cares more for his daughter Ezinma than his son Nwoye whom he believes is weak. Okonkwo is the son of the gentle and lazy Unoka, a man he resents for his weaknesses. Okonkwo strives to make his way in a culture that traditionally values manliness. As a young man he defeated the village's best wrestler, earning him lasting prestige. He therefore rejects everything for which he believes his father stood: Unoka was idle, poor, profligate, cowardly, gentle, lazy, and interested in music and conversation. Okonkwo consciously adopts opposite ideals and becomes productive, wealthy, brave, violent, and opposed to music and anything else that he regards as "soft," such as conversation and emotion. He is stoic to a fault. He is also the hardest-working member of his clan. Okonkwo's life is dominated by fear of failure and of weakness—the fear that he will resemble his father. Ironically, in all his efforts not to end up like his father, he commits suicide, becoming in his culture an abomination to the Earth and rebuked by the tribe as his father was (Unoka died from swelling and was likewise considered an abomination). Okonkwo's suicide represents not only his culture's rejection of him, but his rejection of the changes in his people's culture, as he realizes that the Igbo society that he so valued has been forever altered by the Christian missionaries.
  • Ekwefi is Okonkwo's second wife. Although she falls in love with Okonkwo seeing him in a wrestling match, she marries another man because Okonkwo is too poor to pay her bride price at that time. Two years later, she runs away to Okonkwo's compound one night and later marries him. But, she receives severe beatings from Okonkwo just like his other wives but unlike them, she is known to talk back to Okonkwo. She is the only one who would have the audacity to knock on the door of his obi at night. Having met with grave misfortune with the death of her first nine children, she is a devoted mother to Ezinma whom she protects and loves dearly. She marches after Chielo, a priestess who demands that Agbala, Oracle of the Hills and Caves wishes to see Eznima through the dark woods and even makes up her mind to enter the cave where Agbala resides and die with her daughter if need be. Okonkwo looks for them and goes to the mouth of the cave himself after waiting for a certain period, because he too was very worried about Ezinma and Ekwefi even though he kept this worry internally. Upon finding Ekwefi, he was very relieved and they both waited for Ezinma.
  • Unoka is Okonkwo's father, who lived a life in contrast to typical Igbo masculinity. He loved language and music, the flute in particular. He is lazy and miserly, neglecting to take care of his wives and children and even dies with unpaid debts. Okonkwo spends his life trying not to become a failure like his father Unoka.
  • Nwoye is Okonkwo's son, about whom Okonkwo worries, fearing that he will become like Unoka. Similar to Unoka, Nwoye does not subscribe to the traditional Igbo view of masculinity being equated to violence; rather, he prefers the stories of his mother. Nwoye connects to Ikemefuma, who presents an alternative to Okonkwo's rigid masculinity. He is one of the early converts to Christianity and takes on the Christian name Isaac, an act which Okonkwo views as a final betrayal.
  • Ikemefuna is a boy from the Mbaino tribe. He is put into the care of Okonkwo in a settlement when Ikemefuna's father murders the wife of an Umuofian. Ikemefuna is ultimately killed, an act which Okonkwo does not prevent, and even participates in, for fear of seeming unmanly.
  • Ezinma is Okonkwo's favorite daughter, and the only child of his wife Ekwefi. Ezinma, the Crystal Beauty, is very much the antithesis of a normal woman within the culture and Okonkwo routinely remarks that she would've made a much better boy than a girl, even wishing that this was the case of her birth. Ezinma often contradicts and challenges her father, which wins his adoration, affection, and respect. She is very similar to her father, and this is made apparent when she matures into a beautiful young woman who refuses to marry during her family's exile, instead choosing to help her father regain his place of respect within society.
  • Obierika is Okonkwo's best friend from Umuofia. He is a strong and powerful man in Umuofia, even though he is much less violent and arrogant than Okonkwo. Obierika often talks Okonkwo out of doing anything rash, and helps Okonkwo when he is on exile from Umuofia.
  • Ogbuefi Ezeudu is one of the elders of Umuofia. He is regarded as very wise, and gives Okonkwo good advice. At his funeral, Ezeudu's son is accidentally killed when Okonkwo's gun misfires, sending Okonkwo and his family into exile.

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