Things Fall Apart
by Chinua Achebe
Ekwefi is Okonkwo’s second wife. Once a village beauty, she ran away from her home and husband to marry Okonkwo. She was smitten with Okonkwo when he beat the notorious Cat in a legendary wrestling match. Though it’s kind of romantic the Ekwefi ran away and eloped with Okonkwo, it turns out he’s not Prince Charming. Ekwefi, like Okonkwo’s other two wives, suffers quite a bit under his forceful and aggressive rule of the household. At one point, just because he was in a bad mood, Okonkwo beat Ekwefi badly and even threatened to kill her with his gun. Regardless, Ekwefi is the most spirited of Okonkwo’s wives and frequently stands up to him and talks back.
Ekwefi’s life has been full of sadness. She has bad luck with bearing children; despite giving birth to ten children, only one has survived. Thus, she nurtures a deep bond with her single daughter, Ezinma. Achebe paints Ekwefi as an extremely devoted mother. Her pain and bitterness in losing nine other children leads her to treasure her one daughter even above life itself. She dotes over and spoils her child, allowing her treats forbidden to other children and building a deep relationship of trust.
Ekwefi’s history of loss and bitterness renders her a strong woman, capable of withstanding much pain and disappointment. This also leads to a sense of boldness in her, a rather unfeminine characteristic that sometimes annoys Okonkwo. She has the audacity to knock on his door at night and to talk back to him when he accuses her of killing a banana tree. But she also takes her punishment with gritted teeth and without complaint. This kind of strength and boldness has something masculine about it, which emerges even more strongly in her daughter, Ezinma. Though not explicitly stated, we think Ekwefi might be Okonkwo’s favorite wife, just like Ezinma is his favorite daughter.