Things Fall Apart
How we cite our quotes:
When Okonkwo heard that he [Ikemefuna] would not eat any food he came into the hut with a big stick in his hand and stood over him while he swallowed his yams, trembling. A few moments later he went behind the hut and began to vomit painfully. (4.5)
Okonkwo rules his household based on fear. Not only does he scare Ikemefuna into eating, but his wives have to tip-toe around him for fear of a beating.
Okonkwo was specially fond of Ezinma. She looked very much like her mother, who was once the village beauty. But his fondness only showed on very rare occasions. (5.60)
Okonkwo is afraid of showing his emotions too openly, unless they are feelings of anger or aggression. Because he fears being effeminate and losing community respect, he shies away from showing even his favorite child affection.
One of the men behind him cleared his throat. Ikemefuna looked back, and the man growled at him to go on and not stand looking back. The way he said it sent cold fear down Ikemefuna’s back. His hands trembled vaguely on the black pot he carried. Why had Okonkwo withdrawn to the rear? Ikemefuna felt his legs melting under him. And he was afraid to look back.
As the man who had cleared his throat drew up and raised his machete, Okonkwo looked away. He heard the blow. The pot fell and broke in the sand. He heard Ikemefuna cry, “My father, they have killed me!” as he ran towards him. Dazed with fear, Okonkwo drew his machete and cut him down. He was afraid of being thought weak. (7.27-28)
It is not only Ikemefuna who feels fear when hearing the man so mysteriously clear his throat; Okonkwo, too, we know, fears what is about to come. Every nerve in Okonkwo tells him this is wrong, but when the moment comes, he kills his adopted son. Ikemefuna and Okonkwo’s fears are contrasted here. Ikemefuna fears the men with machetes and death, both of which he has no control over. Okonkwo, on the other hand, fears losing his sense of masculinity – an internal fear which he could control, but instead gives into.