Study Guide

Ezinma in Things Fall Apart

By Chinua Achebe

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(Click the character infographic to download.)

Ezinma is Okonkwo’s eldest daughter and Ekwefi’s only child. The girl has a very close relationship with her mother, and she is her father’s favorite child. Okonkwo – being a man who basically only values masculine qualities – strongly wishes that Ezinma had been born a boy, which, from his frame of mind , shows how much he loves and values her.

Because she is her mother’s only child, Ezinma is coddled and often acts in a bolder manner than the other children. She grows up more privileged and adored than many of her peers. Her deep love for her mother is based on little conspiracies like eating (forbidden) eggs together secretly in Ekwefi’s locked bedroom and a shared sense of respect that goes beyond that of the traditional mother-daughter relationship. Ezinma calls her mother by her given name, and she has the audacity to ask Ekwefi questions that other mothers would find annoying.

Like Ekwefi, Ezinma has an inborn confidence that outshines that of most girls. The narrator suggests that the she sits like a man, asks to take on the tasks of a boy, talks with brazenness unknown to her sex, and even has temper tantrums like her father. However, Okonkwo seems to enjoy her transgressions of prescribed gender boundaries, despite his outwardly staunch adherence to traditional gender roles.

However, Ezinma – as atypical as she is with her ogbanje birth and brazen character – ends up living the life of a typical Umuofia woman. She grows up into a beauty like her mother, comes back to Umuofia after living in exile with her father, and gets married there. Ironically it’s Nwoye, the timid boy, who steps out and openly chooses a nontraditional life path, not Ezinma who seems to grow similar to her traditional father.

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