Study Guide

Ikemefuna in Things Fall Apart

By Chinua Achebe

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(Click the character infographic to download.)

Ikemefuna is a fifteen-year-old boy from a neighboring clan, Mbaino, who is given up to Umuofia as a sacrifice for killing one of the women of Umuofia. He lives with Okonkwo’s family for three years before the elders order him to be killed. In those three years, he grows very close to Okonkwo's family, especially Nwoye. Okonkwo even prefers him to his true son Nwoye, considering Ikemefuna to be a promising, hard-working young man. His murder, in which Okonkwo takes a part, haunts Okonkwo throughout the book.

From the very beginning, Ikemefuna is the ultimate victim; his fate is completely out of his control since he is taken away by his family so early in life for a crime which he had no part in, nor any knowledge of. In his new life, Ikemefuna is subject to the whims of his new father and the Umuofia elders, in whose hands his fate ultimately lies.

Ikemefuna is a prime example of how Okonkwo’s fear of being like his father – feminine and cowardly – drives him to make a poor, regrettable decision. He joins in killing Ikemefuna because he is afraid of being weak, yet he is haunted by his decision and it also permanently emotionally distances him from Nwoye.

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