Study Guide

Things Fall Apart

Things Fall Apart Summary

Though Okonkwo is a respected leader in the Umuofia tribe of the Igbo people, he lives in fear of becoming his father – a man known for his laziness and cowardice. Throughout his life, Okonkwo attempts to be his father’s polar opposite. From an early age, he builds his home and reputation as a precocious wrestler and hard-working farmer. Okonkwo’s efforts pay off big time and he becomes wealthy through his crops and scores three wives.

Okonkwo’s life is shaken up a when an accidental murder takes place and Okonkwo ends up adopting a boy from another village. The boy is named Ikemefuna and Okonkwo comes to love him like a son. In fact, he loves him more than his natural son, Nwoye. After three years, though, the tribe decides that Ikemefuna must die. When the men of Umuofia take Ikemefuna into the forest to slaughter him, Okonkwo actually participates in the murder. Although he’s just killed his adoptive son, Okonkwo shows no emotion because he wants to be seen as Mr. Macho and not be weak like his own father was. Inside, though, Okonkwo feels painful guilt and regret. But since Okonkwo was so wrapped up in being tough and emotionless, he alienates himself from Nwoye, who was like a brother to Ikemefuna.

Later on, during a funeral, Okonkwo accidentally shoots and kills a boy. For his crime, the town exiles him for seven years to his mother’s homeland, Mbanta. There, he learns about the coming of the white missionaries whose arrival signals the beginning of the end for the Igbo people. They bring Christianity and win over Igbo outcasts as their first converts. As the Christian religion gains legitimacy, more and more Igbo people are converted. Just when Okonkwo has finished his seven-year sentence and is allowed to return home, his son Nwoye converts to Christianity. Okonkwo is so bent out of shape that he disowns his son.

Eventually, the Igbo attempt to talk to the missionaries, but the Christians capture the Igbo leaders and jail them for several days until the villagers cough up some ransom money. Contemplating revenge, the Igbo people hold a war council and Okonkwo is one of the biggest advocates for aggressive action. However, during the council, a court messenger from the missionaries arrives and tells the men to stop the meeting. Enraged, Okonkwo kills him. Realizing that his clan will not go to war against the white men, the proud, devastated Okonkwo hangs himself.



  • Chapter One

    • We meet Okonkwo at age 18 during a wrestling match – the moment that he first becomes famous among the local villages.
    • Okonkwo is fighting against an undefeated wrestler called Amalinze the Cat, but in the end, Okonkwo throws the Cat and wins the contest.
    • This wrestling match actually happened twenty years ago, and since then Okonkwo’s reputation has grown and spread.
    • Achebe describes Okonkwo as a pretty intimidating guy. He’s physically huge, has an intense face, and tends to use his fists to settle his arguments. And he’s impatient with “unsuccessful” men – like his dad.
    • Okonkwo despises his late father, Unoka, for his laziness. Unoka died ten years ago, but essentially was totally irresponsible and was always blowing his money on booze (okay, gourds of palm-wine). He was a drink-and-be-merry kind of guy who enjoyed playing the flute, feasting, and celebrating.
    • As a youth, Unoka was a musician and his happiest moments were after the annual harvest, when the whole village would gather to feast and enjoy the music.
    • Later in life though, Unoka was a failure because he was too lazy to work. Instead, he borrowed money from all his friends and could barely afford to feed his family. He became the laughingstock of the village.
    • Flashing back to when Unoka was alive, we see a telling scene. Okoye, Unoka’s neighbor, comes to visit Unoka and offers him a kola nut, which is a ritual gift. Okoye goes through a long-winded, stylized discourse which is a polite way of asking Unoka to pay back the loan of 200 cowries he borrowed from Okoye.


    • Unoka laughs at Okoye and points at his wall, on which he has marked down all his debts. He owes a lot of people a lot of money. He snubs Okoye, saying he means to pay off his big debts first (because he’s in major debt) and Okoye is forced to leave empty-handed.
    • The flashback ends.
    • Unoka died in debt, which is why Okonkwo is ashamed of him. Okonkwo, unlike his father, established himself as a rich successful yam farmer with three wives and two tribal titles. He seems destined for great things.
    • At the end of the chapter, we are left with a tantalizing snippet of information – Okonkwo is somehow left in charge of an ill-fated boy named Ikemefuna.
  • Chapter Two

    • This chapter tells the story of how Okonkwo ends up with Ikemefuna.
    • Okonkwo lies in bed contemplating the meaning of the gong sounded by the town crier late at night. The gong signals that the men must gather in the morning, but Okonkwo fears that something bad has happened.
    • We learn that the people of Umuofia fear night’s darkness but will allow their children to play in the moonlight.
    • In the morning, the whole village learns that last night’s gong was sounded for the death of a daughter of the clan. She was killed at the market by a neighboring clan and now Okonkwo wants to go to war to get revenge.
    • The neighboring clans, however, want to avoid war because they fear the Umuofia. When Okonkwo arrives in the neighboring village of the offending tribe, they offer a peaceful solution of a ritual sacrifice (not killing, but giving up of) of a boy and a virgin girl to the Umuofia clan.
    • Okonkwo accepts the virgin girl and the boy – Ikemefuna – and returns home.
    • The Umuofia elders decide that the virgin girl should be given to the man whose wife was just murdered. The boy’s fate goes undecided, so Okonkwo takes him home in the meantime.
    • Ikemefuna ends up living in Okonkwo’s household for 3 years.
    • We learn that Okonkwo rules his family with an iron fist and his wives live in fear of him. He’s got a pretty bad temper. Achebe does a bit of psychoanalysis on Okonkwo and essentially his aggression stems from a deep-seeded, subconscious fear of being a failure like his father.
    • Okonkwo recalls how a childhood friend called Okonkwo’s father agbala – meaning woman or a man without a title.
    • Okonkwo’s M.O. is hating everything he thinks his dad stood for: gentleness and idleness.
    • In an attempt to be completely unlike his father, Okonkwo works hard tilling the fields until dark. His efforts keep his family prosperous.
    • As you might expect from a man with three wives, Okonkwo has a child, a twelve-year-old son named Nwoye. Okonkwo, still consumed with fear, beats and chastises his son frequently because he’s worried that the boy is lazy. Not a good move.
    • At the end of the chapter, the narrative switches to Ikemefuna’s point of view. Okonkwo hands the boy over to his first wife and orders her to take care of him.
    • Ikemefuna doesn’t really understand what’s going on. He’s just scared and confused.
  • Chapter Three

    • We begin to get more insights into Okonkwo’s past. Unlike his peers, he started out poor and didn’t inherit anything from his dad, who was always in debt.
    • A common story told in Okonkwo’s village is about Okonkwo’s father, Unoka, visiting the tribe’s oracle, Agbala, to discover why he has such bad harvests.
    • The narrative flashes back to Unoka speaking with the oracle many years ago when Okonkwo was still a boy.
    • Agbala’s priestess interrupts as Unoka begins explaining himself. She says that he has no one but himself to blame for his bad harvests. She points out his laziness in contrast to his neighbors’ admirable work ethic and sends him away with simple advice: “go home and work like a man.”
    • Eventually Unoka gets sick with a disease which causes his stomach to swell. This disease is considered an abomination to the earth so Unoka is not allowed to die at home, nor does ritual allow his body allowed to be buried. He dies and rots under a tree in the Evil Forest.
    • Even before his father died, Okonkwo was forced to blaze his own trail to wealth and respect because lazy Unoka could give his son nothing.
    • To create his own wealth and reputation, Okonkwo goes to a wealthy man – Nwakibie – and makes polite offerings of palm-wine and kola nut and asks for a favor. Essentially, Okonkwo makes a sharecropping agreement with the wealthy man where he only gets one-third of his harvest and Nwakibie gets the rest.
    • Nwakibie is unexpectedly generous to Okonkwo, giving him twice the number of seeds expected because, unlike many young men, Okonkwo isn’t afraid of hard work.
    • Okonkwo works tirelessly to harvest the yams while his mother and sisters work their own crops. Okonkwo is angry because all this work is going towards feeding his father’s household (because his father is lazy) instead of building up his own future.
    • The year turns out to be a disaster. There is a long period of drought, killing the first batch of Okonkwo’s yams. After he plants the remainder, there is endless flooding so the few yams that actually make it to harvest are rotting.
    • But Okonkwo survives the tragic year and vows that he can survive anything due to his “inflexible will.”
  • Chapter Four

    • Because of his personal merits, Okonkwo has quickly risen to be one of the most highly ranked men in his clan.
    • During a meeting of kinsmen, Okonkwo proves himself to have little sympathy for men who have been less successful than himself. When a titleless man contradicts him, he says, “this meeting is for men.”
    • The other men make Okonkwo apologize to the lower-ranked man and tell Okonkwo that he should be humble and have sympathy for those who are less fortunate.
    • The narrator, however, assures the reader that Okonkwo hasn’t been successful simply because he’s a lucky man; he’s worked hard to rise from poverty to his current position.
    • The clan respects Okonkwo for his hard work and strong-will, which is why they selected him to go to the offending village to declare war (that was when he ended up taking Ikemefuna and the virgin girl instead).
    • The clan assigns Ikemefuna to Okonkwo’s care until they decide what to do with him.
    • When Ikemefuna moves in to Okonkwo’s house, he’s terrified and refuses to eat until he’s taken home. Okonkwo won’t put up with the boy’s hunger strike and stands over Ikemefuna with a threatening club, forcing the boy to eat his meal.
    • After the force-feeding session, Ikemefuna is sick for a while, but once he’s healthy again, he’s turns out to be a happy, lively boy.
    • Ikemefuna is well-liked in Okonkwo’s household. He develops a bond with Nwoye and Okonkwo’s first wife, the mother of Nwoye. Even Okonkwo comes to think of Ikemefuna as a son, though he never outwardly shows his affection (surprise, surprise).
    • Ikemefuna came to Umuofia around the start of the Week of Peace, the happy interval between harvest and planting.
    • During this time, however, Okonkwo breaks the peace. He beats his third wife, Ojiugo, for not arriving home in time to cook his midday meal. By beating his wife, he breaks the law of the Week of Peace. Ezeani, the priest of the earth goddess, comes to punish him.
    • The priest bashes Okonkwo for violating the rules of the sacred week and possibly making the earth goddess angry. Then he gives Okonkwo instructions for righting his wrong: Okonkwo must bring a sacrifice to the goddess’s shrine.
    • Okonkwo does as he is told and really does feel repentant, but is too proud to reveal that to his neighbors. So his neighbors think that he’s too proud to respect the gods.
    • Town gossip reveals that transgression during the Week of Peace rarely happens, so this is big news. Historically, the punishment has also been much more severe.
    • After the Week of Peace ends, new crops are planted. Okonkwo starts the arduous process of planting yams with the help of Nwoye and Ikemefuna.
    • While preparing the seed yams, he constantly criticizes the boys for not preparing them correctly and threatening them aggressively.
    • Okonkwo knows that the boys are too young to really be able to plant yams well, but he’s harsh with them because he wants them to turn into tough men.
    • After much hard work planting and tending the yams, the rainy season arrives and the boys and Okonkwo remain indoors.
    • During his free time, Ikemefuna tells folktales to Nwoye. This is a pretty happy time for Ikemefuna and he finally feels at home in Okonkwo’s household.
  • Chapter Five

    • The chapter opens three days before the Feast of the New Yam, and all of the villagers are excited.
    • Okonkwo and his family are preparing for the holiday feast, to which Okonkwo will invite the families of his three wives.
    • Instead of feeling excited about spending time with his three sets of in-laws, Okonkwo is on edge. Unlike his dad, he’s not a happy-go-lucky party guy. Essentially, he’s a workaholic and would rather not be sitting around.
    • Okonkwo’s wives prepare for the festival and feast by cleaning the house, repainting the walls, and primping themselves and the children with body paint and nice hairdos.
    • Everyone seems happy except for Okonkwo, who can’t suppress his bad mood and takes it out on his second wife, Ekwefi. He accuses her of killing a banana tree (when it’s not anywhere near dead), beats her, and then threatens her with a gun when she talks back.
    • The rest of the family is too scared to protest.
    • Despite Okonkwo’s scary, abusive outburst, the feast still goes smoothly. Okonkwo’s in-laws arrive with a bunch of palm-wine.
    • On the second day of the festival, wrestling matches are scheduled, much to Ekwefi’s delight. She fell in love with Okonkwo during the opening match of the book, when he threw the Cat.
    • Once the village beauty, Ekwefi couldn’t marry Okonkwo because at the time, he was too poor to pay her bride price. So she ran away from home, disobeying her husband, and went to live with Okonkwo.
    • Ekwefi has one daughter, a ten-year-old girl named Ezinma. She is a strange child who always speaks her mind, asks lots of questions, and even calls her mother by her first name.
    • Ekwefi and Ezinma are preparing food on the day of the wrestling match when Okonkwo’s first wife comes to ask for Ezinma to bring her a few live coals.
    • Ezinma makes Okonkwo’s first wife a fire using the coals and some sticks that she gathered.
    • As Ezinma heads back to her mother’s hut, she hears the drums sounding in the ilo (which is like a town plaza where events take place). The drums signal that the wrestling will start later, it’s a kind of build up to the main event.
    • As Ekwefi and Okonkwo’s first wife prepare yams, Ezinma and the women hear Obiageli, the daughter of Okonkwo’s first wife, crying.
    • Ikemefuna and the first wife’s children come marching in with dinner pots, but Obiageli has no pot and is crying.
    • Obiageli broke her pot while showing off to the other children; she tried to pretend she was a grown woman and carry the pot on her head. However, the little girl makes up a sad story to tell her mother, and though the other children know it’s not true, Ikemefuna keeps them silent.
    • Ezinma brings Okonkwo the dinner dish that Ekwefi made. Obiageli brings food that her mother prepared, and Nkechi, the daughter of Okonkwo’s third wife, brings another dish.
    • Ezinma is inquisitive with her father, and although he acts stern and unemotional around her, he’s secretly has a soft spot for the girl.
    • As the chapter closes, the drums are still sounding.
  • Chapter Six

    • The village attends the wrestling matches. One boy stands out – Maduka, son of Obierika. He defeats his opponent so quickly that most of the audience couldn’t even see his winning move.
    • Between the boys’ and men’s matches, Ekwefi speaks to Chielo, the priestess and voice/oracle of the spirit of Agbala.
    • Chielo is good friends with Ekwefi and very fond of Ezinma. Their conversation hints that something threatened Ezinma’s life as a child, but it has since been overcome.
    • The wrestling ends with a rematch between Ikezue and Okafo, two men who had fought to a standstill the year before. Just when it seems this year will end with another draw, Ikezue makes a miscalculation out of desperation, and Okafo throws him – much to the crowd’s delight.
    • The chapter ends with the villagers singing a song of praise to Okafo.
  • Chapter Seven

    • In the three years Ikemefuna has stayed with Okonkwo’s family, he has greatly influenced Nwoye.
    • Nwoye now takes pleasure in performing the masculine tasks around the household, whereas before Ikemefuna came, he had more of a predilection for the feminine.
    • Nwoye truly enjoys “women’s” stories, especially folktales like that of Vulture and the Sky. Now, however, now he listens instead to Okonkwo’s tales of warfare and head-hunting, both to please Okonkwo and emulate Ikemefuna.
    • Okonkwo approves of Nwoye’s shift toward the masculine behaviors and entertainment, having worried for years about his tendency to enjoy all things feminine.
    • One day while everyone is working, a swarm of locusts darkens the sky. At night, the cloud of locusts descends.
    • No need to worry, the locusts are considered a delicious treat among the Umuofia, so the people gather them to feast on for days. (Maybe they’re slimy yet satisfying? Or crunchy yet scrumptious?) Anyway, the village rejoices and snacks away.
    • While Okonkwo is enjoying his locusts, Ezedu, a respected elder arrives with a message: the village (or rather the Umuofia Oracle) has decided to kill Ikemefuna in punishment of the crime committed long ago against Umuofia. Ezedu advises Okonkwo to obey the command, but have nothing to do with the actual execution, since Ikemefuna “calls you father.”
    • Okonkwo lies to Ikemefuna, telling him that he’s being sent back to his own village. The entire household intuits the truth and reacts somberly, but can do nothing about it. Even Ikemefuna doesn't really believe he's going home.
    • A posse of men, including Okonkwo, “accompanies” Ikemefuna out into the wilderness to take him home (or slaughter him).
    • As they walk, Ikemefuna is lulled into a false sense of security, telling himself that Okonkwo is his real father and would do nothing to hurt him. He convinces himself that he is really going home and occupies himself with a childhood song that his biological mother had taught him.
    • When the time comes, Okonkwo is told to go to the back of the pack and do nothing.
    • The men cut Ikemefuna down with their machetes and Ikemefuna cries out for Okonkwo, calling him “father.”
    • In reply, Okonkwo steps forward and delivers the killing blow to his adoptive son. (Ikemefuna is all, “Et tu, Brute?” OK, not really, because that’s actually Julius Caesar, but the poor kid probably feels the same way.)
    • If you’re wondering why on earth Okonkwo slashed Ikemefuna, it’s a lame macho reason: Okonkwo is afraid of his peers thinking he’s weak.
    • When Okonkwo returns home, Nwoye immediately knows what's happened and “something seemed to give way inside him, like the snapping of a tightened bow.”
    • This is the second time Nwoye has felt this way. The first occasion was the previous year during harvest season when he had heard the voice of an infant crying from the deep woods. It is customary of the Umuofia to discard infant twins in the Evil Forest (because they are considered an abomination to the earth).
  • Chapter Eight

    • Okonkwo feels guilty about killing Ikemefuna, which he ought to, according to us.
    • Okonkwo doesn’t eat anything for two days and just drinks palm-wine.
    • Nwoye is now scared of his dad and tries to avoid him.
    • When Okonkwo asks Ekwefi to make him a dish, she does it in his favorite way and has Ezinma, his favorite daughter, bring the food to him. Ezinma insists that he eat the entire dish since he hasn’t had food for two whole days.
    • While he eats, he keeps wishing to himself that Ezinma had been born a boy because, “she has the right spirit.”
    • Okonkwo desperately wants some work to distract himself with, but he’s out of luck because it’s the down season for farmers – the time between the harvest and the planting.
    • Okonkwo is hard on himself, mentally calling himself a “woman” for his reaction to killing Ikemefuna.
    • To make himself feel better, he visits his friend Obierika. Obierika is happy to see his friend because he wants Okonkwo to help him negotiate a bride-price with his daughter’s suitor.
    • Okonkwo greets Obierika’s son, Maduka, the promising young wrestler. On seeing the young man, Okonkwo admits that he’s worried about Nwoye. In fact, he’s worried that all of his sons are wussies and don’t take after him. He reiterates his wish that Ezinma were a boy.
    • Okonkwo rattles on some more about Nwoye being soft, and in order to keep his mind off the similarity between his lazy father and Nwoye, Okonkwo revels in his own manliness and his ability to kill Ikemefuna.
    • Okonkwo calls Obierika out for not coming with them to kill Ikemefuna. Obierika says he had better things to do and that Okonkwo should have stayed home himself because killing a boy who is like your son doesn’t please the Earth goddess.
    • Obierika’s sharp defense is interrupted by a man named Ofoedu, who clearly has some news that he’s dying to share.
    • Ofoedu tells the men a strange story about an old man and wife from the neighboring village of Ire. The old man has just recently been found dead in his bed and when his first wife discovered this, she prayed for him. Hours later, the youngest wife went into the bedroom and found the first wife dead beside her husband.
    • Obierika comments on the close bond between the two, but Okonkwo sees their relationship as a weakness on the man’s part.
    • Okonkwo says he’s going to leave to tap his palm trees; he wants some work to busy his mind and keep from thinking about Ikemefuna.
    • It turns out that high ranking men with titles like Obierika and Okonkwo are forbidden to climb tall palm trees and tap them; they have to have young, titleless men do that work. Obierika thinks the law is stupid and leads to the young, unskilled men killing the palms. Okonkwo counters him, saying the law of the land must be obeyed; the tapping must continue and titled men cannot do it.
    • Okonkwo is pretty concerned with titles and wants to keep the title of ozo elite and revered, even if it means not tapping the tall palm trees himself.
    • Later when Okonkwo returns to Obierika’s hut, a suitor and his family are there to ask for Obierika’s daughter’s (Akueke’s) hand in marriage.
    • Discussion among the men turns to Obierika’s son, Maduka. Everyone admires the young man.
    • Akueke, Obierika’s daughter, enters with refreshments and shakes hands with her suitor and would-be in-laws.
    • Akueke is just sixteen and considered both beautiful and fashionable. She even has “full, succulent breasts” which her suitor certainly doesn’t fail to notice.
    • The girl returns to her mother’s hut where she is scolded and told to remove her waist beads before cooking so they don’t catch fire.
    • While drinking strong wine provided by the suitor, Ibe, the men fully ignore the topic at hand – settling Akueke’s bride price.
    • After the drinking, however, they negotiate her bride price by passing back and forth changing numbers of sticks, which represent bags of cowries (shells which serve as a form of monetary exchange).
    • The two families finally decide on twenty bags of cowries.
    • Next, the men criticize the bride-pricing customs of other tribes – implying other tribes are inferior because they haggle over the brides as if they were livestock or let the women of the family determine the price.
    • The scene ends with Obierika talking about white men, who apparently are as colorless as chalk and have no toes.
    • One of the men makes a joke, saying that he’s seen a white man tons of times, his name is Amadi. So the joke is that Amadi isn’t white, he just has leprosy and the euphemism for leprosy is “the white skin.”
  • Chapter Nine

    • Okonkwo can finally sleep well again. He’s feeling like his old self – in other words, he's wondering why on earth killing his adoptive son ever bothered him.
    • Just as he’s feeling good about himself again, Okonkwo is woken up in the morning by Ekwefi pounding down his door and carrying the message that Ezinma is dying.
    • Okonkwo immediately runs to Ekwefi’s hut – evidence that Mr. Tough Guy really does care for his little daughter.
    • Ezinma is bedridden and feverish. Okonkwo diagnoses her illness as iba and goes to gather herbs for a medicine.
    • The relationship between Ekwefi and Ezinma is uncommonly close because Ezinma is an only child. Ekwefi values her because she has borne children ten times and nine of the children died in infancy or early childhood.
    • After her second child’s death, the medicine man diagnosed Ekwefi as bearing ogbanje children – changeling children that keep dying and re-entering their mother’s wombs to be born again. One way of deterring such unnatural children from coming back was mutilating the dead bodies of the infants in hopes of scaring them away from reentering their mother’s womb. So Ekwefi’s third child was mutilated after death.
    • Ekwefi became sad and bitter because of her misfortune, but her next child born was Ezinma, who was sickly but surprisingly hardy.
    • Though Ezinma survived past her early years, she was always periodically sick. The town believes that Ezinma is an ogbanje, but they hope that she has decided to stay and give up the evil cycle of birth and death.
    • Ekwefi lives in constant fear that her beloved daughter will not choose to stay with her.
    • A year ago, Ezinma underwent the process of breaking her ties with the ogbanje world – finding and digging up her iyi-uwa, a special kind of stone that connects an ogbanje child to the spirit world and allows her to be reborn repeatedly.
    • We enter into a flashback to the time when Ezinma’s iyi-uwa was found.
    • In order to find the location of the girl’s iyi-uwa, a wise old medicine man named Okagbue questions Ezinma about where she buried the stone. He insists that she knows the location.
    • Ezinma takes Okagbue, followed by her parents and many villagers, on a bit of a wild goose chase, She confidently walks away from home and goes through brush and branches only to bring everyone straight back to her father’s hut. She was probably having a bit of fun with this, especially since Okagbue wouldn’t let Okonkwo threaten or beat the girl for her antics.
    • Back at her father’s hut, Ezinma stops at an orange tree and indicates it is the spot.
    • Okagbue and Okonkwo dig for a long time before finding something wrapped in a dirty rag.
    • When he unwraps it, a shiny pebble falls out and there is much rejoicing. Okagbue asks Ezinma if this is her iyi-uwa and she answers yes.
    • The flashback ends and the legitimacy of the ritual is called into question now, a year later, when Ezinma’s life appears threatened by an intense fever.
    • Okonkwo returns gathering herbs to heal his little daughter. He then boils the medicinal roots, barks, and leaves, warning Ekwefi to watch the pot carefully so it doesn’t boil over. He is snappy and anxious.
    • Once the medicinal concoction has boiled long enough, Okonkwo wakes Ezinma and forces her to sit over the steaming pot of medicine covered by a blanket. Essentially, she’s stuck in an aromatherapy steam room.
    • Though Ezinma complains and cries and struggles to be let loose from the choking steam, she is held down.
    • When Okonkwo finally releases her, the girl is drenched with sweat and falls asleep.
    • At this point, the narrator leaves us hanging. We don’t get to find out whether Ezinma lives or dies. (If you’re the kind of person who really can handle suspense, you might want to jump to Chapter Eleven.)
  • Chapter Ten

    • The village performs an interesting ceremony which draws the attention of a large crowd. The narrator specifies that the ceremony is for men; women watch only from the peripheries.
    • Two small groups of people face off as drums beat. One group consists of a woman, Mgbafo, and her brothers, the other group is Mgbafo’s husband, Uzowulu, and his family.
    • A gong sounds, signaling the beginning of the ritual, and the audience looks towards the egwugwu house, or the building that’s supposed to be the dwelling place of the Umuofia gods.
    • With the sounding of the gong, the spirits of the Umuofia ancestors come out of the forest and the nine Umuofia gods appear.
    • Achebe doesn't mean for us to think that real spirits are showing up. The egwugwu take the form of masked men and when they arrive and the narrator notes that one of them has a springy step much like Okonkwo. Basically, we’re meant to guess that the nine egwugwu are actually masked elders of the clan.
    • The nine gods – one for each of the nine Umuofia villages – are pretty freaky. The main god is called the Evil Forest, which seems a rather fitting name for a dude who has smoke pouring from his head.
    • The egwugwu sit down and formally greet Uzowulu and Mgbafo’s oldest brother. Then the gods open the floor for Uzowulu to present his complaint.
    • Uzowulu accuses the other side (his brothers-in-law) of coming to his house, beating him up, and taking away his wife and children. Furthermore, he asserts that his wife’s family refused to return the bride price – the traditional compensation for a runaway wife.
    • Odukwe, Mgbafo’s eldest brother presents his sister’s case. He refutes Uzowulu, justifying he and his brothers’ actions by claiming that Uzowulu treated Mgbafo violently, beating her unnecessarily and excessively, to the point where she miscarried a baby.
    • Uzowulu interjects to insist that Mgbafo miscarried when she slept with her lover. The egwugwu point out that no lover would sleep with a pregnant woman.
    • Mgbafo’s brothers claim that when they stole their sister away, it was because Uzowulu was about to beat her to death. The brothers also threaten that if their brother-in-law “ever beats her again we shall cut off his genitals for him.” Now there's a deterrent.
    • Uzowulu’s neighbors are called as witnesses, and they agree that the man has been beating his wife.
    • After the egwugwu consult in private, they declare their sentence. Uzowulu is commanded to go to his in-laws with an offering of wine and beg his wife to return. He is not to beat her anymore.
    • The in-laws, similarly, are told to return the wife to Uzowulu if he brings them wine.
    • This decides the case and another group steps forward to present their dispute over land to the egwugwu.
  • Chapter Eleven

    • Ezinma survived her fever!
    • Ekwefi and Ezinma take turns telling folktales during a moonless night.
    • Ekwefi tells a story about crafty Tortoise and his wily maneuverings and sweet-talking to get to a feast in heaven.
    • Ezinma is unhappy with her mother’s tale because “there is no song in the story.” The girl begins to tell her own tale.
    • She is interrupted by the high-pitched cries of Chielo, the priestess of Agbala, screaming prophecies.
    • Chielo comes to Okonkwo and demands to see Ezinma. Ekwefi, overhearing, feels a stab of fear.
    • Okonkwo tries to get Chielo to come back in the morning, but apparently Agbala wants to see “his daughter” (Chielo implies Ezinma is Agbala's daughter, not Okonkwo's), and Okonkwo should watch out because he’s exchanging words with a god (Agbala) through Chielo.
    • Okonkwo’s wives come out of their huts to meet Chielo while the children watch from the sidelines.
    • Chielo insists that Agbala wants to see Ezinma in his cave in the hills. When Ekwefi says she wants to come too, Chielo curses her.
    • Chielo, clearly in a strange state, tells Ezinma to climb on her back. Ezinma, crying from fear, obeys while her distraught parents watch, helpless to oppose the will of the god.
    • Chielo spirits Ezinma away without any explanation.
    • Ekwefi, in a show of strength, steels herself and follows them. Okonkwo does nothing to stop her.
    • Ekwefi becomes more and more afraid as she pursues the priestess and her abducted daughter.
    • While following the priestess’s path, Ekwefi takes some time to consider what she will do when they reach their final destination. Ekwefi feels too frightened to follow them into Agbala’s cave and begins thinking of terrifying “evil essences” that are loose in the woods.
    • The moonless night frightens Ekwefi, and Chielo seems to have supernatural strength and speed, moving rapidly and tirelessly through the underbrush. The priestess also knows that she is being followed and threatens the pursuer with the wrath of the god Agbala. Yet Ekwefi persists.
    • Chielo keeps up her steady pace and leads her pursuer through a village and then back into the eerie woods, continuing her strange, possessed chanting.
    • To Ekwefi, Chielo no longer seems to be the kind woman who is her friend. Right now, Chielo is rather inhumane – the frightening priestess of Agbala.
    • Late into the night, after the moon has risen, Chielo finally reaches her destination, the shrine of Agbala and disappears into a small entrance in the ground, with Ezinma still on her back. Ekwefi, sick with fear, vows that she will defend her daughter to the death. And she waits outside the entrance for them to return.
    • As she waits, Okonkwo shows up with a machete in hand. At the sight of him, Ekwefi knows Ezinma will be safe. He sits down to wait with her.
    • The chapter ends with Ekwefi recalling the day she ran away to elope with Okonkwo. She had been married to another man, Anene, for two years but walked right up to Okonkwo’s door. He carried her inside, started to take off her clothes, and the rest is history…or private.
  • Chapter Twelve

    • The village is preparing to celebrate the engagement of Obierika’s daughter and Okonkwo’s first and third wives are getting ready to bring gifts of food Obierika’s wife. Ekwefi, however, is exhausted after chasing Chielo all night.
    • The previous night, Chielo had crawled out of the shrine with Ezinma sleeping on her back and transported the girl safely back to the village. Okonkwo and Ekwefi had followed the priestess at a safe distance.
    • Ezinma emerges from her mother’s hut, having just woken up. She prepares to gather water with the other children to bring to Obierika’s wife.
    • Okonkwo’s first and third wives leave to go to Obierika’s place and promise to explain why Ekwefi will be late.
    • Okonkwo is grumpy because he spent the whole night worrying about Ezinma. Last night, he was torn between his desire to appear masculinely aloof and his fatherly instinct to protect his daughter. After Ekwefi left to chase after Chielo, Okonkwo had set out after them, but only found them on his fourth trip out, at which point he was sick with worry.
    • At Obierika’s compound, party preparations keep everyone as busy – the village is preparing a celebratory feast.
    • As some men discuss how magic medicine helps the market of neighboring village, Umuike, flourish and draw tons of people.
    • The discussion turns to how magic can also aid thieves in stealing cows. As they speak, a cow (of all things!) actually gets loose. All the women chase after the escaped animal and secure it. After all the commotion, the owner of the cow pays the fine required as penalty for setting a cow loose on a neighbor’s property.
    • Later in the day, the groom’s family brings the last of the bride price to the celebration – pots of palm-wine. The women of the house drink some wine, including the bride, Akueke, who is getting all dolled up for the celebration.
    • Obierika’s guests begin to arrive, followed by the new in-laws (the groom’s family).
    • Though Obierika’s family worried that the in-laws would be a bit stingy, altogether, the groom’s family brings fifty pots of wine – a good showing since only thirty were expected.
    • Obierika’s family formally gives away Akueke to the suitor, Ibe, and establishes an alliance between the two families. The crowd witnesses and confirms the union.
    • Everyone feasts.
    • The night ends with the girls dancing, led by the newlywed bride.
    • Before the groom’s family leaves, taking Akueke with them, Okonkwo gives them a gift of two roosters.
  • Chapter Thirteen

    • Drums and cannons sound and women wail, signaling the death of the oldest man in the village, Ezedu. He was the man who warned Okonkwo to “bear no hand in [Ikemefuna’s] death.”
    • Ezedu’s funeral is a big deal because he was one of the head honchos of the Umuofia. Even the ancestral spirits, the egwugwu, come to pay their respects and lament.
    • During the final salute, when the drums sound loudly and guns and cannons are fired, an accident occurs.
    • Ezedu’s sixteen-year-old son falls dead from a gunshot through the heart. He and his brothers had been performing a final dance to honor their father.
    • The offending gun is Okonkwo’s.
    • The Umuofia consider killing a clansman a horrible crime, one that offends the earth goddess. But, since the boy’s death was clearly an accident (considered female because it was unintentional), Okonkwo only receives the punishment of exile from the Umuofia villages for seven years.
    • Okonkwo must spend his seven years of banishment in his motherland (literally, the land from which his mother comes), a village called Mbanta.
    • That same night, Okonkwo and his weeping wives and children pack their belongings.
    • Just after Okonkwo and his family leave, a group of men, including Okonkwo’s best friend, Obierika, destroy Okonkwo’s home and slaughter his livestock.
    • The narrator makes it clear that Obierika doesn’t join the destruction out of spite; he and the other men feel the need to cleanse the land of Okonkwo’s crime to satisfy the earth goddess.
    • Obierika clearly sympathizes with Okonkwo. He asks himself “why should a man suffer so grievously for an offense he had committed inadvertently?” Yet, in the end, Obierika can do nothing to oppose the law of the Earth.
  • Chapter Fourteen

    • Uchendu, Okonkwo’s maternal uncle, welcomes Okonkwo and his family to Mbanta. Uchendu is the oldest member of the family and remembers Okonkwo as a boy when he returned to Mbanta for his mother’s funeral.
    • Though Uchendu wasn’t expecting to see his nephew, he can immediately read from Okonkwo’s face what happened.
    • The day after Okonkwo’s arrival in Mbanta, he tells his uncle about the crime that he committed. As you might imagine, Uchendu’s feeling pretty relieved that Okonkwo committed the “female” version of murder – if a murder is going to live among your family, it’s reassuring to know that he killed inadvertently.
    • Uchendu and his sons help Okonkwo build a compound and farm. The family even pitches in to give Okonkwo seed-yams to start a farm with the coming rain season.
    • Okonkwo, deeply perturbed by his exile, works as hard as always to prosper, but his heart is no longer in it. All his ambition to eventually become a great leader of the clan has been ripped away. He believes his personal god or chi was not destined for great things.
    • Uchendu sees Okonkwo’s despair. He decides that after the marriage of his youngest son, he’ll talk to Okonkwo.
    • All that remains before Uchendu’s son can be married is the last ceremony – the confession of the bride, in which the woman confesses if she has slept with any other men. If she hasn’t, she can marry.
    • The final marriage ceremony goes smoothly and the young woman becomes Uchendu’s daughter-in-law.
    • Two days later, Uchendu gathers his family (including Okonkwo) around him. Uchendu tells his family why Okonkwo is now living among them.
    • Next, Uchendu addresses Okonkwo. He asks his nephew why a common name for children is Nneka, meaning “Mother is supreme” when only men can be the head of a family. Okonkwo answers that he doesn’t know.
    • Uchendu goes on to inquire why women are buried with their own kinsmen and not those of their husband. Again, Okonkwo does not know.
    • Uchendu uses Okonkwo’s ignorance to call him a child and then proceeds to answer the questions himself.
    • He says that mothers protect their children unconditionally and that is why mothers are supreme. In times of trouble, children always go to their mother for comfort and protection.
    • Similarly, now that Okonkwo is going through hard times, he is in his motherland for protection. But by despairing, Okonkwo is like a child refusing to allow his mother to comfort him. Uchendu points out that Okonkwo’s behavior in his motherland displeases the dead and dishonors his mother.
    • Uchendu asserts that if Okonkwo continues on his present path, he will condemn himself and his whole family to death in exile.
    • Lastly, Uchendu puts Okonkwo in his place by pointing out that other men have suffered far worse than a measly seven years of exile.
  • Chapter Fifteen

    • In the second year of Okonkwo’s exile, Obierika comes to visit him bringing along two men carrying bags of cowries (money).
    • Uchendu, upon meeting Obierika, comments that it’s rare to have such a visit since the young men nowadays don’t often maintain relationships with their neighboring tribes.
    • Okonkwo, Uchendu, and Obierika settle in with some conversation and palm-wine.
    • Obierika brings news that one of the clans – Abame – has been completely wiped out. The cause: white man.


    • When the Abame clan came across a lone white man with on an “iron horse” (a bicycle), they were struck by his inability to communicate with them. Their oracle declared that the man would destroy the clan and that he was the first of many white men to come. So they killed him and tied his iron horse to a tree “because it looked as if it would run away to call the man’s friends.” Later that year, a trio of white men arrived, led by clansmen. They saw the iron horse, freaked out, and left. At the market a few weeks later, the entire clan was surrounded and massacred by a group the white men and their native allies. In the end, the oracle’s prophesy came true.
    • Uchendu reacts with rage and the knowledge that people should never kill a man who doesn’t speak. The white man’s inability to communicate, we understand, is unnatural and ominous. He backs up this advice with a folktale which ends with the wisdom that “There is nothing to fear from someone who shouts.”
    • Obierika ends the conversation by expressing his fear of the white men. He had never believed the stories he’d heard about white men with their guns and slaves. Uchendu cautions that, “There is no story that is not true.”
    • Okonkwo’s first wife cooks them dinner and Nwoye brings wine.
    • Over dinner, Obierika catches Okonkwo up on the latest news from their home village.
    • After the men finish eating, Obierika tells Okonkwo that the bags of cowries he brought are the earnings Okonkwo’s abandoned yams fields. Obierika sold the yams, and intends to do the same for every year until Okonkwo returns.
    • Okonkwo is very thankful to his friend for the help and money, and the two men continue to exchange news and jokes. The tone is friendly but slightly tense. One of the jokes cracked is about killing your son to pay back a debt.
  • Chapter Sixteen

    • Two years later, Obierika visits Okonkwo in Mbanta again. This time, his visit is motivated by less pleasant reasons.
    • Not only have white missionaries arrived in Umuofia and begun converting some clansmen to their faith, but alarmingly, Nwoye – Okonkwo’s eldest son – is one of the converts!
    • We get a flashback to Obierika discovering that Nwoye is among the Christian converts.
    • Obierika asks Nwoye what on earth he’s doing among the missionaries, and Nwoye responds that he has joined them.
    • When Obierika asks after his father, Nwoye responds sadly that Okonkwo isn’t his father anymore.
    • The flashback ends.
    • Okonkwo refuses to discuss Nwoye.
    • Despite Okonkwo’s silence on the subject, Obierika pieces together the story of Nwoye and the missionaries from Okonkwo’s first wife. We get a flashback about what occurred.
    • Six missionaries arrive in Mbanta – five natives and one white man – causing a lot of commotion in the village. Everyone is curious about the white man after having heard the story about the Abame clan massacre.
    • With a large group gathered, the white missionary begins speaking with the aid of a translator, an African using a different Igbo dialect to the people of Mbanta.
    • The villagers make fun of the translator because instead of saying “myself” he always says “my buttocks”!
    • The missionaries’ message is that there is only one true God and that the people of Mbanta are worshiping false gods. The true God judges everyone after death and throws those who worship false gods into a fire. Those who worship the true God get eternal life in “His happy kingdom.”
    • The white men also tempt the Igbo people to their side by offering them iron horses (bicycles) – once the missionaries come to permanently live among them. This last bit causes a stir. The people haven’t expected that white men would come to stay in Mbanta.
    • When an old man asks which of the Igbo gods – the earth goddess, sky god, or various others – is the aforementioned one true God, the white man claims that all of the Igbo gods are all false.
    • At this point, the men of Mbanta laugh and ignore the missionaries.
    • The missionaries begin to sing and their song tells the story of “brothers who lived in darkness and in fear, ignorant of the love of God” and of man being like lost sheep, away from their kind shepherd (God).
    • Okonkwo, listening to the missionaries, concludes that they must be insane. The only reason he sticks around to listen to them talk is that he’s hoping the men of Mbanta will decide to chase all of the missionaries out – he’d like to join in on that action.
    • Unlike his father, Nwoye is enraptured. Though he doesn’t understand the logic of Christianity – especially the Trinity – the song touches him. He associates it with the death of Ikemefuna and Igbo twins abandoned in the woods. The missionaries’ hymn gives him a feeling of relief.
  • Chapter Seventeen

    • The missionaries don’t seem to have much intention of leaving, and preach by day and sleep in the marketplace by night.
    • Within the first week of their arrival, the missionaries ask the rulers of Mbanta for land on which to build their church. Uchendu agrees, but gives them a section of the Evil Forest. No one in town wants the missionaries to stay, and they assume that any person with any intelligence wouldn’t live in the Evil Forest.
    • The respected men of Mbanta think that giving the missionaries a piece of the Evil Forest is a good joke. As Uchendu says, the missionaries “boast about victory over death. Let us give them a real battlefield on which to show their victory.”
    • The missionaries are so happy to have the land that they start singing. That wasn’t quite the reaction the men of Mbanta were expecting.
    • The villagers expect the missionaries, who are busy clearing forest land for their church, to die quickly. But they don’t.
    • The explanation for the missionaries’ success in the Evil Forest is that the white man with them can see the evil spirits through his glasses and communicate with them.
    • When none of the missionaries die, they win their first three converts.
    • During these first few weeks, Nwoye shadows the missionaries and lingers outside their church, but can't muster the courage to enter because of (justifiable) fear of his father.
    • The white missionary’s interpreter, Mr. Kiaga, has become the head of the new Mbanta church because the white man set up headquarters in Umuofia.
    • Mr. Kiaga invites everyone in the village to come worship at the church every Sunday.
    • Many of the villagers are still unsure about what the Igbo gods will do to the missionaries living in the Evil Forest. The gods sometimes let men do as they like to see if the humans will continue to defy them. However, the gods always exact revenge within 28 days.
    • The 28th day is fast approaching and the villagers eagerly watch and wait. Some converts even temporarily un-convert.
    • The 28th day arrives and Mr. Kiaga and the church are doing fine. They even win some more converts, including a pregnant woman named Nneka.
    • Nneka had previously given birth to four sets of twins, all of which were abandoned to the Evil Forest.
    • Okonkwo discovers though the grapevine that Nwoye has been hanging around the Christians and the news enrages him.
    • When Nwoye comes home, Okonkwo grabs the young man by the throat and angrily asks him where he’s been.
    • Nwoye doesn’t answer and Okonkwo starts beating him with a stick and threatening to kill him.
    • Uchendu arrives and tells Okonkwo to let go of Nwoye, which Okonkwo does.
    • Nwoye wisely leaves. He heads straight to the church and Mr. Kiaga to tell the church leader that he’s moving to Umuofia and join the white missionary’s school where he will learn to read and write.
    • Nwoye is glad to be rid of his father, though he vows to return to convert his mother and siblings.
    • Okonkwo is enraged and greatly troubled by Nwoye’s betrayal. He tries to calm himself by telling himself that Nwoye isn’t worth fighting for.
    • Okonkwo blames his bad fortune – his exile and worthless son – on his chi or personal god.
    • Part of the reason Okonkwo is so angry about Nwoye’s new religion is that he considers Christianity weak and effeminate, and we know how important manliness is to Okonkwo.
    • Okonkwo sees his father in Nwoye and can’t believe that he could father a son who’s so much like “a woman.”
    • In the end, Okonkwo realizes that “Living fire begets cold, impotent ash.”
  • Chapter Eighteen

    • At first, the people of Mbanta and the Christians are able to live together in peace because the missionaries stay in the Evil Forest and mostly mind their own business. However, as the group of converts grows in size and strength, confrontations between the Christians and villagers start to occur.
    • One day, some converts come into the village and threaten to burn down the shrines to the village’s gods. This behavior enrages the villagers, and the men beat the converts bloody.
    • There are also rumors that the white people are not only spreading their religion, but their government as well. This means courts to prosecute Igbo for killing converts and missionaries.
    • But in Mbanta, these governments are still a myth. The villagers continue to see Mr. Kiaga as a harmless fool, and wouldn’t even consider killing the converts because that would mean exile for killing a clansman.
    • The missionaries really start bother the clan when they welcome Igbo outcasts – similar to the Hindu untouchable caste – into the church.
    • When the outcasts first enter the church, hoping to be accepted and converted, the native converts protest, worried that the “heathens” in town will ridicule the converts for accepting the outcasts.
    • However, Mr. Kiaga, the head missionary, preaches tolerance and views the outcasts as brothers under God. His only stipulation is that they shave off their mark of ostracism – their long tangled hair
    • The outcasts acquiesce and soon become the strongest adherents to the church.
    • Then an incident occurs which proves to be a turning point. The royal python, the most revered animal among all the Igbo peoples, is killed by one of the converts. This is a crime so heinous that it was previously unimaginable and has never happened before.
    • Okonkwo wants to react with violence, but the elders gloss over the crime. In the end, they decide on the milder punishment of ostracizing the Christians.
    • Okonkwo, though frustrated by the perceived weakness of the Mbanta people, holds his tongue.
    • The Christians in Mbanta are now a rather large group, which is surprising considering that the first missionaries came to Mbanta only a year and a half ago.
    • When the female converts go to the river to get water to clean the church for their Easter celebrations, they are chased away. When Mr. Kiaga asks why they weren’t allowed to collect water, the women answer that the village has made all Christians outlaws.
    • Mr. Kiaga wants to know why they have been banished, and the women respond that it’s because the village believes that a convert, Okoli, killed the royal python.
    • After the village decided to outlaw the Christians, Okoli is found dead from illnesses.
    • The Mbanta people interpret Okoli’s death as a sign that their own gods are fighting back.
    • Happy to let the gods settle the conflict, the Mbanta people take no further action against the Christians.
  • Chapter Nineteen

    • As his term of exile draws to a close, Okonkwo bitterly regrets his seven years of banishment, seeing them as a lost opportunity to improve his standing in his fatherland of Umuofia.
    • Knowing that his time in Mbanta is coming to an end, Okonkwo sends money to Obierika to build some temporary huts for him in Umuofia in preparation for his return.
    • Okonkwo impatiently waits through the wet season – the last months of his required stay in Mbanta.
    • As the rain season draws to a close, Okonkwo decides to throw a farewell feast for the Mbanta people, to show his gratitude.
    • Okonkwo puts Ekwefi in charge of preparing cassava for the feast.
    • Two of Okonkwo’s daughters, Ezinma and Obiageli, gather cassava tubers a few days before the scheduled feast.
    • Okonkwo’s final feast is noted for its copious amounts of food – it’s almost like a wedding celebration. Okonkwo serves to impress.
    • Though the feast is a show of gratitude, Okonkwo also emphasizes that the gathering is justified merely because “it is good for kinsmen to meet.”
    • At the end of the feast, one of the elders speaks up and gives a warning to the younger generation. He fears for them because he feels the bonds of kinship are breaking, which allows Christianity to pollute their land and steal their men from their gods and their families.
    • With that ominous note, he thanks Okonkwo for his generosity.
  • Chapter Twenty

    • “Seven years was a long time to be away from one’s clan.”
    • Okonkwo realizes that he’s probably lost his high position in his fatherland; someone else probably took his place as one of the nine masked spirits and he’s probably no longer in a position to lead his clan into war against the Christians.
    • Despite long exile, Okonkwo has been planning his return basically since he was banished. He envisions rebuilding his compound with space for two more wives.
    • Essentially, he has grand plans for himself as displaying his wealth and power in numerous ways and sees himself as being given the highest possible title. This seems pretty much like wishful thinking.
    • His loss of Nwoye doesn’t alter his grand schemes much. After Nwoye’s conversion to Christianity, Okonkwo gathers the rest of his five sons together and issues an ultimatum. If any of them want to be a woman, they can follow Nwoye now, but he will disown and curse them, then haunt them when he dies. Harsh!
    • Okonkwo still wishes that Ezinma was a boy, because she understands him very well.
    • During the long exile, Ezinma has grown into a gorgeous young woman known in Mbanta as the “Crystal of Beauty.”
    • Ezinma has had many offers of marriage, but has refused them all because Okonkwo said he wants her, and all of his other daughters, to marry a man in Umuofia.
    • Okonkwo anticipates that on his return to Umuofia, his two beautiful grown daughters – Ezinma and Obiageli – will attract the attention of powerful men, increasing his status in his fatherland.
    • Upon returning to Umuofia, Okonkwo discovers that the Christians have gained a lot of ground. Now, their congregation doesn’t consist only of outcasts and low-born members of society, but also some titled men.
    • The white missionary is very pleased with himself, and even has held the first Holy Communion.
    • The dreaded government has also become a reality in Okonkwo’s fatherland and there is now a District Commissioner to judge cases.
    • Court messengers, who are called kotma by the Igbo people, beat those who offend the white men. The kotma are despised and because of their uniform of grey shorts, they are derisively called Ashy-Buttocks (ha!).
    • When discussing the white man’s invasion with Obierika, Okonkwo despairs. He doesn’t understand why his people don’t fight back.
    • Okonkwo believes that throwing the white men out town wouldn’t be difficult.
    • Obierika points out that throwing the white people out wouldn’t be easy because so many men of Umuofia have joined the ranks of the Christians. Since the religion is intertwined with the government, the converts by default must support the government.
    • The Christians have compromised the unity of the clan and has made them fall apart. In Obierika’s own words, “He [the white men] has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart.” This is the first (and only) reference to the title of the book.
    • Obierika tells Okonkwo of a man of Umuofia, Aneto, who was even hanged by the white men. The white court settled a land dispute in favor of the man who gave them money. Aneto ended up killing the man who was taking his land, and as he tried to flee (like Okonkwo had done). But the white men took him and hanged him.
    • The court interfered and prevented the clan’s traditional process of justice.
  • Chapter Twenty-One

    • Although Okonkwo strongly believes that the white men should be forced out of Umuofia, not everyone in town agrees. The white men have brought trading stores, goods, and money to the area, which many of the villagers appreciate.
    • Not all of the missionaries are bad. The white missionary in Umuofia, Mr. Brown, is well respected.
    • Mr. Brown does everything in his power to keep his flock of converts from harassing the clan. He doesn’t appreciate fanaticism and tries to prevent his converts from going off in the direction of extremism. When trying to convert people, he speaks logically and respectfully.
    • This chapter recounts such a conversation between Mr. Brown and Akunna, a respected man of the clan. The two men frequently visit with each other to speak about religion, although neither has been able to convert the other to his side.
    • Akunna finds parallels between Christianity and the Igbo polytheistic belief system. He argues that the two are not so different after all.
    • Akunna calls Mr. Brown and his kotma the human messengers of their God, and equates the men to the lesser gods in the Igbo pantheon who serve the supreme god, Chukwu. One must approach Chukwu or God through the lesser vehicles first out of fear and respect. Only when those channels fail does one directly address the supreme god.
    • Mr. Brown uses his new understanding of the Igbo faith to convert people. He realizes that a direct attack on their gods will not work and instead goes from family to family, begging them to send their children to the missionary school. Those that agree are rewarded with official positions; they become court messengers or clerks or schoolteachers.
    • The year that Okonkwo returns to Umuofia, Mr. Brown leaves for health reasons.
    • Okonkwo is distressed because his return doesn’t cause the great stir he had imagined since his exile.
    • The missionaries – their church, their government, and their trading stores – are occupying much of the Igbo’s thoughts and time.
    • Though his daughters receive good marriage proposals, Okonkwo is frustrated that his return has gone largely unnoticed. Hspends most of his time lamenting that the formerly warlike men of Umuofia have become too soft and womanly to resist the Christians.
  • Chapter Twenty-Two

    • Mr. Brown is replaced by Mr. Smith who, in modern terms, would be deemed a religious fanatic. He sees things as black and white, with black being evil. Unlike Mr. Brown, he has no tolerance for traditional Igbo practices or beliefs.
    • Mr. Smith thinks Mr. Brown focused on getting lots of converts instead of spending time teaching his converts a deep understanding of the Christian religion. He sees many of the new Christians as little better than the heathens.
    • With Mr. Smith in town, the more zealous converts get free rein to act on their fanaticism.
    • Enoch – a proud, zealous, and belligerent convert – commits the ultimate crime. During the worship of the earth goddess, he taunts one of the egwugwu, saying that the masked “spirit” wouldn’t dare touch a Christian. In response, the egwugwu smacks Enoch with a cane. But Enoch retaliates by publicly unmasking the egwugwu! This is akin to killing a god.
    • That night, the Mother of the Spirits loudly weeps throughout the town, mourning the death of her dead son – the unmasked egwugwu. “It seemed as if the very soul of the tribe wept for a great evil that was coming – its own death.”
    • The next day all the egwugwu gather to seek vengeance on Enoch. They storm the village, destroying Enoch’s compound and then head to the church.
    • In the meantime, Mr. Smith, after much prayer, has decided to hide Enoch from the clan’s wrath. However, he almost buckles with fear when he sees the terrifying masked egwugwu approaching. The previous night, Mr. Smith had also been freaked out when he heard the wailing Mother of Spirits.
    • Mr. Smith and his interpreter, Okeke, stand their ground outside the church.
    • The egwugwu rush Mr. Smith and Okeke and surround them.
    • The head of the egwugwu – Ajofia – speaks to the interpreter, telling him that the white man should go home. They will not harm him, but they cannot allow the church to stand anymore.
    • When Mr. Smith tells them to leave this house of God, Okeke wisely and deliberately mistranslates the message. He merely asks the egwugwu to leave matters in Mr. Smith’s hands.
    • They refuse. Though they do not kill any of the Christians, they burn the church to the ground.
    • “And for the moment the spirit of the clan was pacified.”
  • Chapter Twenty-Three

    • Of course, Okonkwo was one of the egwugwu who had advised violence. The destruction of the church makes him happy – it’s like the “good old days” are returning.
    • For the two days after the destruction of the church, all of the men of Umuofia carry weapons in case the white men try to retaliate.
    • Upon the return of the District Commissioner, Mr. Smith immediately goes to voice his complaint.
    • Five days after the church was burned, Okonkwo and five other Umuofia leaders are invited to speak to District Commissioner to discuss the confrontation. Though they arrive armed – at Okonkwo’s suggestion – they fall prey to an ambush.
    • In a move of shameful trickery, the District Commissioner has them all arrested and imprisoned.
    • The District Commissioner sets out to show the men who’s boss. In the District Commissioner’s own words: “We have a court of law where we judge cases and administer justice just as it is done in my own country under a great queen. I have brought you here because you joined together to molest others, to burn people’s houses and their place of worship. That must not happen in the dominion of our queen, the most powerful ruler in the world.”
    • All of a sudden, the men of Umuofia are subject to England’s system of justice and queen.
    • The District Commissioner sets the price of their release at two hundred bags of cowries (yikes!).
    • The imprisoned men don’t respond.
    • Though the District Commissioner tells the kotma to treat the prisoners with respect, these guards have their own agenda.
    • The kotma shave off their prisoners’ hair and starve them for three days straight.
    • On the third day when Okonkwo snarls that they should’ve killed the white men in retaliation for Enoch’s crime, the kotma overhear and beat Okonkwo for his impertinence.
    • The kotma tell the villagers that they must pay two hundred and fifty bags of cowries for their leaders’ release. Otherwise, the men will be hung.
    • Wild rumors spread about what will happen if the bail (or ransom?) isn’t paid. Some say that the whole town will be annihilated like the Abame.
    • The village has a strange, deserted air about it. It’s a night of the full moon, which is usually a time of much activity, but the village is silent and the feeling is ominous.
    • The next morning, the village gathers together the two hundred and fifty bags of cowries. What the clan doesn’t know is that fifty of those bags are snatched by the kotma, who have deliberately raised the price first set by the District Commissioner so that they could take a cut.
  • Chapter Twenty-Four

    • Upon their release, Okonkwo and the other five men go silently home.
    • At home, Ezinma cooks Okonkwo a meal, and Okonkwo is met by his male relations and Obierika. The men are mostly silent, but can see by the marks on his back that Okonkwo has been whipped while in jail.
    • That night, the village crier beats his gong to signal that there will be a village meeting in the morning.
    • The question of war is in the air.
    • Before going to bed, Okonkwo takes out his war dress. He vows vengeance for the shameful way he was treated by the white men and their court. Even if Umuofia decides not to go to war, he vows to avenge himself.
    • Okonkwo thinks nostalgically of the past, when the men of Umuofia were fierce and dreaded warriors.
    • Okonkwo despises Egonwanne, a man whose silver tongue usually convinces the Umuofia not to go to war against the white man. Okonkwo considers him a coward.
    • The next morning, the entire village congregates to hear the war decision. The marketplace is crammed with people.
    • Okonkwo arrives with Obierika and spots Egonwanne.
    • When Obierika asks if Okonkwo is afraid of Egonwanne persuading the village not to fight, Okonkwo goes into super macho mode. Okonkwo assures Obierika that he’s completely indifferent about the despicable Egonwanne, and that he himself will fight even if the clan chooses not to.
    • Okika, one of the six humiliated leaders, speaks to the crowd. He points out that times are dire – their gods are weeping and their clan is divided, joining up with strangers and forsaking their ancestors. Okika urges the Umuofia to go to war, even though it will mean fighting against their brothers who have joined the white men.
    • But just then, five kotma arrive. (Uh-oh).
    • Okonkwo confronts the kotma, trembling with rage.
    • The fearless head messenger tells him that the white man has ordered their meeting to stop.
    • This enrages Okonkwo and, in a flash, he draws his machete and decapitates the man.
    • The crowd behind him is in tumult, but makes no move to catch the other four kotma.
    • Okonkwo now knows that the Umuofia will not go to war because they let the other kotma escape.
    • He cleans off his machete and walks away.
  • Chapter Twenty-Five

    • The District Commissioner and his guards arrive at Okonkwo’s compound, demanding to see Okonkwo.
    • A small group of men is sitting there, but not Okonkwo.
    • The District Commissioner gets all hot and bothered when the men say that Okonkwo isn’t there, and he threatens to jail the men.
    • Obierika agrees to take the District Commissioner and his guards to Okonkwo. Still all snippy, the District Commissioner warns Obierika that if he tries anything tricky, he’ll be shot.
    • In a small opening in the compound, the District Commissioner sees Okonkwo dangling from a tree. He has committed suicide.
    • Obierika asks them to help them take down the body. Since it is an abomination for a man to take his own life, his corpse is now considered evil and only strangers may touch it. The Umuofia will pay the missionaries to take down and bury Okonkwo’s body; then they will perform the proper rituals to consecrate the polluted land.
    • Looking at Okonkwo’s body, Obierika loses his composure and blurts out, “That man was one of the greatest men in Umuofia. You drove him to kill himself; and now he will be buried like a dog…”
    • His outburst is ignored, except by one messenger who tells him to shut up.
    • The District Commissioner agrees to help them bury Okonkwo and sets his men to the task.
    • As the Commissioner leaves, he thinks about Okonkwo’s actions and wants to include them in a new book he is writing. At first he thinks he can devote a whole chapter to Okonkwo, but quickly decides to cut it to a mere paragraph. (Interesting that Achebe wrote a whole book about Okonkwo…)
    • Things Fall Apart ends with the revelation of the title of the District Commissioner’s book: The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger.