Study Guide

Things Fall Apart Chapter Eight

By Chinua Achebe

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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.”

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