Study Guide

Things Fall Apart Chapter Five

By Chinua Achebe

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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.

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