Study Guide

Things Fall Apart Chapter Four

By Chinua Achebe

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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.

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