Study Guide

Things Fall Apart Chapter Fourteen

By Chinua Achebe

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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.

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