Study Guide

Things Fall Apart Chapter Seven

By Chinua Achebe

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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).

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