Study Guide

Unoka in Things Fall Apart

By Chinua Achebe

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(Click the character infographic to download.)

Unoka is Okonkwo’s father. Though he is a talented musician, he is lazy and irresponsible, falling into debt and bringing shame upon his family. Unoka’s bad reputation in Umuofia haunts Okonkwo throughout the novel. However, Unoka did not intentionally set out to defame his family, he just seemed to find no pleasure in anything but leisure, parties, and music. Passion for music occupies Unoka’s world more than anything and he finds his greatest joy playing his flute at festivals. What Unoka can’t seem to bring himself to do is work – despite his family nearly starving and his massive list of unpaid debts. His inability to even give his worthy son any sort of inheritance only increases his shame in the eyes of the community and his son. Unoka’s fear of blood and warfare combined his laziness mark him as dangerously effeminate in Okonkwo’s eyes.

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