Things Fall Apart Characters Analysis

Things Fall Apart Characters | An Analysis

  • April 25, 2022
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Introduction

The novel Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe is not only famous due to the best narration but also because of its unique major and minor characters as obvious from the character of Okonkwo. The writer belongs to the area where everything that he tells his readers has happened. Thus, he knows each and everything about them. In fact, he is one of them, hence, he paints such characters that grab the attention of the world. He does not only describe the physical appearance of his characters but also their moral and ethical values along with their mental psyche. The writer does not only focus on the main character of the novel but also describes in detail the features of minor characters; however, nothing is extra about them. 

Characters of Things Fall Apart

From the story and the actions of the characters, the readers can realise their importance. A list of all the characters of Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe is:

  • Okonkwo
  • Obierika
  • Uchendu
  • Unoka
  • Nwoye
  • Maduka
  • Ogbuefi Ezeudu
  • Ekwefi
  • Ezinma
  • Chielo
  • Mr Brown
  • James Smith
  • Mr Kiaga

Analysis of Okonkwo Character in Things Fall Apart

Okonkwo is the protagonist and main character of the novel Things Fall Apart. Many critics believe that he is a tragic hero too. Chinua Achebe sketches his physical strengths and declares him the strongest one in the community. He deals with everything with iron hands. It is because his father did not gain enough respect in the vicinity. He does not like him and fears becoming like him. Nwoye is the son of Okonkwo and he scolds him to work hard else he should become like Okonkwo’s father. Patience is a word unknown to him. Once his third wife was late in preparing a midday meal for him due to which he beat him in the week of peace. 

As far as the physical appearance of the character Okonkwo in Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe is concerned, he is tall and a brave person. Like a tiger, he breathes heavily and walks on his toes. He has a wide nose and bushy eyebrows.

Okonkwo gains respect in nine nearby villages while producing more yams every year. Tribes and clans respect him and call him when they make important decisions. Okonkwo has three wives. He loves his daughter Ezinma and she is the only one who can console him. When he becomes angry, no one dares to go near him except his daughter. 

From the beginning of the novel Things Fall Apart, the readers are introduced to this major character Okonkwo and it seems that he does not have any shortcomings; however, at the end of the novel, the readers witness his certain weaknesses, which should be called an err. Resultantly, he becomes a true tragic hero and helps us to add Things Fall Apart to the category of tragedies. 

In depth analysis of Okonkwo character in Things Fall Apart reveals that he focuses more on doing rather than talking. He uses his fists while making decisions. Perhaps it is the major fault in his character. He thinks that he can mend anything if he uses his fist instead of words. He is the one who brings a human head and drinks wine in it.

The most important incident that is related to the character of Okonkwo in Things Fall Apart is when he kills Ikemefuna. He is a lad who is given to Okonkwo as compensation for the murder of Udo’s wife. He remains with him for three years until the final decision of the clan. Firstly, he fears Okonkwo, like any other family member but subsequently, he loves him. He shares the attributes of the protagonist of the novel; however, he does not have any flaws. Ikemefuna works hard and Okonkwo also loves him in return. 

The Clan makes a decision that Ikemefuna should be killed. Okonkwo with a heavy heart kills him with his own hands. He thinks that if he does not kill Ikemefuna, people would think that Okonkwo is weak. Although he does not want to kill him yet to prove his strength Okonkwo slays him. Subsequently, Okonkwo spends some days in despair. If he wants he may not take part in killing Ikemefuna but he does so to prove that he is strong and bold.

Okonkwo is also the tragic character in Things Fall Apart. He is a good man and has good fortune at the start of the story. In the end, he commits suicide. He falls from prosperity to adversity and causes a catharsis of feelings of pity and fear. He resists change and does not like the entrance of missionaries into the internal affairs of his tribes. He wants to save his people from outer forces. It is the Okonkwo who wants the old customs and old rituals. 

Okonkwo inadvertently kills a young man. Respectables of tribes decide that Okonkwo should be exiled, hence, he is exiled from the town. People burn his huts and he moves towards his maternal uncles to live for seven years. He returns from exile and sees that the whitemen have occupied everything. His people betray him, so much so that his son Nwoye joins the missionaries. He feels that he can take care of everything single-handedly. Okonkwo forcibly tries to change things but he forgets that force is not the only thing to get things done. He does not change himself with the changing circumstances. He kills missionaries and ultimately when he does not find a way of survival he commits suicide.

Okonkwo Character in Things Fall Apart
Okonkwo Character in Things Fall Apart

Obierika

He is a true friend of Okonkwo. One of the most important figures and wise characters portrayed by Chinua Achebe in Things Fall Apart. He is also a lord of a clan. Unlike Okonkwo, he makes decisions very wisely. He does not use force but his brain when he has to make any decision. His quick decision-making skills are worth mentioning. He has the ability to smell danger from too far. He always advises his friend Okonkwo. Obierika is not only kind to Okonkwo but to every other person, he knows. Okonkwo wants to take part in killing Ikemefuna but Obierika advises him not to do so. In fact, he says that if he were him, he would never do so. 

Chinua Achebe puts both these characters in juxtaposition to each other in Things Fall Apart; one resists change whereas the other accepts it. He does not want to stick to the old customs and values of Igbo society. In fact, he was against them. He was against the custom of exiling a person. When Okonkwo kills Ezeudu’s son inadvertently, Obierika laments the decision of the lords of clans to banish Okonkwo for seven years. He was also against the ritual of throwing the twins and buying wives while bargainings like cows and goats. 

Besides, he was a loyal friend. Okonkwo leaves the village and Obierika takes care of the family of Okonkwo in his absence. In addition, he also looks after his farming. He is a friend who never leaves him alone under any circumstances. His vision of the future is very strong. He prophesies that the missionaries will destroy their old system and bring a new one, which ultimately comes true. Although he is against the rituals and beliefs yet he does not want to leave his tribes and join the missionaries. 

At the end of the novel, he sees Okonkwo’s body hanging on a tree. He becomes furious and calls the commissioner as well as missionaries responsible for the death of his best friend. He mourns his death. All in all the writer has portrayed him as an honest person, a loyal friend, a responsible lord and one of the most foresighted characters in the novel Things Fall Apart. 

Uchendu

In Mabanta, Uchendu receives Okonkwo. He lived there for seven years with Uchendu, who was his maternal uncle; the younger brother of his mother. His nature was helping. The writer describes his philosophy of life while saying that life is a combination of good and bad; a man should keep patience and bear the problems of life with a brave heart. He consoles Okonkwo and performs rituals while receiving him. It shows that he is a religious person.

He has good knowledge of different clans. Uchendu has travelled too much and has acquaintance with the lords of nearby villages. He informs Okonkwo about the missionaries and also condemns the attack of the people of Abame on a missionary. He expresses his opinion that the people of Abame themselves are responsible for their downfall. 

The writer also shows the philosophy of his own through this character. He points out why the land of a mother is important and why the mother is lovelier than the father. He says that on good days father accepts us but on bad days of life we seek consolation from our mother. Mother is supreme in his eyes. He is very much true. In this novel, women are treated like cows and goats but when one does not find peace anywhere he seeks consolation from the females. For instance, they seek guidance from goddesses. On bad days of life, Okonkwo seeks refuge in his mother’s village. He also finds pleasure in the company of his daughter.

Missionaries come and ask for a piece of land to build a church. Uchendu decides to give them land in an evil forest, thinking that they would die soon; however, they build a church there and subsequently also build a court for their security. Uchendu’s plan flops, which in the end causes doom for the people of Mbanta. Chinua Achebe illustrates such characters to show supremacy of mother in Things Fall Apart.

Unoka

Unoka is the most disgraceful character. He is the father of Okonkwo. He is a lazy man and used to drinking too much. He has no contribution to the success of Okonkwo. Instead of doing something and earning, he used to borrow money from the people due to which Okonkwo does not like him. In fact, Okonkwo fears that his son would become like him one day. His motto is to eat, drink and be merry. He never fights with anyone. He is a female-like figure; the most cowardly person in the vicinity. He fears bloodshed and likes music. 

One of the best characters with qualities, the most important that is obvious from Things Fall Apart is that he is a good flute player, so much so, that people of nearby villages come to him to get music lessons. They also invite him on different occasions. He has the ability to play the flute in different tones. 

Apart from this, he has a friendly nature. He likes to make new friends. People come to him and enjoy his company. Children, younger and old people; in fact, everyone likes him except his son. Perhaps, the only problem with him is that he is in debt and does not want to do any hard labour. In short, he is an irresponsible and doomed person. 

Ikemefuna

One of the most pathetic characters, sketched by Chinua Achebe in Things Fall Apart. He is 15 years old. He has been given to Okonkwo because his father kills Udo’s wife. Until a final decision, he remains with Okonkwo. He spent three years with Okonkwo’s family. He is liked by everyone and becomes Nwoye’s friend. 

Initially, he is very much afraid of Okonkwo and spends most of his time thinking about his mother and sisters but subsequently, he makes acquaintances with everyone. Okonkwo likes him as he is a hard-working person. He wins everyone’s heart. Nwoye’s mother also takes care of him just like his own son. The early days of his life far from his family were very tough for him. He refuses to eat anything, knowing that Okonkwo makes him eat with a stick; however, with the passage of time, Okonkwo starts liking him. 

The writer shows him as an extraordinary figure. He makes his comparison with Nwoye in the book. He has a sharp memory. He is a good storyteller. He has an extraordinary talent for entrapping the birds. Ikemefuna has the ability to make flutes from bamboo trees. He also knows the name of all birds. He has knowledge of different trees and knows from which tree he can make the strongest bow. 

Ikemefuna becomes part of Okonkwo’s family but he kills him as it is the decision of the lords. Okonkwo takes part in killing Ikemefuna despite the fact that he loves him and it was not necessary to take part in killing him. Perhaps, the writer shows this character to show the harsh rules of Ibo society. He does nothing wrong even though he is killed. He is one of the the most innocent and pitiful characters, sketched by Chinua Achebe in Things Fall Apart.

Nwoye

He is Okonkwo’s eldest son. He follows the path of his grandfather. He is a 12 years lazy boy. Okonkwo does not spare his mistakes. He wants his son to be like him but the boy does not do anything to become like his father. When Ikemefuna joins Okonkwo’s family, Nwoye becomes very happy. He spends time with his new friend.

Chinua Achebe portrays these types of characters in the novel Things Fall Apart to show that some people accept change without any second thought. It is unclear whether he accepts Christianity due to the harsh behaviour of his father or if he really likes the concept of one God but it is clear that he adheres to the new system. 

The writer also portrays the theme of betrayal through this character along with other themes of Things Fall Apart. He disappoints his father while joining missionaries. On one hand, character of Okonkwo is a symbol of resistance to change whereas, on the other hand, Nwoye symbolises acceptance in Things Fall Apart. 

Maduka

Maduka is the son of Obierika. He is a good wrestler and a fast reactor. He wins different fighting contests in the novel. Okonkwo appreciates him and wishes his son to be like him. He is 16 years old yet he is strong enough to challenge anyone in wrestling. He keeps a smile on his face when he meets anybody. It is evident from the incident when Okonkwo goes to meet his friend and he greets him with a happy face. Not much action is associated with this character but his traits are discussed time and again in the book. It seems that he has been illustrated in the novel to show Obierika’s past

Ogbuefi Ezeudu

He is a symbol of worthy ancestors in this novel. The writer shows their worth through Ogbuefi Ezeudu. He has won three titles out of four; a rare achievement someone ever has. He informs Okonkwo that Umuofia has decided to kill Ikemefuna. He suggests Okonkwo not to kill the boy. He knows that the boy is innocent and not responsible for the actions of others. He says:

“That boy calls you father, do not bear your hand in his death.”

Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe

He was a warrior, when he died, people came from far to attend his funeral. He was one of the oldest characters in Things Fall Apart portrayed by Chinua Achebe. He lived a long life. Okonkwo inadvertently kills his son. The writer portrays this versatile character without any flaw. 

Ekwefi

She is the second wife of Okonkwo. Okonkwo met him many years ago but at that time he was poor and could not pay her price. Subsequently, she became Okonkwo’s wife. She is an attractive lady. She suffers too much as her nine children died. Ezinma is her daughter, whom Okonkwo loves too much but she also remains ill. She is a symbol of unending love from a mother to her children. 

Ezinma

Ezinma is Okonkwo’s daughter. She is a symbol of love. She is the only one who can console her father when he becomes sad or angry. No one dares to go near Okonkwo when he becomes furious except Ezinma. The writer Chinua Achebe portrays such characters to show the role of women in his novel Things Fall Apart. She discusses the safety of her father with Obierika when she realises that her father is in danger. She is a faithful and obedient daughter. When her father asks her to marry in Umuofia she agrees with her father without giving it any second thought. Due to her faithfulness, her father calls her a boy.

Chielo

Chielo is the priestess of Agbala. She brings messages from the oracle of the Hills and the Caves. Her most important role in the novel is when she purifies Ezinma, perhaps due to which she survives. Ezinma fascinates her and she calls her “my daughter”. She is very close to Ekwefi. She has been portrayed in this novel to show the importance of religion.

Mr Brown

One of the first missionaries to enter the Igbo society. He is a good person and believes in equality. He becomes a friend of the leaders and lords of many clans. He preaches Christianity but does not force anyone to accept it. 

Many critics believe that Chinua Achebe expresses his impartial opinions in his novel. If he shows the aggressiveness of whitemen then he also sketches characters like Mr Brown in Things Fall Apart. The writer portrays Mr Brown to make us clear that not everyone is cruel to the people of Igbo society. 

James Smith

He has been shown in contrast to the character of Mr Brown. He is the successor to Mr Brown. Soon after he takes charge, he ends the policies that Mr Brown used to practice. He uses power to preach his religion. His duty is more important to him. He prefers duty to humanity. Reverend James Smith is against the customs, rituals and practices of Igbo society. 

Mr Kiaga

He is also a missionary but not one of the whitemen. He is a native person, who has recently converted. He is a connection between the missionaries and the people of Igbo society. His most important role in the novel is to convert Nwoye to Christianity. Chinua Achebe talks about these types of characters in Things Fall Apart to portray themes of acceptance, change and transformation.

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