Things Fall Apart Summary

Things Fall Apart Summary

Q. Write down the Summary of the novel Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.

Things Fall Apart Summary
Part I

Chapter 1

Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” introduces Okonkwo, a prominent warrior in his Igbo village, Umuofia. He first gained recognition at eighteen by defeating Amalinze the Cat, a champion wrestler undefeated for seven years.

As the years pass, Okonkwo builds a life of wealth and multiple wives, driven by a strong desire to differentiate himself from his father, Unoka, known for his debts and laziness. Unlike his father, Okonkwo shows little patience for failure and frequently resorts to violence out of frustration.

Unoka, who preferred music and festivities over work, died dishonoured and deeply in debt, leaving his family in hardship. Okonkwo fears any similarity to his father and is determined to succeed through hard work.

This resolve earns him considerable respect and the responsibility to care for Ikemefuna, a boy from a neighbouring village who was given to Umuofia to avoid conflict.

Despite his achievements, Okonkwo struggles with his temper, which often undermines his relationships. His life is marked by his efforts to uphold his strong image while managing the internal fear of resembling his father.

Chapter 2

In Chapter 2 of “Things Fall Apart,” tension grips Umuofia when the town crier summons all men to the marketplace after dark. Okonkwo is stirred from sleep and anticipates trouble from neighbouring Mbaino. By morning, the marketplace is filled with anxious villagers.

The elder, Ogbuefi Ezeugo, reveals that Mbaino has killed a woman from Umuofia, and the crowd demands retribution. To avoid war, Mbaino agrees to compensate with a young man and a virgin.

Okonkwo is chosen to negotiate this settlement. He returns with Ikemefuna, a 15-year-old boy, and a virgin girl. The girl is given in marriage to replace the murdered wife.

While Ikemefuna is placed in Okonkwo’s care until the elders decide his fate. Ikemefuna, fearful and confused, struggles to understand his new surroundings, having been separated from his family and everything familiar.

Okonkwo governs his household firmly, shaped by his fear of failure and determination not to mirror his father, Unoka, who was known for his lack of ambition and debt.

This fear drives Okonkwo to despise anything resembling weakness or laziness, traits he associates with his father. His strict and often harsh leadership instills both respect and fear in his family, setting a tone of strict discipline and high expectations.

Chapter 3

This chapter is about Okonkwo’s early life and determination to overcome his father Unoka’s failures. Unoka is known for his laziness and poor farming.

Once, he sought advice from the Oracle, only to be told that his misfortune was due to his lack of effort rather than spiritual disfavour. He continues to struggle, failing to leave any significant inheritance for Okonkwo.

Determined not to follow in his father’s footsteps, Okonkwo borrows yam seeds from a respected elder, Nwakibie, to start his farm.

Despite his youth and the stigma of his father’s reputation, Okonkwo is driven to prove himself. Nwakibie, impressed by Okonkwo’s resolve, loans him 800 seeds, which Okonkwo plants with high hopes.

However, Okonkwo’s first year as a farmer is marked by the worst weather conditions in memory, with his crops failing disastrously. This year tests his endurance and solidifies his resolve; he declares that if he can survive, he can survive anything.

Through this experience, Okonkwo learns the harsh realities of farming and the importance of perseverance, shaping his hardworking and resilient character.

This chapter highlights Okonkwo’s early steps toward establishing his independence and his relentless drive to distance himself from his father’s legacy.

Chapter 4

In Chapter 4 of “Things Fall Apart,” Okonkwo’s quick ascent in Umuofia catches the attention of village elders, who note his impatience with less successful men. His reputation for strictness grows, particularly during the Week of Peace.

Despite this sacred time, Okonkwo beats his youngest wife for returning late, violating the peace. He is reprimanded and has to offer sacrifices to appease the earth goddess, Ani.

Okonkwo tries to instil work ethics in his eldest son, Nwoye, and Ikemefuna, a boy given to Umuofia by a neighbouring village, to avoid war.

Despite his strictness, Ikemefuna admires Okonkwo, even calling him father. The two boys help with the yam crops, although Okonkwo often finds fault in their efforts.

Okonkwo’s household adapts to include Ikemefuna, who shares his cultural stories and becomes particularly close to Nwoye. The chapter shows how Okonkwo maintains his rigorous standards at home, hoping to teach his sons resilience and hard work.

However, his harsh methods often strain his relationships and contradict communal values, especially during sacred times like the Week of Peace. This tension highlights the conflict between personal ambition and traditional values in Umuofia.

Chapter 5

Chapter 5 of “Things Fall Apart” depicts the Feast of the New Yam in Umuofia, a celebration honouring the earth goddess Ani. The festival is intended to be joyful, but Okonkwo finds it challenging to engage in the festivities due to his restless nature.

Instead, he searches for reasons to express his anger, ultimately beating his second wife for merely cutting leaves from a banana tree to wrap food.

Okonkwo’s temper flares again during the festival when he overhears his wife to mock his poor marksmanship. In a fit of rage, he shoots at her with his pistol but misses.

Despite these violent outbursts, the festival continues enthusiastically among the villagers. Okonkwo’s wives and children, especially Ikemefuna and Ezinma, immerse themselves in the preparations and excitement.

The festival also features wrestling matches, a highlight for the villagers. Okonkwo’s wife, Ekwefi, is particularly captivated by the wrestling, recalling how Okonkwo won her heart years ago during such an event.

The community comes together, enjoying the wrestling and the feast, momentarily setting aside the tensions within Okonkwo’s household.

This chapter illustrates the contrast between communal harmony during the festival and the personal turmoil within Okonkwo’s family, exacerbated by his inability to find peace even during a time of celebration.

Chapter 6

This chapter of “Things Fall Apart” centers on the wrestling matches during the Feast of the New Yam, a key cultural event for the Igbo community.

The village gathers to watch as young men from the nine villages compete, seeking to establish or enhance their reputations through strength and skill. Among the spectators, Okonkwo, once a celebrated wrestler, watches the new generation compete.

The matches start with the younger participants, around 15 or 16 years old. The highlight comes when Maduka, Obierika’s son, swiftly wins his match, gaining immediate fame.

As the event continues, the more experienced wrestlers take the stage, building up to the final and most anticipated match between the team leaders, Ikezue and Okafu.

They had previously proven evenly matched, and this year’s intense competition culminates when Ikezue makes a critical error, allowing Okafu to secure victory.

During the event, Chielo, the priestess of the Oracle of the Hills and the Caves, interacts with Ekwefi and discusses Ezinma’s health. Chielo affectionately refers to Ezinma as “my daughter,” hinting at her particular interest in the girl.

This chapter not only showcases a vital part of Igbo cultural life but also foreshadows significant developments involving Ezinma and Chielo’s role as the Oracle.

Chapter 7

“Things Fall Apart” details the tragic conclusion of Ikemefuna’s three-year stay with Okonkwo’s family. Ikemefuna, who has become like a brother to Nwoye, Okonkwo’s son, positively influences him.

Although Nwoye begins to adopt more traditionally masculine tasks under his influence, he secretly prefers his mother’s folktales over Okonkwo’s war stories.

The chapter describes a swarm of locusts arriving in Umuofia, an event that the villagers celebrate as it provides a new food source.

However, the atmosphere darkens when Ogbuefi Ezeudu, a village elder, informs Okonkwo that the Oracle has decreed that Ikemefuna must be killed. He warns Okonkwo not to participate in the killing since Ikemefuna views him as a father figure.

Despite the warning, Okonkwo plays a pivotal role in Ikemefuna’s death to avoid seeming weak. During a walk meant to take Ikemefuna back to his village, he is attacked by villagers. In his final moments, Ikemefuna seeks Okonkwo’s protection, not realizing Okonkwo will deliver the fatal blow.

This event profoundly affects Nwoye, who senses Ikemefuna’s fate from Okonkwo’s demeanor upon returning home. Nwoye feels a deep internal break, a loss of trust and affection towards his father that mirrors the heartbreak of the situation.

Chapter 8

After Ikemefuna’s death, Okonkwo was overwhelmed with sadness. He didn’t eat for two days, constantly thinking about Ikemefuna, whom he had come to see as his son.

He tries to distract himself by criticizing his weakness and comparing his sorrow to “a shivering old woman.” Seeking a change of scenery and perhaps solace, Okonkwo visits his friend Obierika.

Obierika, busy with the bride price negotiations for his daughter, briefly confronts Okonkwo about his role in Ikemefuna’s death, suggesting it was an action that could bring misfortune.

However, their conversation is interrupted by news of an unusual death in a nearby village where the oldest man and his wife died simultaneously, delaying the traditional mourning and burial rituals.

During his visit, Okonkwo participated in the bride price negotiation, which concluded successfully with an agreement on twenty bags of cowries. This practical engagement temporarily eased his mind. The men also shared stories and discussed cultural differences.

He highlights their skepticism of outsiders, including a humorous yet wary reference to white men, whom Obierika likens to a piece of chalk. These discussions reveal the villagers’ attempts to maintain normalcy and cultural integrity despite individual tragedies and external mysteries.

Chapter 9

Okonkwo gets relief after overcoming his grief for Ikemefuna. However, this respite is short-lived as Ekwefi wakes him to inform him of their daughter Ezinma’s illness. Ezinma’s childhood has been fraught with sickness, as Ekwefi had lost nine previous children in infancy before Ezinma’s birth.

Despite Ezinma’s persistent illnesses, Ekwefi remains hopeful, believing that Ezinma’s spirit will remain in her body, unlike her other children who passed away.

The year before, a medicine man named Okagbue diagnosed Ezinma as an ogbanje, a spirit child, and identified and removed the iyi-uwa, a unique stone linking her to the spirit world, which was believed to cure her.

Despite Ezinma’s sickness this time, they do not call the medicine man. Instead, Okonkwo and Ekwefi prepare medicine themselves, using leaves and grasses. Despite Ezinma’s resistance to the treatment, she eventually falls asleep, indicating a possible recovery.

This chapter highlights the familial bonds and Ekwefi’s unwavering determination to protect her daughter’s life against the odds.

Chapter 10

This chapter initiates a trial where the Egwugwu interrogate a man accused of cruelty to his wife. Her father pleads for her return, stating her husband caused a miscarriage. The Egwugwu decrees the husband must make offerings to his wife’s family, implying he won’t harm her again, as “It is not bravery when a man fights with a woman.”

Large crowds gather at the village playground for the trial, watched by women. Led by Evil Forest, representing the nine villages, the Egwugwu oversee the trial. Testimonies confirm the husband’s abuse.

They order him to bring palm wine to his in-laws and plead for his wife’s return. If he complies, his wife will be released. As the chapter ends, another trial concerning land disputes unfolds.

Chapter 11

Ekwefi shares a story with Ezinma about a cunning tortoise on a moonless night. The tortoise, not invited to a feast in the sky due to his sly nature, convinces the birds to lend him feathers to craft wings. He persuades them to adopt new names for the feast, cleverly choosing “All of you” for himself.

When asked for whom the food was prepared at the feast, the answer “All of you” ensures the tortoise enjoys the best portions until little remains.

In their anger, the deceived birds instruct the tortoise’s wife to place hard objects on the ground. Consequently, when the tortoise leaps from the sky, his shell shatters on impact, explaining the tortoise’s cracked shell.

Interrupting the storytelling, Chielo, the priestess of Agbala, arrives abruptly, demanding to see Ezinma. She tells a terrified Ezinma to climb on her back to visit Agbala’s shrine in the hills and caves.

Ekwefi, also frightened, decides to follow them despite Chielo’s curse, fearing for her daughter’s safety. The journey through the dark intensifies Ekwefi’s fear, shaping terrifying images in her mind. At the cave’s entrance, Ekwefi resolves to act if she hears Ezinma scream.

Soon, Okonkwo joins her, offering to take over the watch. This reminds Ekwefi of their past when she left her first husband for him.

Chapter 12

The morning after their tense visit to the shrine, Chielo, Okonkwo, and Ekwefi return to their village to participate in the joyful celebration of Obierika’s daughter’s URI.

This significant event marks the day her suitor brings palm wine not only to her family but also to her extended kin, including Okonkwo and other close friends.

Despite their exhaustion from the previous night’s ordeal, both Okonkwo and Ekwefi engage in the festivities, their presence at the event contrasting sharply with their recent worry for Ezinma.

The celebration is lively; Obierika’s compound buzzes with preparations. Women and children help cook vast amounts of food, including yams and cassava, while Obierika gifts his daughter a large goat, highlighting the festivity’s grandeur.

A minor chaos ensues when a cow escapes, requiring a collective effort to corral it back, illustrating the communal spirit.

As the afternoon progresses, guests begin to arrive, bringing with them abundant palm wine, exceeding expectations and leading to numerous toasts celebrating family bonds and future prospects.

The air is filled with the scent of food and the sound of merriment, starkly contrasting Okonkwo’s typically stern demeanour. He is seen in a different light, praised for his prowess yet also noted for his vulnerability shown the night before.

The culmination of the day sees the bride presenting a rooster to the musicians, symbolizing her readiness for marriage. She then departs to live with her suitor’s family for seven market weeks.

This ritual not only signifies her transition into married life but also the strengthening of community ties through celebration and shared customs.

Okonkwo’s gift of two roosters to the departing guests underscores his role as a respected and generous figure in the community despite his personal challenges.

Chapter 13

The village wakes to the news of Ogbuefi Ezeudu’s death, the oldest man in Iguedo. His high status, evidenced by his three titles, mandates a night burial with sacred rites. As tradition dictates, his funeral includes tumultuous dancing and gun salutes, resembling a soldier’s burial.

During these rituals, a one-handed spirit appeals to Ezeudu’s rebirth as a brave warrior and good man. However, tragedy strikes when Okonkwo’s pistol misfires during the dance, killing Ezeudu’s son with a stray piece of shrapnel.

Following this accidental death, Okonkwo faces exile. His crime, considered “female” because it was unintentional, leads to a seven-year banishment to his mother’s village, Mbanta. Okonkwo and his family pack their belongings in a rush while friends store their yams in Obierika’s barn.

Before dawn, they leave, and shortly after, a group from Ezeudu’s quarter burns Okonkwo’s homes and kills his animals, fulfilling justice demands by the earth goddess, not out of personal malice.

Obierika participates but questions the severity of the punishment for an accidental act, reflecting on his painful memories of losing his twin children to harsh tribal laws.

Part II

Chapter 14

In Part Two, Chapter 14 of *Things Fall Apart*, Okonkwo struggles with his exile to Mbanta, his mother’s homeland. Despite his inward fury, he accepts his fate without any option for appeal.

Upon arrival, his uncle Uchendu and Uchendu’s five sons support him, giving him seed yams to start a new farm. The villagers experience a hailstorm, which they poetically call “the nuts of the water of heaven.”

During this time, Okonkwo attends the isa-ifi ceremony of Uchendu’s son, a ritual confirming the bride’s faithfulness. The couple begins their married life, and shortly after, Uchendu calls a family meeting to counsel Okonkwo. He challenges Okonkwo with the Igbo saying “Nneka,” meaning “Mother is Supreme.”

Uchendu explains that men seek refuge in their motherland for solace and protection during hardships, similar to a child finding comfort in a mother’s hut.

He emphasizes that many have suffered more significant losses, sharing his grief of burying twenty-two children and his daughter’s pain of abandoning twins, believed to be evil spirits, in the Evil Forest.

Uchendu urges Okonkwo to appreciate the refuge his motherland offers, reminding him that while a man belongs to his father during prosperous times, his mother provides shelter and comfort during adversity.

Chapter 15

In the second year of Okonkwo’s exile, Obierika visits him, bringing two heavy bags of cowries, the profits from the sale of Okonkwo’s yams. The reunion is joyful. Okonkwo introduces Obierika to Uchendu, who reminisces.

During their conversation, the destruction of the Abame clan by white men is revealed. Their Oracle had ominously labelled the white man as a harbinger of doom, leading the Abame to kill an initial white visitor and his iron horse or bicycle.

This act of aggression precipitated a devastating retaliation; white men returned on a busy market day, massacring the unsuspecting villagers. Only a few survivors managed to escape to tell the tale.

Uchendu and Okonkwo agree that Abame’s decision to kill the silent white man was foolish, highlighting the danger of acting without understanding. Okonkwo fears that this might be the beginning of more widespread destruction across the clans.

The visit concludes with Okonkwo’s first wife preparing dinner and their son Nwoye serving wine. Obierika promises to continue selling yams for Okonkwo in Umuofia until his return, ensuring his friend’s financial stability despite the distance and the troubling times they face.

Chapter 16

Two years after his previous visit, Obierika returns to see Okonkwo in Mbanta with troubling news: missionaries have established churches in Umuofia.

They are influencing the villagers, including Okonkwo’s son, Nwoye. These missionaries preach that the Igbo gods are merely wood and stone and advocate for the worship of a single God who loves all.

While many villagers dismiss the missionaries as mad and mock their translator’s poor grasp of the Igbo language, Nwoye is deeply moved by their hymns and messages.

Nwoye finds solace in Christian teachings, particularly a hymn about brothers living in darkness and fear. This hymn reminds him of his painful memories of Ikemefuna and the abandoned twins.

This connection drives him to join the Christians, distancing himself from his father and his community’s traditional beliefs. Okonkwo refuses to talk about Nwoye’s conversion, and Obierika only learns the details from Nwoye’s mother.

The missionaries’ impact on Umuofia is significant, causing rifts within families and weakening traditional bonds. Okonkwo is left to grapple with the loss of his son to a faith he neither understands nor respects.

Chapter 17

After the missionaries arrive, they request land from the village elders to build their church. Surprisingly, the elders grant them a plot in the Evil Forest, expecting the evil spirits there to defeat them.

Contrary to expectations, the missionaries survive, impressing some villagers and gaining their first converts. Among them is Nwoye, drawn to the new faith by its message of kindness and acceptance.

Nwoye’s conversion creates a rift with Okonkwo, who disowns him, seeing his son’s choice as a weakness. Meanwhile, a woman named Nneka, distressed by having to abandon her twins, joins the church, highlighting the appeal of the new religion to those burdened by traditional practices.

Chapter 18

Tensions escalate between the Mbanta clan and the Christian church when some missionaries disrespect the Igbo gods. This leads to physical confrontations, but serious conflict is temporarily avoided.

However, the situation intensifies when the church starts accepting Osu, or outcasts, causing discontent among both Christians and non-Christians. This inclusion leads to a severe breach of tribal law: the killing of the sacred python by a convert.

The clan ostracizes the church members, restricting their access to communal resources. The death of the accused killer, Okoli, seen as divine retribution, prevents further retaliation against the Christians, maintaining a fragile peace in the community.

Chapter 19

As his exile nears its end, Okonkwo feels restless, eager to return to Umuofia and regain his lost status. He sends money to Obierika to start rebuilding his compound. Determined to show gratitude to his mother’s kin in Mbanta, who sheltered him, Okonkwo organizes a large feast.

During the gathering, he slaughters three goats and shares palm wine with his extended family. Uchendu, the eldest, opens the feast by breaking the kola nut and invoking blessings from the ancestors. As the feast concludes, one of the senior family members speaks up.

He stresses the importance of unity and remembrance of kinship, especially as the influence of the white men grows. He thanks Okonkwo for the feast, reinforcing the need to stay connected in the face of external threats.

Part III

Chapter 20

Okonkwo returns to Umuofia with high hopes but finds a community much changed by the influence of Christianity and colonial rule. He plans to rebuild his compound grandly and remarry to assert his prominence. Okonkwo is dismayed that many respected clan members have converted to Christianity.

The colonial government has established a court, diminishing traditional Igbo justice. The court’s messengers, derogatorily nicknamed Ashy-Buttocks due to their uniforms, are despised for their arrogant demeanour. Okonkwo laments the erosion of traditional values and feels powerless against the sweeping changes.

Obierika shares the story of Aneto, a clansman executed by the colonial government for a crime traditionally resolved by exile. This illustrates the loss of autonomy and the imposition of foreign laws, underscoring the irreversible impact of colonialism on Umuofia.

Chapter 21

In Umuofia, not everyone shares Okonkwo’s disdain for the changes brought by the white men. The new religion and a vibrant market have attracted many to Christianity.

The missionary, Mr. Brown, establishes a school, persuading the villagers that education will empower them to deal with the white authorities.

Many villagers see the benefits and enroll to secure jobs as clerks or teachers. Mr. Brown debates with a respected villager, Akunna, about their religions.

Akunna explains that the Igbo worship a supreme god, Chukwu, through lesser gods. Mr. Brown uses this concept to suggest gentle parallels with Christianity. This respectful approach helps him gain converts without confrontation.

Despite his success, Mr. Brown’s health declines, and he plans to leave Umuofia. He attempts to discuss Nwoye with Okonkwo, hoping for a warm interaction, but Okonkwo angrily rejects him.

The community is now caught between traditional values and new opportunities, leaving Okonkwo feeling isolated and mournful about the changes in his once formidable clan.

Chapter 22

Reverend Smith replaces Mr. Brown as the missionary in Umuofia and adopts a stricter, less tolerant approach towards Igbo traditions. His attitude emboldens more zealous converts like Enoch, who disrupts a religious ceremony by unmasking an egwugwu, an act considered heretical by the Igbo.

The village responds with anger. The masked egwugwu gather and march to Enoch’s compound, destroy it and then proceed to burn down the church.

Reverend Smith and his interpreter meet the egwugwu but fail to stop the destruction of the church. This incident deepens the conflict between the traditionalists and the converts in Umuofia.

Chapter 23

After the church burning, the District Commissioner invites the clan leaders, including Okonkwo, for a discussion but instead arrests them. The leaders are mistreated, held without food, and their heads are shaved.

They are fined two hundred bags of cowries, which were increased deceitfully by the court messengers to two hundred fifty for their gain. The village gathers the cowries, pays the fine, and the leaders are released.

This injustice fuels anger in Umuofia, and Okonkwo becomes even more determined that the village should resist the white man’s influence more fiercely.

Chapter 24

Upon their release, the clan leaders return home, humiliated and angered by the court’s treatment. Okonkwo feels that the clan must take decisive action against the white man’s encroachment.

At a village meeting, Okika, one of the leaders, calls for war against the colonizers, arguing that the clan must expel the white man to preserve their traditions. As the meeting progresses, court messengers arrive to stop it. In a moment of rage, Okonkwo kills the head messenger.

Realizing that the clan does not support outright violence, Okonkwo despairs, sensing that his hopes for a return to the old ways are crumbling.

Chapter 25

The District Commissioner goes to Okonkwo’s compound to arrest him but finds that Okonkwo has hanged himself, a final act of defiance against the cultural erosion and personal powerlessness he felt.

Okonkwo’s suicide, taboo in Igbo society, means he cannot receive a proper burial from his clan members. Obierika angrily confronts the Commissioner, blaming him and his fellow white men for Okonkwo’s death.

The unmoved Commissioner sees Okonkwo’s tragic end as merely an interesting detail for his book on pacifying the local groups. This reflects his lack of understanding and empathy towards the people he governs.

The title of his planned book is “The Pacification of the Primitiv* Trib*s of the Lower Niger.”