Things Fall Apart Summary

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Things Fall Apart Summary

Things Fall Apart is a novel by Chinua Achebe and published in 1958 by William Heineman Ltd. It is the first of three novels in a trilogy and is followed by “Arrow of god” and “No longer at ease”. Many enjoy the book for its unique cultural insights, simplicity, and themes. 

The story revolves around Okonkwo, a wealthy warrior of the Umofia clan who faces banishment from his community for killing another clan member. After seven years, he returns but finds the community has changed a lot due to colonialism. Simply put, the main theme is the effects of colonialism on Igbo society.

So if you are searching for a Things Fall Apart summary to help you pass your literature class this is the plot summary just for you. Our experts have written down the key plot points, themes, devices, and other important information you need to know about this famous book, so please keep reading a summary of Things Fall Apart.

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Things Fall Apart Characters

There are several characters introduced when you go through a summary of Things Fall Apart. These are:

1. Okonkwo

Okonkwo is among the main characters in Things Fall Apart. He is hardworking and thus has a high status in the clan. He has three wives and is harsh since he is afraid of failing like his father.

2. Nwoye

Nwoye is Okonkwo’s oldest son who is considered effeminate by his father. Ikemefuna influences him to be more masculine, but Ikemefuna’s death changes his attitude toward his father and his ideals. Later, he converts to Christianity which Okonkwo considers effeminate, but he is happy to be free from his father. 

3. Ikemefuna

Ikemefuna is a young boy who Okonkwo wins from another village as a peace settlement. He is a close friend of Nwoye and is a good clansman, but Okonkwo avoids showing affection to him.

4. Enzima

Enzima is Okonkwo’s favorite child. She is also Ekwefi’s only surviving child out of ten who dies in infancy. She reminds her father of when Ekwefi was the village beauty, but he avoids affection as he believes it would be a weakness. Okonkwo also wishes she was a boy.

5. Mr. Brown

Mr. Brown is the first white missionary in Umofia and is a gentle and compromising man. He befriends many clansmen to promote Christianity and is somewhat successful.

6. Reverend James Smith

Reverend Smith is the strict and uncompromising missionary who replaces Mr. Brown. He does not respect local culture and even encourages his followers to attack those who follow traditional religion.

7. Uchendu

Uchendu is Okonkwo’s maternal uncle who welcomes him to Mbanta. Five out of his six wives are dead, as well as twenty-two children. Unlike Okonkwo, he is peaceful, compromising, and grateful, advising Okonkwo to appreciate the village or the dead will be angered. 

8. Ezeudu

Ezeudu is the oldest man in the village and an important Umofia clan leader. He is the Oracle’s messenger.

9. Enoch

Enoch is a zealous Christian convert who disrespects the local religion. At first, Mr. Brown restricts his behavior to maintain harmony, but Reverend Smith encourages his fanaticism.

10. Unoka

Unoka is Okonkwo’s lazy and spendthrift father. He died with many debts owed to clansmen, and Okonkwo strives to be nothing like him. Unlike Okonkwo, he was gentle and feared the sight of blood, so he never became a warrior.

11. Ekwefi

Ekwefi is Okonkwo’s second wife and mother to Enzima, who is her only surviving child. She is very fond of her daughter, who calls her by her first name, and often fears losing her. Ekwefi is good friends with Chielo, a priestess of the goddess Agbala.

12. Ojiugo

She is Okonkwo’s third wife. She is the youngest wife and is Nkechi’s mother. 

13. Akunna

Akunna is a Umofia clan leader who discusses religion with Mr. Brown, thus encouraging the missionaries to adopt a gentle approach to conversion.

14. Mr. Kiaga

Mr. Kiaga is a local convert who converts many villagers, including Nwoye.

15. The District Commissioner

The District Commissioner is a colonial authority figure who has a negative view of the local culture and chooses Okonkwo’s story as it reflects his beliefs about the locals.

16. Obierika

Obierika is Okonkwo’s close friend who sells his yams while he is in exile. He is introduced early in the novel during his daughter’s wedding party. He, like Nwoye, questions the local culture and norms.

17. Maduka

Maduke is Obierika’s son who wins a wrestling match and won. Okonkwo wishes he had such a son.

18. Okagbue Uyanwa

Okagbue is the medicine man who helps Okonkwo find medicine for Ezinma.

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We also have summaries for other books, such as our Holes book summary, which you can check out.

The setting of Things Fall Apart

The book is set in Nigeria in the 1890s, during the pre-colonial and colonial periods. The colonial government and local tribes often get into conflict over leadership and cultural erosion. This period also marked a shift across all of Africa, so many readers enjoy the book as the Things Fall Apart setting offers a glimpse of pre-colonial Africa.

Plot Summary - Things Fall Apart

The plot of Things Fall Apart is as follows:

Okonkwo is a rich warrior of the Umofia clan. He has many unsettled debts inherited from his father, Unoka so he worked hard to become a successful clan member. He fears that his son (Nwoye) will be as lazy as his father, but he later wins a virgin and a fifteen-year-old boy (Imekefuna). He marries the girl and adopts the boy, growing fond of him over time, but he hides his affection. Afterward, there is a season of locusts that the villagers collect for food and will do so for a seven-year season. 

While celebrating the week of peace, he beats his third wife, Ojiugo, for carelessness and shoots his second wife Ekwefi, for taking some banana leaves to wrap food, all of which breaks the peace. He offers sacrifices to repent, but it is not enough. Three years pass, and Ikemefuna inspires Nwoye to be more masculine. One of the elders, Ogbuefi Ezeudu, privately informs him that the Oracle has decided that Imekefuna should be killed but that Okonkwo should not participate as the boy considers him his father.

Okonkwo lies to Imekefuna, telling him that they have to go back to his village. Nwoye tearfully wishes him goodbye. On the way there, Imekefuna thinks of his mother, but he is attacked by clansmen with machetes. Imekefuna runs to Okonkwo for help, but Okonkwo strikes him down to avoid the clansmen seeing him as weak. This is against the Oracle’s instructions, but Okonkwo returns home, and Nwoye discerns that his friend is dead.

Okonkwo becomes depressed, but after visiting Obierika, he feels relieved. His daughter Ezinma suffers from an illness, but she feels better after he gathers some leaves for her. Later, an Ekwe announces that Ezeudu is dead. At the funeral, he fires his gun as is the custom, but it explodes and kills Ezeudu’s sixteen-year-old son. This is a crime against the earth goddess, so Okonkwo is sent into exile for seven years. He heads to his mother’s village while the clansmen burn his belongings to cleanse the village. 

He receives a warm welcome, with his family building some huts and offering yam seeds. Okonkwo decides to change his life despite his problems. In the second year of his exile, Obeirika brings cowrie used as currency, which he got from selling yams. During his visit, he learns that Abame, a village, has been destroyed by white men. After a short while, six missionaries arrive in his village Mbanta. Mr. Brown, the missionary leader uses an interpreter Mr. Kiaga, and tells the village that their religion which worships several gods is idolatry, but the villagers do not understand how the Holy Trinity is one GOD. The missionaries are peaceful and avoid conflict, but Mr. Brown falls ill and is replaced by Reverend James Smith, who is very strict. 

The zealous converts are happy that they are now unrestricted by Mr. Brown. One of them, Enoch unmasks an Egwugwu which the villagers consider equal to killing an ancestral spirit. The Egwugwu burns down the church and Enoch’s home, so the District Commissioner calls the clan leaders for a meeting. However, they are arrested and abused.

Upon release, they hold a meeting where five court messengers tell them to surrender. Okonkwo kills the messenger’s leader, but the clan does not help him and allows the rest to escape. Okonkwo realizes that his clan will not fight back.

The District Commissioner finds Okonkwo has hanged himself. Obierika shows him the body but tells him that they cannot touch it as it is a sin. Okonkwo’s story interests the commissioner, and he decides to mention it in his upcoming book, The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger.

For tips on how to come up with something similar to this Things Fall Apart summary, check out our guide on how to write a summary of a book.

Our Things Fall Apart summary writers have also analyzed and summarized other books, such as our Fahrenheit 451 summary. If you need help with writing any summary we have not covered, do not hesitate to place your order with our Things Fall Apart summary experts today.

Themes In Things Fall Apart

1. Modernity versus tradition

The book revolves around the changing Igbo culture as colonialism takes over. Some, like Okonkwo, choose to rebel against the changes brought about by Christianity and colonialism. However, others like Nwoye and Enoch embrace cultural change and view it as positive.

2. Colonization

After Okonkwo’s exile, the white missionaries show up, followed by authorities such as the district commissioner. The settlers view the locals as primitive and in need of assistance. The arrival of foreigners also means that local culture is slowly eroded.

3. Religion

White missionaries arrive in the area to spread their religion: Christianity. Some locals like Enoch and Mr. Kiaga accept it and help them spread it by translating for the villagers. However, others like Okonkwo oppose it and fight back. The Egwugwu is also upset when Enoch unmasks him, and he burns the church in retaliation. As such, there is a conflict between the local religions and Christianity.

4. Masculinity

Masculinity is among the major Things Fall Apart themes. Okonkwo views his father as weak due to his failures and adopts a harsh attitude to avoid following in his footsteps. He also avoids showing affection to his children and views Christianity as effeminate. He also displays aggressive tendencies and beats his wives, as he feels these are the only emotions he should display as a man. During his exile, he avoids acknowledging his maternal ancestors and kin since they are not violent.

5. Repression

Due to Okonkwo’s idea of masculinity, he represses his emotions aside from anger and pride. Nwoye also represses his anger towards his father after he finds out that Okonkwo killed Ikemefuna.

Literary Devices Used In Things Fall Apart

1. Symbolism

There are several symbols used in Things Fall Apart. One of these is locusts which are an allegory of the white settlers that the villagers welcome. The villagers view the locusts as being innocent and are unaware of how destructive they will be. These insects are also so numerous they break some tree branches which symbolizes the breaking of local traditions due to white settlement. Another symbol is yams which are an important food that represents success and status. There are several festivals to celebrate yams, such as The New Yam festival, which act as symbols of time. Okonkwo also made his fortune through yams, since he can grow many of them.

Yet another symbol is the fire which is associated with Okonkwo’s rage, which is the main emotion he shows. Okonkwo is destructive, both physically and emotionally, because he kills two young men and avoids showing emotion toward his children since he views it as a weakness.

2. Motifs

Animal imagery is one of the motifs in Things Fall Apart. For example, Enoch kills and eats a scared python which lends to the theme of religion and cultural change. This is because it symbolizes a shift from one religion to another and his action is considered disrespectful by the tribespeople. It also contributes to the theme of colonialism, showing how the two cultures clash.

Another motif is chi, which refers to a person’s god who brings them good fortune or bad luck. The villagers also believe that one’s chi responds to their desires, it is safe to say that Okonkwo is responsible for his tragic death since he willed his destiny.

Oral storytelling is another motif that represents the tribe’s shared identity. For example, Okonkwo tells Nwoye his versions of folk tales which show how each generation interprets them differently, or the morals they would like to pass down. This is especially common for most traditional societies which tell stories of past generations and aim to pass down certain values to the youth.

To analyze a book, consider checking out our guide on how to write a book review.

Historical/Cultural Context of Things Fall Apart

Since the book is set in pre-colonial and colonial Africa, it shows the shift in culture and African's reactions. Some like Okonkwo resist while others like Enoch collaborate. All this is due to their differing personal values, which also caused conflict in these traditional societies. It also shows the struggle of some to adapt to the new culture and authority figures.

Things Fall Apart Genre

As per the events in our Things Fall Apart summary, the book can be categorized as historical fiction. This is because it is a made-up story that takes place in the past and is a made up story.

Our Things Fall Apart summary experts also analyze themes in other books, such as our Othello summary.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What unique African cultures are portrayed in Things Fall Apart?

The author describes polytheism, farming, polygamy, father-son inheritance, warrior culture, belief in evil spirits, and cleansing ceremonies.

2. Why does Okonkwo kill Ikemefuna despite begin told not to?

Okonkwo kills Ikemefuna as he does not want his clansmen to view him as weak. 

3. How does Okonkwo’s exile change him?

Okonkwo experiences a loss of status, property, and a positive relationship with his clan. This makes him develop anxiety about his place in the community upon his return, but the white settlers challenge his culture’s continuity.

Summary

In short, Things Fall Apart is a novel by Chinua Achebe. It tells the story of Okonkwo, a Umofia clan warrior of the Igbo tribe who is afraid of ending up like his father. He avoids showing emotion to those around him, and his anger often leads him to trouble. At a funeral, his gun explodes, killing a sixteen-year-old boy. He is exiled for seven years in his mother’s village, where he struggles to rebuild his life and fortune. 

Over time, he hears about the white settlers slowly approaching their village. He eventually returns to his village but refuses to convert along with others and ends up killing himself. The story contains themes such as religion and tradition versus modernity, as well as symbols like locusts and yams. If you would like an in-depth analysis, place an order with our Things Fall Apart summary experts today for the best academic help online.

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