Things fall apart Key facts and Summary 

Key Information

Writer: Chinua Achebe ( 1930-2013)


Setting:     Time setting: Final decade of the nineteenth century

                  Place setting: Igboland, now Nigeria 

Acts: Three(3)

Genre: Historical fiction, Novel. 

Themes: Tradition vs. Change, Fate vs. Free Will, Language, Masculinity, Religion.

Moral: The best thing to do, is to learn from these leaders, take the good and ignore the bad.


1. Okonkwo – Main character

2. Ijiani – Priestess of the Earth Goddess

3. Unoka – Unoka – Okonko’s father

4. okoye – okoye – neighbor

5. Ikemefuna – Ikemefuna – Okonkwo’s foster son

6. Nwoye – Son of Okonkwo

7. Ekwefi – 2nd wife

8. Ojiugo – Younger wife

9. Ezinma – daughter

10. Emalinge – Malla warrior who lost and became famous all around.

11. Ogbuefi Ezeudu – Ogbuefi Ezeudu – the village head

12. Obierika – Okonkwo’s friend

13. Uchendu – Okonkwo’s uncle

14. Obiageli – Obiageli – daughter of Okonkwo’s first wife

15. Maduka – Maduka – Son of Aberika

16. Okagbue Uyanwa – Okagbue – Physician

17. Kiaga – converts Nye and many others

18. Nwakibie – A rich man who helps Okonkwo with 800 seeds

19. Enoch – An enthusiastic Christian convert

20. Akunna Akunna – A clan chief of Umofia

21. Chielo – Female cleric

22. Mr. Brown – Mr. Brown – Missionary

23. Reverend James Smith – Mr. Brown’s replacement

24 The District Commissioner – District Commissioner


Things Fall Apart is a story about Okonkwo and the tragic fall of Igbo culture. Okonkwo was a respected and influential leader of the Igbo community of Umuofia in eastern Nigeria. He achieved personal fame as well as brought honor to his village by defeating Amalinze the Cat in a wrestling match.

Okonkwo’s father Unoka was a lazy and wasteful man. He often borrowed money from others. Then he would drink palm-wine with it and blow it with friends. As a result, his wife and children often went hungry. In the community, Unoka was considered a failure and a laughingstock. She was referred to as Agbala, who is devoid of property and resembles the weakness of women. Unoka died an ignominious death and left numerous debts. Okonkwo disliked his father’s work. He resolves to overcome the shame he felt as a result of his father’s weakness and establish himself in society as a strong man.

Since Okonkwo is a leader in his community, he is asked to keep a young boy named Ikemefuna. Ikemefuna was sent to this village as a peace proposal by neighboring Mbaino to avoid war with Umuofia. Ikemefuna befriends his son Nyowe. Okonkwo also becomes very fond of the boy. One day Okonkwo violates the Week of Peace by beating his youngest wife, Ojiugo. Because his wife went next door to braid her hair and forgot to prepare lunch and feed her children. Later, he severely beat his second wife, Ekwefi, because Ekwefi took leaves from Okonkwo’s banana tree to wrap food for the New Year festival.

After the arrival of the locusts in the village, Ogbuefi Ezeuder, the oldest man in the village, sends a message from the oracle to Okonkwo. The oracle says that Ikemefuna must be killed as part of revenge for the Umuafian woman killed three years earlier in Mbaino. He forbids Okonkwo to participate in the killing, but Okonkwo does not listen. He felt that not participating would be a sign of weakness. In a show of heroism, Okonkwo kills Ikemefuna with his own knife. Nwoye realizes that his father killed Ikemefuna. As a result, he begins to distance himself from his father and clan members.

After killing Ikemefuna, Okonkwo becomes depressed. He can’t even sleep properly. So he goes to meet his friend Obierika. Finally, Okonkwo is able to sleep peacefully after discussing Ikemefuna’s death with Obierika.

Meanwhile Ogbuefi Ezeudu died. Ezeudu was an important village leader and held three of the four clan titles, a rare feat. During his funeral, a bullet from Okonkwo’s gun hits Ezeudu’s sixteen-year-old son, killing him on the spot.

The Igbo community believed that killing a member of the clan was an offense against the goddess of the earth. So Okonkwo and his family were exiled from Umuafia for seven years. The family moved to Mbanta, Okonkwo’s mother’s birthplace. After they left Umuofia, a group of village men destroyed Okonkwo’s compound. Kills his animals to purify the village. Obierika stores Okonkwo’s yams in his barn and laments the old traditions of Igbo culture.

Okonkwo is welcomed in Mbanta by his uncle Uchendu. He is an elder of the village. He gives Okonkwo a plot of land to farm and build a compound for his family. But Okonkwo remains depressed. He blames his Chi (or personal soul) for his current state.

In the second year of exile, his friend Obierika visits him. He narrated the sad news about Abame village. A white man comes to the village on a bicycle. Later the elders of Abam consulted their oracle and the villagers killed the Shetanga man. But a few weeks later a large group killed the villagers in revenge. Abme village is now deserted. Okonkwo and Uchendu agree that it was foolish of the villagers to kill such a stranger. Obierika gives Okonkwo some of the money he got from selling his yams.

One day, six missionaries, including a white man, came to Mbanta. The white man talks to people about Christianity. Okonkwo believes that the man is talking nonsense. But his son Nwoye was impressed and converted to Christianity. His changed name is Issac.

Christian missionaries built a church on land given to them by village leaders. However, the land was a part of the Evil Forest. The villagers believe that the missionaries will not survive there and will die. Because they built their church on cursed ground. But when nothing happens to the missionaries, the people of Mbanta jump to the conclusion that the missionaries possess extraordinary powers and magical powers. The missionaries’ first recruits were the efulefu, meaning the weak men of the village. Other villagers, including a woman, soon converted to Christianity. The missionaries then went to Umuofia and started a school. Nwoye left his father’s hut and moved to Umuafia so that he could attend school.

After Okonkwo’s exile his family arranged to return to Umuofia. When he returns to Umuofia he finds that the village has changed a lot in his absence. Many men renounced their titles and converted to Christianity. White people built prisons. They established a public court, where whites were tried for breaking the law. They also employed natives of Umuofia to work there. Okonkwo wonders why the Umufians have not taken any steps to free the village from the white man’s church and oppressive government!

Some members of the Igbo clan prefer Umuofia’s change. Mr. Brown was a white missionary who respected Igbo traditions. He tries to learn about Igbo culture and develops friendly relations with some of the leaders of the group. He encouraged Igbo people of all ages to seek education. Brown was forced to return home after falling ill. Reverend James Smith was then appointed as the new head of the Christian Church. But Mr. Smith is not as modest as Brown. He is a very strict person.

After Enoch converted to Christianity, a kind of violence broke out in egwugwu. In retaliation, the egwugwu burned Enoch’s compound and then destroyed the Christian church. On his return to Umuofia, the district commissioner learned of the destruction of the church and asked six village leaders, including Okonkwo, to meet him. A fine of twenty-two and a half sacks of kadi (their money name) was demanded as compensation, and the men were sent to jail for failure to pay it. The people of Umuofia collected money and paid the fine and the men were released.

The next day five court messengers came to a meeting of the group. They ordered the gathering to stop. Suddenly Okonkwo pounced on them in the middle of the conversation and beheaded one of the messengers with a knife. He notices that no one in the group is stopping the other fleeing messengers. Okonkwo then realizes that they will never go to war against them. Rather, Umuofia would surrender to the whites. These thoughts make him restless. He knows that white people will judge him for this murder. So rather than be harassed by the whites, he committed suicide by hanging himself.

Rashedul Islam
Rashedul Islam

Hi, This is Rashedul. Researcher and lecturer of English literature and Linguistics.

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