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Free Study Guide-Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe-Free Booknotes
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KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS

SETTING

The novel is set during the late 1800s/early 1900s in a small village called Umuofia situated in the southeastern part of Nigeria. The time period is important, as it was a period in colonial history when the British were expanding their influence in Africa, economically, culturally, and politically. Umuofia is an Igbo village with very well defined traditions. It is a village that is respected by those around it as being powerful and rich. Each person has a hut or obi that is located in the center of a compound. Each of the wives has a separate obi with a shed for goats and an attached chicken coop. The main occupation of the men is sowing and growing yams since yams are considered the most important crop. The women grew less significant crops like coco-yams, beans and cassava.

When Okonkwo is banished from his village, he takes his family to his mother’s native village called Mbanta, where he is given two or three plots of land to farm, and a plot of ground on which to build his compound. The next seven years of Okonkwo’s life are spent in the village of Mbanta. He then returns to Umuofia where the rest of the novel takes place.

CHARACTER LIST

Major Characters

Okonkwo

The hardy and ambitious leader of the Igbo community. He is a farmer as well as a wrestler, who has earned fame and brought honor to his village by overthrowing Amalinze in a wrestling contest. Still only in his thirties, he has three wives and several children who all live in their own homes in his village compound. Okonkwo has resolved to erase the stigma left on him by his father’s laziness and is very successful growing yams. He has very strong economic and political ties to the village and is treated with admiration and respect. Okonkwo is a man of action.

Obierika

Okonkwo’s close friend, he helps him with the crops during his period of exile, and keeps him informed of the radical changes taking place in the village. He is a thoughtful man, who questions the traditions of society. He is also Maduka and Ekuke’s father.


Ekwefi

Okonkwo’s second wife, she is the mother of Ezinma, her only living child, whom she will do anything for even if that means defying tradition.

Ezinma

Ekwefi and Okonkwo’s daughter, she is born after many miscarriages and is loved and pampered by her mother. She has a special relationship with Chielo, the woman who acts as the voice of Agbala, the Oracle. Okonkwo is fond of her and often wishes that ‘she were a boy.’

Nwoye

Okonkwo’s son from his first wife. He is a sensitive young man who, much to his father’s dismay, joins the Christian missionaries.

Ikemefuna

A boy who is bought as hostage from Mbaino, and who lives with Okonkwo for three years. He is a clever and resourceful young man yet comes to an unfortunate end.

Chielo

The priestess of Agbala, the Oracle of the Hills and Caves, who carries Ezinma on her back to the caves, saying that Agbala wants to see her.

Uchendu

Okonkwo’s maternal uncle with whom he spends seven years of his exile, along with his family.

Mr. Brown

The Christian missionary who first introduces the tenets of Christianity to the people to take them away from their superstitious and age-old customs. He is a kind and understanding man who is accommodating towards the Igbo.

Reverend James Smith

Mr Brown’s successor, he openly condemns Mr. Brown’s policy of compromise and accommodation and attempts to efface all aspects of Igbo culture.

District Commissioner

The man behind the whole affair, who handcuffs the six leaders of the village and imprisons them. At the end of the novel, he orders his men to take down the dead body of Okonkwo from the tree, and bury it.

Minor Characters

Unoka

Okonkwo’s father who during his entire lifetime never lifted his hand to till the earth, and had passed his time playing the flute. Okonkwo always remembers his father’s failure and strove to be as different from him as possible.

Maduka

Obierika’s son who participates and wins the wrestling contest.

Ogbuefi Ezendu

The oldest man in Umuofia who forewarns Okonkwo not to get too close to Ikemefuna, since the Oracle had pronounced his death already and then tells him not to participate in his death. He dies a venerated warrior with three titles to his name.

Enoch

The overzealous Christian who tears off the mask of the egwugu, creating strife in the community.

Agbala

The Oracle of the Hills and the Caves, she dispenses advice and overlooks all aspects of life in the village of Umumofia. No one has ever beheld Agbala, except his priestess.

Ojiubo

Okonkwo’s third wife and mother of several of his children.

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