There are 7 main characters in Things Fall Apart including the main protagonist of the story, Okonkwo. His eldest son, Nwoye, was a disappointment to his father. His adopted son Ikemefuna, who Okonkwo kills himself. Obierika, his thoughtful best friend who is a foil to Okonkwo’s own character. Ekwefi, his beloved second wife. Ezinma, his favored, strong-willed daughter. And Unoka, his lazy but sensitive father.
Main Things Fall Apart Characters
Okonkwo is the main protagonist of the story. A well-respected clan leader, he believes in traditional masculinity and gained his position through hard work and fighting skills. His father Unoka was a lazy, soft, emotional man, who gave his son nothing, and Okonkwo worked hard his entire life to not be like his father. Over the course of the story, there are many examples of Oknonkwo’s brutish side, but only a few where his soft side shows. Every time he feels a soft emotion, he considers himself weak and represses his emotions. Eventually, his hard-headedness causes a rift between him and his son, him and his village, and eventually, he kills himself.
Ikemefuna is a 15-year-old boy who is put under Okonkwo’s care when he is traded to the village as compensation for the murder of a woman. Ikemefuna is 12 when he starts living in Umuofia and though he initially struggles to fit in with Olonkwo’s family, he is eventually welcomed by the family.
Nwoye, Okonkwo’s eldest son becomes particularly close to Ikemfuna and thinks of him as the brother he never had. Ikemefuna is a more traditional manly man, and his positive influence on Nwoye pleases Okonkwo. Eventually, Ikemefuna starts calling Okonkwo father, which Okonkwo allows.
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After living with Okonkwo’s family for three years, the Umuofia oracles demand that Ikemefuna be killed. Okonkwo feels hesitant and is given advice not to take part in the killing. Afraid to appear weak though, he decides to take part but stays in the back. Ikemefuna is told that he is being returned to his village, but on the way, he is attacked by the clansmen. He runs towards Okonkwo begging for help and calling him father, but Okonkwo lands the killing blow.
Obierika is Okonkwo’s closest friend. He is a calm, thoughtful, and reflective man who tries to give Okonkwo good advice, but is more often than not ignored. He provides insight into the life and traditions of the Umuofia people. His daughter gets married early in the story, and when Okonkwo is in exile, Obierka visits him and brings him news of the white missionaries. At the end of the book, he gets emotional after Okonkwo’s death and screams at the missionaries saying that they have caused the death of one of the greatest men of Umuofia.
Ekwefi is Okonkwo’s second wife. She fell in love with him as a young girl but he was unable to pay his bride price. As the village beauty, she quickly found a husband but left him for Okonkwo later. She has had a difficult life, losing 9 out of the 10 children she birthed. This is why she is so attached to her only surviving daughter, Ezinma.
Ezinma is Ekwefi and Okonkwo’s only daughter. She is strong-willed and intelligent as well as beautiful. She is one of the few people who can influence her father, and Okonkwo frequently wishes that she had been a boy. Okonkwo’s relationship with her showcases some of the few times he lets his softer side emerge.
Nwoye is Okonkwo and his first wife’s first son, placing him in a very important position as the eldest son. Nwoye is more like his sensitive grandfather Unoka than his ultra masculine father Okonkwo, something that bothers his father immensely. Nwoye is bothered by some of Umuofia’s traditions such as leaving twin babies to die in the forest. Nwoye becomes very close to Ikemefuna, and when he finds out that Okonkwo took part in his killing, a rift starts forming between father and son.
During their exile, Nwoye is attracted to the kindness of the Christian missionaries. Though he initially never enters, when his father beats him for even being close to the church, he finally joins them. This causes Okonkwo to disown him from the family. Nwoye doesn’t seem to mind and goes to study with the missionaries. His storyline shows how and why the missionaries were attractive to the youth.
Unoka is Okonkwo’s father. He is not well respected in the clan because he is lazy. He is fond of playing music and telling stories, but he is always in debt, often begging for money. Okonkwo despises his father and started working hard at a young age to make sure he doesn’t end up like him. Okonkwo, therefore, hates all the things his father liked and represented, both driving him to be successful, but also making him a cold and tough man.
Minor Things Fall Apart Characters
The oldest clan member of Umuofia, Ogbbuefi Ezeudu is very well respected for his wisdom despite being a fierce warrior in his youth. He is the one who gave Okonkwo the advice not to take part in Ikemefuna’s killing. At his funeral, Okonkwo’s gun goes off accidentally killing Ezeudu’s oldest son, prompting Okonkwo’s exile.
Ojiugo is Okonkwo’s third wife. Okonkwo beats her during the week of peace, drawing criticism and showing his cold side.
Uchendu is Okonkwo’s uncle, the younger brother of his mother, who welcomes and helps Okonkwo get settled during his exile in Mbanta. He is a kind and thoughtful man, who gives Okonkwo good advice.
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Chielo is the priestess of Agbala and the Oracle of the Hills and the Caves. She is a widow and has considerable power within the clan. While channeling the goddess Agbala, she comes to take Ezinma to the caves, worrying both Okonkwo and Ekwefi.
Nwakibie is the second most powerful man in the clan and is the one who gave young Okonkwo his first yam seeds.
The District Commissioner
The District Commissioner is the highest colonial representative in Nigeria. He is a typical racist colonialist who thinks of local customs and traditions as barbaric.
Mr. Brown is the white missionary who first arrives in Umuofia. He is a kind man who takes the time to understand the culture and slowly builds trust with the locals.
Akunna is a clan leader among the Umuofia who speaks with Mr. Brown about religion and teaches him the ways of the locals.
Reverend James Smith
Reverend James Smith is Mr. Brown’s successor. Unlike Mr. Brown, he views the locals as savages and has no interest in understanding the local customs and traditions. He changes the role of the missionaries and converts, inciting violence and a stricter code of conversion.
Enoch is a convert that becomes zealous and fanatical under Reverend Smith. He snatches a mask off the face of one of the elders during an important ceremony, which causes a clash between the church and the Umuofia.
Mr. Kiaga is a convert and interpreter for Mr. Brown. Mr. Kiaga opened the church for all members of the Umuofia people, regardless of their social status, which led to many conversions. He is the one who accepts Nwoye when he runs away from his family.
To Sum Up
Things Fall Apart is considered one of the best early modern African novels in English. The story tells the tale of Okonkwo, a great man in his tribe, but also shows the flaws in his character. It shows the conceit of the missionaries, but also how and why they were so successful at converting locals. The characters in Things Fall Apart give a glimpse of life during the colonial era in Nigeria while furthering our understanding of Okonkwo.
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