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Free Study Guide-Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe-Free Booknotes
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CHARACTER ANALYSIS

Ikemefuna

When the decision to take revenge on the village of Mbaino is made, Ikenefuna is brought from Mbaino as compensation. Ikemefuna has no idea of his fate and adjusts to his new lifestyle when he is placed with Okankwo’s family. Nwoye, Okonkwo’s son, becomes inseparable from him because he seems to know everything. He is by nature a lively boy and becomes popular in the Okonkwo household. Okonkwo too becomes fond of him, and treats him like a son but with a heavy hand. However the Oracle had already decided Ikemefuna’s fate, he was to be killed and so Ikemefuna is led into the forest along with a band of men including Okonkwo and killed.

Even at the last moment, Ikemefuna cries out “My father, they have killed me” thus pleading for Okonkwo’s aid. But Okonkwo, to prove that he is not emotionally bound to him, draws his machete and kills the boy. Such is the short life of Ikemefuna, who is merely a pawn and later a sacrificial lamb for the village.

Obierika

Obierika is Okonkwo’s closest friend. It is to him that Okonkwo turns to after Ikemefuna’s death. Obierika is very frank about Ikemefuna’s death and Okonkwo’s part in it. He had refused to join the men in the killing. He tells Okonkwo, “What you have done will not please the earth. It is the kind of action for which the goddess wipes out whole families.” And ironically, Okonkwo’s family does suffer a great deal from the hands of fate as well as Okonkwo’s rigid adherence to tribal customs. Obierika is the voice of reason. Much of what he says to Okonkwo falls on deaf ears, but he is patient and prudent and questions some of the tribal customs. He has a healthy skepticism of the traditional ways and is more adaptable to change than Okonkwo.

When Okonkwo is banished from the village, Obierika comes to meet him at his uncle’s village to keep him informed about the changes taking place in their village. He even looks after his fields and sends him the money that is raised.

And at the end of the novel, when Okonkwo is pushed into taking his own life, Obierika turns ferociously to the District Commissioner and says, “That man was one of the greatest men in Umuofia. You drove him to kill himself; and now he will be buried like a dog.” Obieika is, thus a true friend of Okonkwo, and comes across as a very strong character.


Reverend James Smith

He is Mr. Brown’s successor, but very different from him. After Brown’s departure, Smith openly condemns his predecessor’s method of compromise and accommodation. Mr. Smith saw the world as a “battlefield in which the children of light were locked in mortal conflict with the sons of darkness”.

Mr. Smith comes across as a very opinionated person who starts making changes as soon as he arrives in the scene. He adheres strictly to Christian doctrine and does not allow any of the converts to retain any of their old ways. In fact, he suspends a young woman from the church for contaminating her new religion with her old beliefs.

Due to his extreme stance, the overzealous converts who had been kept under control under Mr. Brown’s restraining hand, now start practicing their faith at full swing and become aggressively antagonistic towards the Igbo. It is mainly under Mr. Brown’s influence that the convert Enoch tears off the mask of the egwugwu. This ultimately leads to a number of events, finally culminating in Mr. Brown’s inability to stop the villagers from burning down his church into a pile of earth and ashes. Yet ultimately Brown gains the upper hand as he utilizes the British colonial forces to win his battles for him and thus the Igbo are defeated in the end.

The District Commissioner

The District Commissioner is the head of all affairs, and it is to him that Reverend Smith turns to, after the desecration of his church. The District Commissioner takes the matter into his own hands, invites Okonkwo along with five other leaders and then handcuffs them. A very humiliating scene follows where the leaders are beaten and their hair shaved off. This angers Okonkwo, who later on an impulse, kills one of his messengers, who had been sent to stop a meeting of the clans members. Okonkwo later hangs himself as he sees no way out of the situation with the British invasion.

The District Commissioner has no qualms or feelings of remorse about the Okonkwo’s death. In fact, he has his own agenda and plans to use Okonkwo’s story as part of his book project called ‘The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the lower Niger’. This shows him to be a shallow human being, more interested in the accolades he will receive for his book, rather than the pitiful state of the villager, whom he sees as primitive and inferior. He is never given a name which reveals the ubiquity of such types during colonial rule in Africa. He is a stern, unyielding, insensitive and racist figure who ironically comes across as being more primitive in his cruel treatment of the clans members then the Igbo. One feels only repulsion for such a character.

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