Ikemefuna in Things Fall Apart

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  • 0:02 Introduction to…
  • 1:00 Ikemefuna's Early Life
  • 1:48 Life & Relationships…
  • 3:33 Ikemefuna's End
  • 5:20 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Liz Breazeale
In this lesson, you'll learn about the character of Ikemefuna from Chinua Achebe's novel 'Things Fall Apart.' Test your knowledge with a quiz afterwards.

Introduction to Things Fall Apart

Before we get into the specificities of the character Ikemefuna in Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart, let's get some background on the world and plot of the novel. Things Fall Apart was published in 1958 to much acclaim by Achebe, who is Nigerian. It's studied around the world, especially in Nigeria, as the foremost example of African literature.

The novel itself follows the protagonist, Okonkwo, a local leader and wrestling champ in his Igbo, a native Nigerian ethnic group, village of Umuofia, as he navigates the steadily more-ominous presence of colonial forces. Okonkwo adheres to the Igbo traditions and beliefs of his village and has a brutal temper that often gets him into trouble, and has trouble adapting to the shifting world views of his village. He has several wives and children, as is the custom, and ends up taking in a boy from another village named Ikemefuna.

Ikemefuna's Early Life

The boy Ikemefuna comes from Mbaino, a different village than Okonkwo, his sort-of-adopted-father. Ikemefuna's father kills an Umuofian woman and, as payback, he must give the Umuofians his son. Enter Ikemefuna. The elders end up letting Okonkwo take the boy into his home. This makes Ikemefuna like one of his children.

Because the story roves across several characters' points of view, the reader is privy to some of Ikemefuna's memories and thoughts. We're not told much about his early life, except that the boy was never fond of his father, even feared him, but that he misses his younger sister and his mother when he first comes to Umuofia. He longs to see them again, and even weeps for them as he's transported to his new village.

Life & Relationships in Umuofia

Ikemefuna blossoms when he comes to Umuofia. At first, he's hesitant to be included in Okonkwo's family life, even afraid. He considers running away several times and often cries himself to sleep. Understandable, but through the compassion and love Okonkwo's wife shows him and the friendship of her son, Nwoye, the boy grows into a healthy, well-liked family member. Even Okonkwo, a man who fears that showing any emotion besides extreme anger will make him look like his effeminate father, grows to love the boy as if Ikemefuna was his own child. He at times feels closer to Ikemefuna than he does to Nwoye, because he feels Nwoye is childish and unmanly. Ikemefuna, in turn, grows to love and respect Okonkwo as he never did his own father, and is eager to please the mercurial patriarch.

Out of the other very important relationships in Ikemefuna's Umuofian life, is his friendship with Nwoye, which is so deep that it could even be described as brotherly. Nwoye, who is younger, adores his adopted sibling. The two boys are foils for one another, or characters in literature that contrast deeply with one another. For example, Nwoye doesn't care for hunting or battle stories, but Ikemefuna is seen by Okonkwo as being the manlier of the two. Nwoye is gentle and soft-spoken; Ikemefuna is more gregarious and well-liked. Nwoye is devastated by death, but Ikemefuna is seen as a hardworking young man who doesn't dwell on such things. Although they are nearly total opposites, Ikemefuna and Nwoye are the best of friends during the three years Ikemefuna lives in Umuofia.

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