Nwoye in Things Fall Apart: Character Analysis & Quotes

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  • 0:01 Things Fall Apart
  • 0:28 Nwoye
  • 2:50 Conversion to Christianity
  • 4:04 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: J.R. Hudspeth

Jackie has taught college English and Critical Thinking and has a Master's degree in English Rhetoric and Composition

Nwoye is an important character in Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart. Learn how Nwoye's attitude, actions, and relationship with his father, Okonkwo, show how different people can react to the same experiences by reading on!

Things Fall Apart

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe explores the lives of people living in a Nigerian village both before and during British colonization of their lands. Achebe begins by giving the reader a glimpse of the everyday lives of the people in the village. Nwoye is one of these people, and it is soon revealed that he has a rocky relationship with his father, Okonkwo. To better understand what type of person Nwoye is, we need to examine his relationship with his father.


Personality: Lacking Confidence

Nwoye's first notable trait is his lack of confidence. A large part of the reason for this is Okonkwo's treatment of Nwoye. In order to teach Nwoye the right way to do things, Okonkwo chooses to threaten him with violence rather than kindly encourage him. For example, when Nwoye does not cut yams for planting properly, Okonkwo says to Nwoye that ''if you split another yam of this size, I shall break your jaw.'' Okonkwo's treatment of Nwoye leaves the boy feeling unsure of himself and scared of making mistakes. His father's disapproval is constant and overwhelming.

Tendency: Peace-Loving Boy

The culture of the village is very much like it is in most Nigerian villages--very masculine and very violent, and this goes against Nwoye's tendency to be gentle (or more feminine than masculine) and peaceful. Nwoye prefers listening to the tall tales that the women of the village tell than the violent stories of battle that his father tells. He is aware that society does not approve of this and when he pretends to prefer violent stories, ''his father was pleased, and no longer rebuked or beat him.'' Nevertheless, even though he pretends to act like his father and how his village thinks a man should act, he does not appreciate violence.

Personal Beliefs: Different Than His Father's and His Village's Beliefs

The beliefs of the village often come in conflict with Nwoye's personal code of ethics. For example, the village has a custom of leaving twin babies to die in the forest because they believe that identical twins are an evil abomination. When Nwoye, walking near the forest, hears the cries of a dying baby, ''something had given way inside him.'' That something is sadness at the death of the child and a mistrust of the customs of the village.

This issue comes up again when Ikemefuna, a young man who was taken as ransom from another tribe to avoid a war, comes to live with Nwoye and his family. Nwoye and Ikemefuna grow close, and Nwoye comes to see Ikemefuna as a brother. After a few years, however, the religious oracle for the tribe calls for Ikemefuna's death, and Okonkwo, as a leader of the tribe, goes along. When Okonkwo returns without Ikemefuna, Nwoye realizes that his father and the other men have killed Ikemefuna. Again, he experiences sadness and a deep loss of respect for the ways of the village.

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