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Ojiugo in Things Fall Apart

Instructor: Liz Breazeale
Chinua Achebe's famed post-colonial work ''Things Fall Apart'' brings to life a multitude of vibrant characters, like Ojiugo. In this lesson, learn about Ojiugo and her importance to the plot.

Who is Ojiugo?

Ojiugo is a minor character in Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. She is a wife of the protagonist, Okonkwo. His third wife, to be precise. In Okonkwo's society, having multiple wives is commonplace, and can show how powerful and important a man is.

Ojiugo is the third and youngest of Okonkwo's wives, and the least experienced at being a wife and mother. She has several children, but she's a bit scatterbrained. You don't really get to spend much time with Ojiugo throughout the novel, and she's not really around much to voice her opinions of things. But she does tend to infuriate her husband when she is (or isn't) around -- as we'll see shortly.

Women in traditional Igbo dress
Igbo dress

Ojiugo Frustrates Okonkwo

Ojiugo's main role in the novel is to push Okonkwo to the breaking point in one notable moment. In chapter four, it's the Week of Peace, a week in which no violence and no work can occur as an honor to the gods and goddesses. Any violence is punishable by the high priest of the earth goddess. Now, knowing that Okonkwo is by nature a violent, angry kind of guy, this doesn't bode well for him.

During the week of peace, Okonkwo is already in a hurry and in a bad mood. He discovers that Ojiugo hasn't done her job as his youngest wife and hasn't cooked the afternoon meal, which is a big no-no. Everyone else knows Ojiugo has gone to have her hair done and left her children home. This infuriates Okonkwo, because she's still not home, and his traditional sensibilities are inflamed by this knowledge.

Ojiugo returns home, and Okonkwo, despite desperate pleading from his other two wives, beats her mercilessly. But remember how this is the Week of Peace? He's completely violated the sanctity of this event in beating his wife. Okonkwo, summoned to the priest, is lectured about his mistake. Inwardly, he's sorry, but outwardly, Okonkwo's not the kind of guy to show remorse. And this is pretty much Ojiugo's big role in the novel.

Ojiugo's Role

As stated before, since Ojiugo is a really minor character in the book, her main role is to amp up the tension within Okonkwo, as well as the tension between him and the village. He's broken a pretty big rule, and his lack of outward repentance doesn't help his case. He's fined, and he pays this fine, but his neighbors begin to turn on him after this event, saying that he thinks he's too good for the rules, and that he's let his wealth and power go to his head.

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