Things Fall Apart Chapter 19 Summary

Instructor: J.R. Hudspeth

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

Chapter nineteen of 'Things Fall Apart' jumps ahead to the end of Okonkwo's exile in his mother's land of Mbanta. Okonkwo prepares for a return to his homeland of Umuofia, but before he goes, he must show his thanks to his mother's family for taking him in with a large feast.

Previously in Things Fall Apart...

There is tension between the villagers of Mbanta and the members of the Christian church who live in the forest just outside of Mbanta. Both groups have come close to violence, but the villagers think better of it. This frustrates Okonkwo, who believes that his home village of Umuofia would take up arms against the church members. Fortunately for Okonkwo, he will soon get his chance to return home.

Preparing For a Feast

Chapter 19 begins by jumping ahead to the final harvest that Okonkwo will spend in Mbanta. The seven years of exile that he was sentenced to for accidentally killing someone are almost over, and Okonkwo plans to move back to his homeland of Umuofia soon after the harvest season.

Okonkwo gets a head start on his return to Umuofia as he waits for his yam crop to blossom during the rainy season. He sends money to Obierika for the purpose of having huts built for his family, though manly pride demands that Okonkwo himself build his own obi, or hut for the man of the family.

Eventually, the rainy season ends, and as the yams come closer to being ready for harvest, Okonkwo tells his wives to prepare a large feast for one last gathering with his mother's family before he leaves for Umuofia. Okonkwo plans this large feast over the protests of his wife, Ekwefi, telling her that it is tradition to throw this type of gathering to reinforce family bonds, and Okonkwo's daughters Ezinma and Obiageli help out by collecting cassava, a potato-like vegetable, for the feast.

This is cassava, a plant often grown by the women of the tribes in Southern Nigeria.

Feasting, Family, and Final Goodbyes

Okonkwo invites all of his umunna, or male family members, to the feast. These umunna range far and wide, far beyond the immediate families of his wives and his mother. To begin the feast, Uchendu, Okonkwo's uncle and the oldest living member of the family, leads a ceremony in which kola nuts are passed around.

Uchendu speaks as well, saying that family is more important than money and that having family to help one another separates humans from other animals. He then prays for Okonkwo and his family to be well. Okonkwo's wives and children bring out the food for the feast as Okonkwo tells the members of the umunna that he shared the kola nuts with them not to thank them for their help, since he could never start to repay them for it, but simply because he was glad to have them here to feast with him as his family.

Everyone enjoys the massive feast. After eating, palm-wine is passed around for the men to drink. While they drink, Uchendu gives one more speech. In this speech, Uchendu says that he is not surprised at Okonkwo's generosity because Okonkwo respects the old ways of doing things such as this. He reiterates that Okonkwo did it not because he needed to feed everyone, but because family ties are important and family gatherings are good.

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