Things Fall Apart Chapter 4 Summary

Instructor: J.R. Hudspeth

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

Chinua Achebe's novel 'Things Fall Apart' follows the main character Okonkwo, and in Chapter 4, Okonkwo's personality is shared in more detail. The chapter also shares more about how the village plants their major crop, yams. Read on for a summary of the events in this chapter.

Summary of Chapter 4

Chapter 4 of Things Fall Apart starts with a quote from an old Umuofian who thinks that Okonkwo is hard-working and successful, but that he is also harsh and unwieldy. This sets the tone for the chapter, which continues by showing how Okonkwo acts as opposite to his father, Unoka, as he can. For instance, Okonkwo is quick to shoot down men who are of lower social rank than him, and he is also very quick to anger.

Ikemefune, the young man who is sent to Umuofia by his village leaders in Mbaino in order to avoid a war, is so depressed that he refuses to eat. Okonkwo, placed in charge of Ikemefune, threatens Ikemefune with violence and forces him to eat dinner. Eventually, Ikemefune becomes popular in the family, and Okonkwo's son Nwoye becomes particularly close to him and sees Ikemefune as a big brother. Even Okonkwo grows to like Ikemefune, but Okonkwo still refuses to show the boy any affection in order to avoid being seen as weak or effeminate.

Chinua Achebe, author of the novel, shares more about Okonkwo

Hot Headed

Okonkwo's quick-to-anger nature is so strong that he sometimes even breaks local customs or puts others in extreme physical danger. During the Week of Peace, a sacred time immediately before yam planting season during which the Umuofians are not allowed to show anger toward one another, Okonkwo badly beats his second wife, Ojiugo, for being late to make his lunch.

While normally this sort of action would not be punished in Umuofian society, it is treated as a major issue during the Week of Peace. The Umuofians believe that it could cause the Earth Goddess to turn against the people and their crops. Ezeani, the priest of the Earth Goddess, comes to Okonkwo's house and punishes him with a heavy fine. Okonkwo is sorry for what he did, but he does not show it outwardly so that he does not seem weak. This makes some people in the village think that Okonkwo is arrogant and not humble enough for his wealth and social standing.

All About Yams

The chapter then goes on to share how the village plants yams, its major crop. Yams are thought of as a masculine crop because they are the staple food in the diets of the villagers. Planting takes four months of constant work from sun-up to sun-down. The farmers must clear plants to make space for their farms. The farmers must then prepare the yam seeds; sometimes, they must cut the yams apart in order to plant them.

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