Things Fall Apart Chapter 5 Summary

Instructor: J.R. Hudspeth

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

The fifth chapter of Chinua Achebe's classic novel 'Things Fall Apart' shares more about not only the life of main character Okonkwo, but the lives of his wife Ekwefi and daughter Ezinma. Read on for a short summary of this chapter.

Summary of Chapter 5

Okonkwo: A Man of Anxiousness and Violence

Chapter five begins with the upcoming yam harvest and the Feast of the New Yam, in which the Umuofians give thanks to their earth goddess Ani for a bountiful harvest. Yams are sacrificed to Ani and the ancestral spirits and large feasts are prepared and given, celebrating the bounty of food that will last the villagers for the whole year. The main character, Okonkwo, shows off his financial and farming success by asking all of his wives' relatives, of which there are very many, to feast at his house.

Things Fall Apart explores the anxious, harsh, and violent nature of its lead character Okonkwo.

Unlike the rest of the village, however, Okonkwo is not very joyous about the feast. While he likes to represent his wealth and hard work during the feast by serving so many of his newly-grown yams, his personality will not allow him to enjoy the feast; he is so driven by a fear of failure and so unlike his father Unoka that he would rather be working during this time of celebration and feasting.

Okonkwo is so upset by being inactive that it makes him anxious and then angry, now prone to having one of the violent outbursts that scare his family. He finds an outlet when one of his wives, Ekwefi, cuts a few leaves off of a banana tree in their compound to wrap some food. Angered for little reason, he beats Ekwefi badly. Feeling better after beating his wife, he decides to go hunting with his gun and calls for Ikemefuna to get it for him. However, Ekwefi is angered by Okonkwo having beaten her and insults Okonkwo's terrible aim under her breath. Now angered even more than before and determined to assert control over his wife, Okonkwo runs to get his gun himself as Ekwefi tries to dive over the walls of the compound to hide. Okonkwo takes aim and fires at Ekwefi as she falls into the barn, then rushes to see if he hit her. He missed, and so Okonkwo sighs - maybe with irritation, maybe with relief - and walks away.

Ekwefi: How She Fell in Love

Later that very day, the families of Okonkwo's wives visit and feast. For Ekwefi, it is the wrestling matches that she loves the most about this festival. It is at the wrestling match where Okonkwo made his name by throwing his undefeated opponent, Amalinze, that Ekwefi fell in love with Okonkwo. Okonkwo did not have the money then to pay her family enough in order to marry her, but later on, Ekwefi ran away from her husband to marry Okonkwo.

Author Chinua Achebe spends time in the fifth chapter sharing more information about Ekwefi and Ezinma, the second wife and the daughter of Okonkwo, respectively.

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