Things Fall Apart Family Tree

Lesson Transcript
Laura Foist

Laura has a Masters of Science in Food Science and Human Nutrition and has taught college Science.

Expert Contributor
Sasha Blakeley

Sasha Blakeley has a Bachelor's in English Literature from McGill University and a TEFL certification. She has been teaching English in Canada and Taiwan for seven years.

In this lesson, we will learn about the family tree in ~'Things Fall Apart.~' We will learn about Okonkwo's relationship with several members of his family, including his sons, Nwoye and Ikemefuna, and his daughter, Ezinma. Updated: 06/15/2021

Family Trees

In a family tree, the ancestors and their descendants within an extended family are shown as a network of connections. This is the case with the complex family tree present in Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.

Okonkwo had three wives. His first wife is never named but simply referred to as ''first wife'' or ''Nwoye's mother.'' As is apparent by her names, the first wife was there to bear children for her husband. They have three children: two sons and a daughter.

The second and third wives are there to help the first wife with the family duties. The second wife is Ekwefi. She and Okonkwo have ten children, but only one lives past infanthood, a daughter named Ezinma. Ezinma and Ekwefi have a relationship that resembles sisters more than mother-daughter. Ojiugo is the third wife; she and Okonkwo have a daughter named Nkechi.

Okonkwo has another adopted son, Ikemefuna. Okonokwo's father is Unoka.

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Coming up next: Things Fall Apart Character List & Flashcards

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  • 0:04 Family Trees
  • 1:09 Important Relationships
  • 3:15 Lesson Summary
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Important Relationships

Okonkwo is continually afraid of appearing weak like his father, Unoka. In order to prevent this perception, he ends up harming his family and his family relationships.

Okonkwo always sees his eldest son Nwoye as weak and lacking masculinity. In an effort to toughen him up, Okwonkwo frequently beats Nwoye. On the other hand, his adopted son Ikemefuna is exactly the kind of man that Okonkwo wishes to see. He still prevents himself from showing affection, though, because he thinks it will make him appear weak. When Ikemefuna murders someone and is sentenced to death, Okonkwo ensures the death sentence is carried out in order to once again appear strong.

Growing up, Ikemefuna helps his adopted brother Nwoye grow into manhood in order to please their father. Okonkwo notices and appreciates the changes in Nwoye but still refuses to show affection, continuing to fear that Nwoye is truly weak at heart. When Nwoye becomes a Christian it proves his weakness to Okonkwo who subsequently disowns him.

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Additional Activities

Things Fall Apart: Deeper Dives

This lesson explained the complex family tree that you can find in Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. Take a look at the following activities to improve your understanding.

Draw Your Own

There are many ways of representing a family tree on paper. Now that you understand the relationships between all of the characters in this book, draw your own family tree representing them. You should take care to choose colors that represent different kinds of relationships, but the specific ways that you choose to draw the tree are up to you. Consider how the characters interact and your feelings about them when drawing your tree.

Character Study

Choose one character in the family tree and think about them in great detail. What are they like? What are their important relationships? Write a paragraph about this character, being careful to explain their place in the family. If you want, you can also include drawings or images to visually represent this character and their journey over the course of the book.

Historical Context

Do some of your own research to find out more about when and why Chinua Achebe wrote and published this book. Think about what the author was trying to communicate and how that ties into the representation of family in the novel. Write an essay explaining your thoughts on this subject with reference to the novel and its family tree whenever possible.

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