Things Fall Apart Main Characters

Instructor: J.R. Hudspeth

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

The interaction between the main characters of Chinua Achebe's ''Things Fall Apart'' paints a picture of a people and a village with a rich shared culture, but with individuals of different hopes, dreams, and flaws. Read on for a short summary of the main characters of the novel!

Characters in Things Fall Apart

The characters in Things Fall Apart are mostly from Nigeria, a country in Central Africa. These particular Nigerians are members of the Igbo (also known as Ibo) people, a particular ethnic group within Nigeria. Chinua Achebe, the author of Things Fall Apart, shows how each character lives as an Igbo in Nigeria both before and during the opening stages of English colonization. This was when the English came to Nigeria to settle there and to take the leadership of the land. However, these characters are not simply their culture; they also have their own individual strengths and weaknesses that lead them to react to one another and to events in the story in different ways.

The characters of the novel live here in Nigeria, highlighted in green on the map. Achebe follows the lives of these characters up through the beginnings of English colonization.
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Okonkwo

Okonkwo is the main character. Okonkwo has a fear of failure, and this fear drives him to succeed at everything that he does. He is outwardly stern and even violent; if he works himself into a rage, he can lose total control of himself and put the lives of his wives or children in danger. Okonkwo is also unforgiving and has very high standards for his sons, especially his son Nwoye, which causes strain between them.

Okonkwo's actions all arise from fear that he will end up like his father Unoka, who was seen as lazy and useless among the villagers. This fear helps him to achieve great things, but it also causes him to act violently and rashly at times where patience or calm would be preferable. Okonkwo's rash actions also sometimes escalate events to a point where harmful conflict is inevitable where a calmer person might be able to defuse the conflict.

Nwoye

Nwoye, Okonkwo's first-born son, feels the pressure of Okonkwo's expectations. He deals with those expectations poorly because he does not have the personality of his father. Nwoye is quiet, but he is also interested in the things that his father is not, like folk stories instead of stories about war. Nwoye also questions the beliefs and culture of the Igbo people. For instance, he has questions when Ikemefuna, who was like a brother to him, was killed on the order of the clan. He also has questions when he hears twins (who are abandoned in the forest because the clan believes that twins are evil) crying out as they die. Nwoye eventually abandons the religion and beliefs of his culture for Christianity when the English colonizers come to Nigeria.

Ekwefi

Ekwefi, Okonkwo's second wife and mother of Ezinma, is a resilient woman. Many of her children die during or soon after childbirth, and her desire to be a mother wills her through these deaths. Eventually, she has Ezinma, who survives into childhood (and later young adulthood). Ekwefi is often weary and skeptical as a result of her experiences with the constant disappointment of losing children. She also will do anything to protect Ezinma, going so far as to risk her life to make sure that Ezinma is okay during one night when Ezinma is taken away by the town priestess.

Ezinma

Ezinma is not only the pride and joy for her mother Ekwefi; she is also beloved especially by her father Okonkwo, who is typically not so affectionate. Ekwefi is head-strong and willing to take on any job. These are exactly the traits that Okonkwo values, and Okonkwo often wishes that Ekwefi were born a boy so that she would be able to take on a leadership role in the village.

Ezinma has an air of mystery around her as a child. People in the village believe that she is possessed by a bad spirit that keeps coming back in the bodies of Ekwefi's children who always die, and Ezinma nurtures that belief by basking in the attention and acting suspiciously or in a way that is not straightforward with adults. Eventually, Ezinma grows into a strong and supportive adult woman who has a close understanding with her older father.

Obierika

Obierika is Okonkwo's closest friend. Obierika is the calm, wise, and somewhat snarky counterpoint to Okonkwo's stern and unfriendly ways. Obierika and Okonkwo are around the same age and share the same goals of being active and important men in the village. Obierika supports Okonkwo however he can and helps Okonkwo out of difficult situations, such as when he saves Okonkwo's things from being burned, sells them, and then brings Okonkwo the money after Okonkwo is forced out of the village because of a terrible accident.

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