Things Fall Apart
Chinua Achebe
Contributed by Jack Shields
Chapter 14

Okonkwo arrives in Mbanta, ready to start his culturally imposed seven-year exile. His maternal uncle, Uchendu, now a village elder, invites him. Uchendu thinks about what has happened, hears the side of Okonkwo's story, and makes plans for the appropriate rituals and accompanying offerings. He gives Okonkwo a plot on which he can construct a compound for his family, and Okonkwo gets extra parcels for cultivation. Uchendu's five children each give him three hundred seed-yams to begin his new life.

Okonkwo and his family should strive to build up another homestead, and the work gives him no delight since he has lost the energy and determination of his youthful days. He knows he is just "marking time" while he is in Mbanta. He laments over the disruption of his plan to be up one of the rulers of his tribe in Umuofia and accuses his chi of his inability to accomplish a lasting legacy. Uchendu realizes that Okonkwo is a deeply troubled man and he plans to have a talk with him the following day.

The following day, before the all his children, Uchendu addresses Okonkwo about his stress and hopelessness. Through a series of inquiries that nobody understands, Uchendu causes them all comprehend why a man should come back to his motherland when he is angry and discouraged. He encourages Okonkwo to comfort his family and set them up for his inevitable return Umuofia, and, in the interim, to acknowledge the help of his family while he is here. It is the encouragement from his uncle that helps Okonkwo to settle in his new environment.


In this section, Achebe presents the dilemma of the male and female attributes of Okonkwo's present circumstances. Okonkwo starts his exile profoundly demoralized and unmotivated. While making progress toward much more prominent manliness, he orchestrated a female murder — that is, he unintentionally killed a child during the burial ceremony. Compounding the situation (in his psyche), he has been exiled from his clan to a woman's side of his family.

Okonkwo finds this to be an immense challenge to his manliness. His uncle reminds him, however, within the presence of his own family, that Okonkwo should utilize the nurturing (womanly) nature of his homeland, acknowledge his circumstance (which is, in fact, far less devastating than it could be), and recuperate. Okonkwo needs to keep up a positive, responsible leadership (counting male and female characteristics) of his own family in readiness for their inevitable return to Umuofia. The womanly part of his mother's clan is not to be disregarded while Okonkwo bids his time, waiting for the appropriate time to return to his manly village.

Earlier, Okonkwo recognized the crucial role of chi in his life. In this chapter, he appears to understand that his chi "was not made for great things" — a confirmation that he may not accomplish all that he needs since his destiny is predestined. This perception, however, does not last.

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