Things Fall Apart
Chinua Achebe
Contributed by Jack Shields
Chapter 4

Regardless of Okonkwo's humble beginnings that were characterized by several setbacks, he has ascended up the social and economic ladder and has become one of the most regarded members of his clan. However, others comment on how cruelly he deals with men who are less fruitful than himself. For instance, at a gathering to talk about the following ancestral feast, Osugo — a man without titles — takes an opposing view to Okonkwo. Okonkwo confronts Osugo by pronouncing the gathering is "for men." When others at the gathering side with Osugo, Okonkwo apologizes.

Okonkwo's well-deserved achievement is obvious in light of the fact that the clan picks him to convey the war message to their adversary.  The enemy, on the other hand, treats him with incredible regard in the Negotiations. The elders select Okonkwo to nurture Ikemefuna until the point when they choose what to do with him. Once the young man is placed in the custody, they assume he is in safe hands and they forget about him until three years later.

As the yearly Week of Peace went on,  just before planting time, custom allows nobody in the clan to utter a cruel word to someone else. One day in this week, Okonkwo's most youthful wife, Ojiugo, goes to a friend's home to make her hair, and she neglects to prepare Okonkwo's evening meal and provide food for her children.  When Ojiugo returns, Okonkwo beats her very badly. Even when Okonkwo's attention is brought to the ban on brutality, he doesn't stop the beating. Since Okonkwo's destruction of peace can endanger the entire clan's harvests, the priest of the earth goddess, orders Okonkwo to make a sacrifice at his place. In spite of the fact that Okonkwo deep down has thoughts about "great evil," he never admits to a blunder. His breaking of the peace and the priest's light punishment are discussed in the clan. 

After the holy week, the farmers of the clan start to plant their crops. Okonkwo instructs Ikemefuna and Nwoye to enable him to gather, count and set up the seed-yams for planting, however, he persistently discovers mistakes with their activities. He trusts that he is basically helping them understand the troublesome and masculine craft of seed-yam preparation.


To secure his masculinity, Okonkwo trusts that he should beat individuals from his family (Nwoye, Ikemefuna, Ojiugo, and his spouses) and that he should scorn men who help him to remember his dad — notwithstanding for slight inconveniences. In spite of the fact that he may deep down experience feelings of love and regret, he can't demonstrate these feelings to others, so he disengages himself through outrageous activities.

Talking about Okonkwo, there are two examples of traditional wisdom that Achebe has applied;

"Those whose palm-kernels were cracked for them by a benevolent spirit should not forget to be humble." The proverb means that a man whose achievement has come as a result of luck must not forget that he has faults. However, that is not the case with Okonkwo. In the case of Okonkwo, he ‘has cracked them up’ and it is his hard work that has brought him to the present position.

"When a man says yes, his chi says yes also." This Igbo proverb infers that a man's activities influence his predetermination as controlled by his chi. Okonkwo's chi is viewed as "great," yet he "[says] yes emphatically, so his chi [agrees]." as such, Okonkwo's activities to conquer misfortune appear to be legitimized, but since he is guided by his chi, his lack of compassion, love, and mindfulness for less effective men will prove to be self-destructive.

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