Questions for Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart, chapters 1-13
1. What are Okonkwo’s main characteristics in the first chapter?
2. What did Okonkwo do when he was 18 that made him famous? What does this feat tell us about him?
3. Why does Okonwko dislike his father Unoka so intensely?
4. Why does it matter that Unoka took no title? How does that affect his son?
1. What effect does night have on the people? What do they fear?
2. What do we learn about Okonkwo’s attitude toward war and fighting?
does religion determine the
5. How is the conflict between the villages settled? Be specific.
6. Sketch on a separate sheet of paper the arrangement of Okonkwo’s compound. Label who lives in which hut. What do we learn about the society’s structure by the organization of the huts?
7. What happens to the boy Ikemefuna? What kind of foreshadowing does Achebe use at the end of the chapter to indicate the boy’s probable fate?
1. This chapter begins with a flashback when Okonkwo’s father visits the oracle Agbala to learn why his crops always fail. What does the oracle say? What is revealed about Unoka?
2. How does Unoka die? What is shameful about the death?
3. Even before his father’s death Okonkwo works to acquire more wealth. Who does he ask for help? Describe his visit and the ritualized meal they share?
4. How does share-cropping work? What does Nwakibie give Okonkwo and what must Okonkwo give back in return?
5. What happens to the crop Okonkwo plants? What do we learn about him from this tribulation?
1. What are Okonkwo’s virtues? What are his faults?
2. Explain the proverb: “When a man says yes his schi says yes also.” How does it apply to Okonkwo?
3. Describe Okonwko’s relationship to Ikemefuna.
4. How does Okonkwo break the Week of Peace? How is he reprimanded by the village? Who reprimands him?
5. Describe the relationship between Ikemefuna and Nwoye.
6. What information do we have at the end of the chapter about: Nwayieke and Nnadi?
1. Describe the preparations for the Feast of the New Yam. How important is this Feast? What does it seem to mean to the people?
2. What is Okonkwo’s reaction to the feast? What does that reaction reveal about his character?
3. What angers Okonkwo? What does he do? Why does he shoot his gun at his second wife Ekwefi?
4. When does Ekwefi fall in love with Okonkwo? How does she end up as his second wife? What kind of relationship does she seem to have with Okonkwo?
5. Ekwefi has a daughter, Ezinma. What kind of person is Ezinma? Describe her relationship to Okonkwo’s first wife and to Okonkwo.
1. Describe the wrestling match. What significance does it seem to have for the people? How do they celebrate the winner?
2. To whom does Ekwefi speak during the wrestling match? Why is she important?
1. What kind of boy
is Nwoye? Why is Ikemefuna a good influence on Nwoye? What are Okonkwo’s
ambitions for Nwoye?
2. What does the
village decide to do with Ikemefuna? Who tells Okonkwo? What else does that person tell him to do? What is
3. Where does Ikemefuna think he is going? What phrases does Achebe use
to describe him?
4. What happens to Ikemefuna? What is Okonkwo’s role
in the boy’s fate?
5. What is Nwoye’s reaction? What does he remember?
1. What is Okonkwo’s reaction to Ikemefuna’s
2. How does Obierika respond to Okonkwo’s
criticism that he did not participate in Ikemefuna’s
fate? Which man does the narrator seem to approve of and why?
3. Who are Ndulue and Ozoemena? What is
their story? Why does Okonkwo think Ndulue is weak? What does that reveal about Okonkwo?
4. How is the bride-rpice for the bride of Obierika’s
son determined? What are we as reader to think about this custom? Does the
narrator give us any hints of his opinion?
5. Summarize the
story at the end of the “white men.” Notice that this is the first mention of
European men in the book. Notice how Okonkwo and the
others do not recognize them as healthy people.
1. Why does the
chapter begin describing Okonkwo slapping a mosquito
and remember a story? What does this paragraph reveal about Okonkwo
and how might it be a criticism of the protagonist?
2. Why does the
narrator say “Ekwefi had suffered a good deal in her
3. On p. 79, the
narrator says “that she [Ekwefi] did not blame others
for their good fortune but her own evil chi
who denied her any.” What does this sentence mean? How does it relate to this
sentence from p. 27 in chapter 4, “But the Ibo people have a proverb that when
a man says yes his chi says yes
4. What is an iyi-uwa? Why must they find Ezinma’s?
5. What illness does
Ezinma have right now? What does Okonkwo
do for her? What is revealed about Okonkwo here?
1. What is the first
case that comes before the egwugwu? Describe the
plaintiff, the defendants, the witnesses, the case itself? What is the final
2. Why do the egwugwu address the individuals as “Uzowulu’s
body?” Why not just use the name? What does this form of address suggest about
the relationship between the people and the egwugwu?
3. What is the next
case? Look at the last sentence of the chapter! Why might be involved in this
kind of case?
4. Why do you think
the narrator begins with this marital case? Why doesn’t he use the second case
instead? What is he trying to suggest about Ibo? About the
position of women?
1. Why do you think
Achebe includes the scene in Chapter 11 with the priestess taking Ezinma to the cave and her parents following? What does
this scene remind you of?
2. Why does Achebe
include the fable with the tortoise and the birds? What is the moral of the
fable? What does this fable and scene reveal about Ibo culture? Does this fable
remind you of anything you’ve heard before?
3. What do the
scenes on p. 108-09 and 112 reveal about Okonkwo? Why
does Achebe include them?
4. What do we learn
about the relationship between Okonkwo and Ekwefi? What was the beginning of their relationship?
1. Look at the scene
on pp. 114-5. What does this scene reveal about Ibo culture? Do we have
anything that resembles this practice?
2. Describe the
ceremony of marriage. What is the
attitude toward the bride?
1. What do pp.
122-23 reveal about Ibo images of life and death, the spirit world and the
earthly realm? What do you think about this? What other clues has Achebe given
us about the Ibo’s vision of the afterlife – of life and death?
2. What is Ezeudu’s funeral like? What does it reveal about Ibo values
and traditions? How does this compare to Okonkwo’s
father’s death? Review the turning point ceremonies we’ve witnessed so far in
the novel. What do they say collectively about the culture?
3. Look at pp. 124-5. What does Achebe mean by a “male” crime vs. a “female” crime? What kind of crime does Okonkwo commit? What do you think about his punishment? Is it just?