The Second Coming"
William Butler Yeats
“Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
Chinua Achebe presents
native African culture in his
stunning work, Things Fall
Apart. This is probably the
most read work of African
Literature ever written, and
it provides a deep level of
• Chinua Achebe is one of the most well-
known contemporary writers from Africa.
• Achebe’s first novel, Things Fall Apart,
deals with the clash of cultures and the
violent transitions in life and values
brought about by the onset of British
colonialism in Nigeria at the end of the
born in Nigeria in 1930. He was raised in the large
village of Ogidi, one of the first centers of Anglican
missionary work in Eastern Nigeria. (Question #5)
He is a graduate of University College, Ibadan.
From 1972 to 1976, and again in 1987 to 1988, Mr.
Achebe was a Professor of English at the University
of Massachusetts, Amherst, and also for one year at
the University of Connecticut, Storrs.
“Let me first make one general point that is
fundamental and essential to the appreciation of
African issues by Americans. Africans are people in
the same way that Americans, Europeans, Asians, and
others are people. Africans are not some strange
beings with unpronounceable names and
impenetrable minds. Although the action of Things
Fall Apart takes place in a setting with which most
Americans are unfamiliar, the characters are normal
people and their events are real human events.”
What made Achebe’s African
literature truly African?
Things Fall Apart combines Western linguistic
forms and literary traditions with Igbo (or Ibo)
words and phrases, proverbs, fables, tales, and
other elements of African oral and communal
storytelling traditions. (Question #6)
This helps record and preserve African oral
traditions as well as to overcome the colonialist
language and culture.
Published in 1958, just before Nigerian
independence, the novel recounts the life of the
village hero Okonkwo and describes the arrival
of white missionaries in Nigeria and its impact
on traditional Igbo society during the late
“Let me first make one general point that is
fundamental and essential to the appreciation of
African issues by Americans. Africans are people
in the same way that Americans, Europeans,
Asians, and others are people. Africans are not
some strange beings with unpronounceable
names and impenetrable minds. Although the
action of Things Fall Apart takes place in a
setting with which most Americans are
unfamiliar, the characters are normal people and
their events are real human events.”
9 connected villages, including Okonkwo’s village, Iguedo
Okonkwo is a wealthy and respected warrior of the
Okonkwo won honor in his youth; he beat “Amalinze the
Cat” in a wrestling match
Unoka was his father, a “weak” man who always borrowed
money and couldn’t pay his debts
Unoka’s laziness meant his wife and children often went
Unoka was a skilled flute player and eloquent (skilled,
Town crier rings the ogene (gong) to let clansmen know they
should gather in the market in the morning
Orator (good speaker) Ogbuefi Ezeugo announces the murder of
a woman in the market of neighboring village (Mbaino)
Anger, indignation. As the fiercest warrior, Okonkwo chosen to
deliver message to Mbaino; they must hand over a virgin and a
young man or go to war
Umuofia has reputation for fierce warriors, powerful magic
Okonkwo has taken five human heads in past battles. He drinks
palm-wine from his first head on important occasions.
Mbaino agrees to Umuofia’s terms
The boy, Ikemefuna, goes to Okonkwo for safekeeping
Okonkwo instructs his first wife to care for Ikemefuna
Unoka never had successful harvest, numerous debts unpaid, couldn’t afford titles. Lazy, Ill-fated, died of a
shameful illness, “swelling which was an abomination to the earth goddess.”
Unoka left in the Evil Forest to die (so as not to offend earth by being buried)
Okonkwo builds fortune alone; starts as a sharecropper – becomes a warrior, farmer, and family provider
His start: Nwakibie gives him 800 seed yams to start a farm (when Okonkwo only asked for 400
Unoka’s friend gives him another 400, but horrible droughts and rains destroy majority of harvest
Harvest left profound mark on Okonkwo; considers this proof of his fortitude/inner mettle (strength)
Okonkwo feels only disgust for father’s reliance on words(need to speak); he uses either action or silence
At first, Ikemefuna is homesick and scared, but soon becomes part of the family (tells
stories; an older brother to Nwoye, calls Okwonkwo “father”)
Okonkwo grows fond of Ikemefuna, but does not show affection (believes it is sign of
During the Week of Peace, Okonkwo beats his youngest wife, Ojiugo, after she leaves
her hut to have her hair braided without first cooking dinner
Because of nso-ani (transgression/breaking tradition), priest demands sacrifice of
nanny goat and hen, plus a fine
Okonkwo repents (says he is sorry), follows the priest’s orders. Ogbuefi Ezeudu: “The
punishment for breaking the Peace of Ani has become mild in Umuofia.”
After Week of Peace, villagers begin to clear land, prepare for planting farms.
Nwoye and Ikemefuna help Okonkwo prepare the seed yams, but he finds fault with
their work (even though he knows that they are too young to understand farming)
Just before harvest, village holds “Feast of the New Yam” to thank the
earth goddess, Ani
Okonkwo considers feasts times of idleness
Women scrub and decorate huts, throw away unused yams, and
decoratively paint their skin and their children’s with cam wood
After beating second wife, Ekwefi, he wants to go hunting. Ekwefi
mutters remark about “guns that never shot,” and Okonkwo shoots at
her (but misses)
Okonkwo won Ekwefi’s love (she ran away from her husband to be with
him) by defeating the Cat, so she especially enjoys the annual wrestling
contest the day after the feast
In turn, Okonkwo’s daughters bring a bowl of food to Okonkwo’s hut
With excited spectators, the wrestling match takes place on
the village ilo (a field)
Maduka (son of Okonkwo’s friend Obierika) wins one match
Ekwefi speaks with Chielo, who takes the role of the priestess
of Agbala, the Oracle of the Hills and Caves
At the match, they speak as friends; Chielo inquires about
Ezinma, whom she calls “my daughter”
They conclude that Ezinma seems to have “come to stay” (she
has reached the age of ten and is unlikely to die).
Chapter 7 Ikemefuna has been with the family for three years, having “kindled a new fire” in
Nwoye (becomes more masculine, which pleases Okonkwo)
Okonkwo frequently invites the two boys to listen to warrior stories in his obi (Nwoye
misses his mother’s stories, but says he dislikes women’s concerns to please his
Locusts descend upon Umuofia (happens once in a generation; come every year for 7
years before disappearing for another lifetime)
Villagers happy – they collect and eat them
Ogbuefi Ezeudu visits to inform Okonkwo of the Oracle’s decree. He tells Okonkwo not
to take part Ikemefuna’s death, as the boy calls him “father”
Okonkwo lies to Ikemefuna, telling him that he will be returning to his home village;
Nwoye bursts into tears
The men of Umuofia walk for hours with Ikemefuna, who thinks about seeing his
When attacked, Ikemefuna cries to Okonkwo for help. Okonkwo doesn’t wish to look
weak, so he kills him with machete
Nwoye understands Ikemefuna is dead and is very upset
Okonkwo in depression, feels weak, cannot sleep or eat; berates (thinks poorly of)
himself for acting like a “shivering old woman.”
Ezinma tells him he must eat; brings him his evening meal (Okonkwo repeatedly
wishes that she were a boy)
He visits Obierika and congratulates Maduka for wrestling; complains his sons are
not manly enough, while Ezinma has “the right spirit”
He argues with Obierika about taking part in Ikemefuna’s death
Okonkwo begins to feel revived; news of the death of oldest man in a neighboring
village and wife’s death shortly after. Okonkwo questions the man’s reputed
(reputation of) strength once he learns how the man seemed attached to his wife
Obierika requests that Okonkwo stay for daughter’s fiancé to determine bride-
price. Afterward, they all talk about differing customs in villages (tapping palm
trees for palm-wine, white-skinned people)
Foreshadowing: someone speaks of Amadi, a leper. He passes through village
frequently; those who know Amadi laugh (polite term for leprosy is “the white
Ekwefi awakes Okonkwo very early in the morning (believes Ezinma - the
“center of her world” - is dying).
Ekwefi is very lenient with Ezinma (Ezinma calls her by her first name;
relationship approaches equality) because Ekwefi had 9 miscarriages
Okonkwo knows it is just fever; collects medicine
Ekwefi’s previous births had symbolic names - “Onwumbiko/Death, I implore
you” and “Ozoemena/May it not happen again”
Medicine man warned an ogbanje (“wicked” child who continually re-enters
its mother’s womb only to die again and again)
So he mutilated the dead body of Ekwefi’s third child to discourage ogbanje’s
Ezinma suffered many illnesses after birth, but recovered
When Ezinma was 9, a medicine man found her iyi-uwa (small, buried pebble
- ogbanje’s physical link to the spirit world)
Ezinma every illness still brings terror and anxiety to Ekwefi
Village holds a ceremonial gathering (a court)
Clan’s ancestral spirits – egwugwu - emerge (come out) from a secret
house (no woman allowed inside)
Egwugwu - masked men, including Okonkwo
Women and children are afraid even though they understand men
are playing the role of the spirits
First dispute - Uzowulu says his wife’s 3 brothers beat him and took
her and the children, refused to return bride-price. Mgbafo’s
brothers say the husband beats their sister mercilessly (caused her to
miscarry once). Brothers threaten Uzowulu - will cut his genitals off if
he ever beats her again
Egwugwu decide Uzowulu must beg for Mgbafo to return
One village elder complains that such a trifling (unimportant,
insignificant) matter should not be brought to egwugwu
Ekwefi’s story: greedy, cunning tortoise and the birds invited to a feast in the sky
(Tortoise persuades them to take new names for the feast according to custom; his
name will be “All of you”)
Chielo, in her role as priestess, informs Ekwefi that Agbala wishes to see Ezinma
Frightened, Okonkwo and Ekwefi try to persuade Chielo to wait until morning
Chielo angrily takes Ezinma on her back and forbids anyone to follow
Ekwefi overcomes fear of divine punishment – follows Chielo, making rounds of the 9
Ekwefi determined to save Ezinma at cave if needed—even against a god
Okonkwo startles her when he arrives at the cave with a machete
They sit together; she recalls running away from her first husband
At dawn, Chielo exits cave shrine with Ezinma on her back
She silently takes Ezinma to Ekwefi’s hut and puts her to bed
Okonkwo had been worried about Ezinma, but did not show it – he had made
four trips to and from the cave. By the last trip, he was “gravely worried”
Okonkwo’s family begins to prepare for Obierika’s daughter’s uri (wedding
Villagers contribute food; Obierika buys huge goat to present to future in-laws
Brief interruption – women must retrieve escaped cow; cow’s owner pays a fine
Fiancé's family arrive – generously giving fifty pots of wine
The feast is a success.
Ogbuefi Ezeudu’s death is announced using ekwe (musical instrument), making
Their last visit had been the warning not to take part in Ikemefuna’s death
Ezeudu had been great warrior (3 of 4 titles); his funeral is large and elaborate
There are beating drums and firing of guns
Okonkwo accidentally kills Ezeudu’s 16-yr-old son
Killing a clansman is a crime against the earth goddess; Okonkwo must take his
family into exile for 7 years
They go to Okonkwo’s mother’s village, Mbanta
According to tradition, the men burn Okonkwo’s buildings and kill his animals to
cleanse the village
Obierika asks why a man should suffer greatly for an accidental killing; also
mourns the deaths of his twins, whom his wife was forced to throw away
(wonders what crime they committed)
Uchendu (uncle of Okonkwo) and kinsmen give a warm reception -
building a compound and lending yam seeds.
Farming season arrives. Okonkwo works hard, but with less enthusiasm.
He has toiled all his life, but now his dream “to become one of the lords
of the clan” is not possible.
Uchendu perceives Okonkwo’s disappointment; he waits to speak until
after his son’s wedding.
Next day, Uchendu gathers entire family. Speaks about most common
names - Nneka, meaning “Mother is Supreme.”
“A man belongs to his fatherland and stays there when life is good, but
he seeks refuge in his motherland when life is bitter and harsh.”
Uchendu advises Okonkwo to receive the comfort of the motherland
Uchendu lost all but one of his six wives and buried twenty-two
children. Even so, he says, “I did not hang myself, and I am still alive.”
● Two years pass since Okonkwo and his family first
move to Mbanta
● Obierika comes to visit Okonkwo with two other
men and brings 3 bags full of money which he got
by selling Okonkwo’s Yams/seeds.
● Obierika meets Uchendu.
● The three talk about the village Abame, and how
the white men came in and shot almost all of the
villagers at the market.
It’s been 3 years since Okonkwo’s exile
Obierika returns to Mbanta from visiting
There are 6 missionaries Nwoye encounters and
they speak to the village
*persuade acceptance of 1 god
Okonkwo thinks missionaries are unorthodox
but Nwoye is intrigued by their ideas
• Missionaries request a piece of land to build a church
• Village leaders and elders offer them a plot in the evil forest
(thinking they won’t accept it)
• Missionaries accept offer but elders think the forest’s
sinister spirits and forces will kill the missionaries within
days (nothing ends up happening)
• Okonkwo’s cousin informs Okonkwo that Nwoye is among the
• Okonkwo chokes Nwoye when he returns demanding to know
where he had been
• Nwoye leaves and travels to a school in Umuofia to learn
how to read and write
Church wins many converts from the efulefu (titleless, worthless men).
Then osu (outcasts) come to church and other converts do not want
Mr. Kiaga firmly argues that they will not die if they cut their hair or
break any of the other taboos.
His steadfast conviction persuades most of the other converts not to
reject their new faith.
Osu soon become most zealous members of the church.
One boasts that he killed the sacred royal python.
Okonkwo urges Mbanta to drive the Christians out with violence, but
rulers & elders decide to ostracize them instead. Okonkwo: this is a
Later, elders learn - man who boasted of killing the snake has died of an
illness. Villagers’ trust in gods is reaffirmed. They cease to ostracize the
This was Okonkwo’s last harvest in Mbanta
He sent Obierika money to build him 2
huts in his old compound
They had a harvest thanking Okonkwo’s
From the beginning of his exile, Okonkwo has planned
how to rebuild his compound.
He wants it to be larger, to take two more wives and get
titles for his sons. He thinks less of Nwoye’s disgraceful
departure, but still regrets that Ezinma is a girl.
Okonkwo gets his daughters to postpone marrying so
that he may attract interest when he returns to Umuofia.
However, Umuofia is very different. The church has
grown. The white men subject the villagers to their
judicial system and rules of government.
Okonkwo cannot believe that his clan has not driven out
the harsh, arrogant, white men and their church.
Obierika explains that it is too late; the
church has weakened the ties of kinship.
Okonkwo observes that the white man is
shrewd; he came in peace, appeared to
have benevolent interests so the Africans
would permit him to stay.
Umuofia is divided over the white men’s influence in the community. The benefit:
trading posts. Money is flowing into the village.
Mr. Brown, the white missionary, restrains Christians from harassing the clan.
Akunna, one of the clan’s leaders, explains that the clan also has just one god,
Chukwu, who created the world and the other gods.
Cultural Exchange: Mr. Brown - there are no other gods; a carving is not a god, but
a piece of wood. Akunna – agrees it is a piece of wood, but wood created by
Chukwu. Neither will convert, but gain a greater understanding of the other’s faith.
Mr. Brown builds a hospital, a school. Threat: if children don’t go to school,
strangers who can read and write will rule over them.
Mr. Brown tells Okonkwo that Nwoye is in a training college for teachers. Soon
after, his health declines. He leaves Umuofia.
Daughters attract many suitors, but clan
has little interest in his return. Ozo
initiation ceremony occurs only once
every 3 years.
Okonkwo is baffled and upset by changes
in his once warlike people.
Reverend James Smith replaces Mr. Brown. Strict, intolerant, demands obedience to
the letter of the Bible. Disapproves of Mr. Brown’s former policies.
Zealous converts are relieved to be free of restraints. Enoch unmasks an egwugwu
during the annual ceremony to honor the earth deity (equivalent to killing an
ancestral spirit). The next day, the egwugwu burn Enoch’s compound to the ground.
They gather in front of the church to confront Reverend Smith. They tell the Christians
that they wish to destroy the church to cleanse their village of Enoch’s horrible sin.
Smith stands his ground, forbidding them to touch the church. His interpreter alters
statements for fear they are too harsh, will provoke great anger. (Says that Smith
demands that they leave).
Okonkwo is almost happy because of taking action, even though
the clan did not agree to kill the Christians or drive them away.
Villagers are on guard, arm themselves for next two days.
District Commissioner returns from his tour, requests a meeting
with the leaders of Umuofia. They go, taking only machetes (guns
would be “unseemly”).
Commissioner is condescending, says they should discuss the
church’s burning “as friends.” As soon as machetes are on the
floor, soldiers handcuff them and throw them in jail.
They suffer insults and physical abuse. Bail is set at 200 bags of
cowries. Court messengers ask for 250 to prevent leaders from
hanging – to make a profit.
An emergency village meeting. Ezinma
returns home from 28-day visit to future
in-lawsThey decide to collect the cowries
necessary to pay the fine.
Umuofia leaders return to the village upset. Entire village overcome
with tense and unnatural silence.
Ezinma takes Okonkwo some food. She and Obierika notice whip
marks on his back.
Village crier announces another meeting. Following morning, clan is
filled with sense of foreboding. Okonkwo has slept very little out of
excitement and anticipation. Meeting is packed with people from 9
Okonkwo believes that the nature of man has changed. He has
decided on a course of action, no matter what others think. Takes
out war dress. Assesses raffia skirt, feather headgear, shield.
Remembers former glories.
First speaker: laments the damage that white man and his church
have done to the clan, the desecration of the gods / ancestral spirits.
5 court messengers approach, ordering
the meeting to end. Okonkwo kills the
leader with his machete. Villagers allow
messengers to escape, end the meeting.
District Commissioner arrives at Okonkwo’s compound. A small group of men sit outside, who tell him that
Okonkwo is not at home. Commissioner asks again, and Obierika repeats his initial answer.
Commissioner gets angry, threatens to imprison them. Obierika agrees to lead him to Okonkwo in return
for assistance. Not understanding this agreement, Commissioner follows Obierika and a group of clansmen
to a small bush behind Okonkwo’s compound. There, Okonkwo’s body dangles from a tree.
Understanding that Umuofia would not go to war and disappointed with his clan, he has hanged himself.
Obierika explains that suicide is a grave sin. Commissioner asks why they cannot take down the body, and
they explain that it is now evil. Only strangers may touch it; only strangers may bury it.
Angrily, Obierika blames him for Okonkwo’s death, praises his friend’s greatness. Commissioner leaves, but
orders his messengers to do the work.
As he departs, he congratulates himself
for increasing his knowledge of African
Okonkwo in Chinua Achebe's Things Fall