Characters are human beings in novels, stories, and poems. The authors show their beliefs, ideas and philosophical foundations through these characters. Characters in Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe also show Achebe’s ideas and opinions about change, colonialism and the reaction of the natives. Some of the major characters of Things Fall Apart have been analyzed below.
Characters in Things Fall Apart
Okonkwo is the major character and protagonist of the novel, Things Fall Apart. He is physically strong with great strength in his character. Throughout the novel, he strives very hard to shed the inherited laziness to assert his manliness. Okonkwo exudes masculinity, ruthlessness, and violence from the very start of his life. He believes his father was a coward. He has three wives and ten children. He adopts a tragic flaw of his father that is to go against the community and its norms. He proves his strength by killing Ikemefuna and by resisting the arrival of the white civilization. He fails to perceive the threat of this modern civilization that has impacted the Umuofians.
Although Okonkwo has achieved personal and social success, he doesn’t change with time. He goes into exile for murder after killing Ezeudu’s son accidentally. When he returns, he finds that most people in the village has embraced the white civilization and converted into Christianity. He fiercely opposes the kills one of the English messengers and is filled with guilt. He is also surprised at the tribe’s reaction which is of complete apathy and silence. To avoid being judged by a white man, he commits suicide. Thus all his glory and pride comes to an end.
The eldest son of Okonkwo, Nwoye, resembles his grandfather. He always struggles hard to come out of the powerful image of his father and fails to be tough. When Ikemefuna is brought home, he takes him as an older brother. Despite his best efforts to adopt masculine habits and values, he stays conflictual in his mind though he succeeds in winning approval of Okonkwo sometimes. When he sees his father assassinating Ikemefuna, he begins to hate his masculinity and courage. He finally joins the English forces of civilization when the mission returns to Mbanta. He again becomes optimistic and feels relieved after getting out of his father’s oppressive rule and takes the name Isaac and betrays his father one last time.
Ezinma is Okonkwo’s favorite daughter, an only child from his second wife, Ekwefi. She is braver than her mother and also fearless. So, Okonkwo often wishes her to be a boy instead of a girl on account of her boldness and courage. Not only does she win his appraisal but also wins his respect. She understands that postponing marriage may bring back her father’s lost glory and social status after the exile ends.
Ikemefuna becomes the adopted son of Okonkwo after Mbaino clan hands him over to Okonkwo for a murder. Boy’s manners win Okonkwo’s heart to whom he calls his father but also becomes a brother figure to Nwoye and other family members. Although Okonkwo has shown particular interest in the boy, he kills him with his machete when the decisive moment comes to prove his masculinity.
Unoka, Okonkwo’s father, has never been honestly a strong man was known for his cowardice and profligacy. He would spend his time singing and dreaming. He also falls in massive debts as he continually borrows from other clansmen. Unoka earns shame for Okonkwo from which he has to come out through the assertion of masculinity. On the other hand, he is also an artist by nature and a very talented musician. His idleness and constant borrowing have made him a misfit in the highly patriarchal culture. That is why Okonkwo does not relate himself to his father.
Obierika comes to limelight in the novel while helping Okonkwo, who needed financial help when he goes into exile, and Obierika jumps to help Okonkwo. However, he is also a born skeptic who questions Okonkwo’s execution of Ikemefuna and playing with the conventional tribal wisdom. The social pressure, however, does not let him point out the cultural problems that he sees.
A representative of the white civilization, Mr. Brown visits Umuofia to preach Christianity. Unlike others, he is kind and understanding. He hates violence, and he also helps them build a school and a local hospital. Mr. Brown understands the value of survival and respects the local system instead of berating it. That is why he proves successful in changing the local social fabric.
Reverend James Smith
James Smith shows the dark face of the bright civilization that is coming to the African continent. He is quite the opposite of Mr. Brown, a very harsh and strict preacher. He asks his converts to berate their past beliefs and embrace new ones wholeheartedly. James is a representative of colonialism and provokes the locals by suspending a local woman from the church for showing her reverence to the local tradition. That is why he invites the wrath of the locals at his church though he escapes unscathed.
A very pacifist and compromising, Uchendu is the maternal uncle of Okonkwo who welcomes him when they travel to Mbanta. He gives a helping hand to Okonkwo in understanding the new land and new social fabric where he has to spend his exile. It seems that Achebe has presented him as opposed to Okonkwo who is not only hotheaded but also very impulsive in his actions. Uchendu’s flexibility does not impact Okonkwo who suffers in the end.
The District Commissioner
A condescending and haughty, the District Commissioner is another representative of the western civilization through his strong administration. As a shrewd administrator, he uses his knowledge of the native land to manage the locals. He also embodies a reductive attitude toward races.