Skip to Main Content

Cushing Library is now permanently closed. It was a pleasure serving you!

Things Fall Apart: Home

William Butler Yeats Poem

The title of this book was inspired by a line in William Bulter Yeats poem, "The Second Coming".


* Character summeries are taken from Wikipedia.

Okonkwo -The protagonist Okonkwo has a warrior complex and is a leader of the Igbo community of Umuofia. He despises his father Unoka because he sees his as lazy and weak. He has three wives and many children.

Ekwefi - She's the second wife to Okonkwo and the mother to his daughter Ezinma.

Ezinma - She's the only child out of ten to survive past infancy from Ekwefi so she's well protected by her mom. She is also Okonkwo's favorite child.

Nwoye - Okonkwo sees his eldest son as weak and lazy like his own father. Okonkwo often beats on his son for being weak

Ikemefuna - He is a boy from another village who was taken in by Okonkwo's family. Okonkwo treated him like his own son and he even bonded with Nwoye and the other children.

Ogbuefi Ezeuda - He's the oldest man in the village and also one of the most important members in the clan among the elders and leaders.

Obierika - He's Okonkwo's closest friend. He looked after Okonkwo's yam

Mr. Brown - The first white missionary to travel to Umuofia. He became friends with prominent members of the clan and built a school and a hospital in Umuofia. He attempted to be respectful of the tribe's value system rather than harshly imposing his religion on it.

Reverend James Smith - He replaces Mr. Brown and is uncompromising and strict on his converts to reject all of their indigenous beliefs. He shows no respect for indigenous customs or culture.

Uchendu - He's the younger brother of Okonkwo's mother who takes in Okonkwo and his family when they travel to Mbanta.

Unoka - Okonkwo's father was a talented musician who passed away ten years prior to the start of the book. Okonkwo was ashamed of his father for being lazy and not a warrior.

Themes in Things Fall Apart

There are many themes running throughout Things Fall Apart. Here's a list of some of the themes that can be discussed. These themes are summerized from and

  • Custom and Tradition -The Ibo tribe are rooted in traditions and customs that dictates the lives of its members. The Igbo tribe becomes threatened when this new religion is introduced and questions their beliefs and traditions that bears meaning to their world.
  • Fate and Free Will -One of the main conflicts is the clash between Okonkwo's determination to succeed and fate. He chooses to kill Ikemefuna even after members of the tribe advised him not to take part. He is then exiled and blames his fate and he in the end chooses to take his own life.
  • Gender - Ibo life is gendered. The role of the woman is to be make a pure bride for an honorable man, then be a submissive wife, and to also bear many children. The role of the man is to provide for his family and be brave on the battlefield.
  • Respect and Reputation -Reputation is based on merit and is denoted by ankel bracelets the men wear. The men gain reputation through bravery in battle, skill at wrestling, and the size of their yam harvest.
  • Fear - Many of the characters have fear. Okonkwo fears being lazy like his father. Ekwefi fears losing her only daughter. Nwoye fears his father's wrath.
  • Culture Clash - The arrival fo the white man and the tribesmen differed greatly in culture. The white man does not honor the tribe's customs and tries to impose their culture as being better. This created a division between the tribesmen.
  • Language and Communication -The Christians speak English and require an interpreter and inevitably get lost in translation.


Many conflicts arise in Things Fall Apart. The following are a few of the main conflicts throughout the book. 

  • Father and Son - Okonkwo thought his father Unoka was weak and effeminate, and that his son Nwoye was exhibiting those same traits. Okonkwo wanted to be the opposite of his father and display his masculinity by being a warrior and having good social standing in his community. He was also conflicted with himself to prove his masculinity as to not appear weak.
  • Religion and Culture - The Christians missionaries decended on Umuofia trying to get the people of Ibo to convert from their tradition and customs to the Christian faith. While one of the missionaries, Mr. Brown, tried to be respectful of the tribe's traditions, Reverend James Smith took after and was strict on converting all their customs.