Things Fall Apart

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Things Fall Apart Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Okonkwo doesn't eat for two days, drinking only palm-wine instead. He calls Nwoye to sit with him in his obi, but Nwoye is afraid of him and slips out whenever Okonkwo dozes. Okonkwo stops sleeping at night as well. On the third day, he asks Ekwefi to roast plantains for him, and Ezinma delivers the dish, telling him to finish it, since he hasn't eaten in two days. Okonkwo eats and thinks repeatedly that Ezinma should have been a boy.
The killing of Ikemefuna shakes Okonkwo, and he responds by reaching out to his son Nwoye. Yet what Okonkwo has done makes Nwoye want only to avoid him. Okonkwo seems to respect Ezinma's no-nonsense words, but his gender bias does not allow him to accept her as she is. Instead he wishes she were a boy.
Themes
Masculinity Theme Icon
Okonkwo wishes for work to distract him, but this is the season of rest between the harvest and the next planting season. He calls himself a woman for his reaction to killing Ikemefuna and decides to visit his friend Obierika. Okonkwo shakes hands with Obierika's son and then talks with Obierika talk about Okonkwo's worries for his children. Eventually, Obierika mentions that Okonkwo should not have participated in killing Ikemefuna—he calls it “the kind of action for which the goddess wipes out whole families.”
Okonkwo believes that he had no other choice when it came to striking down Ikemefuna, since the Oracle announced that Ikemefuna had to be killed—Okonkwo doesn't acknowledge that he was afraid of being seen as feminine. However, Obierika points out that just because Ikemefuna had to die does not mean Okonkwo had to participate in killing him. It is never clear whether Okonkwo's fall from this time on is a fate handed down by the goddess or the result of the same shame/violence dynamic that made Okonkwo kill Ikemefuna.
Themes
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Masculinity Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
Ofoedu comes in to tell of the simultaneous passing of Ogbuefi Ndulue—the oldest man in a neighboring village—and his first wife. They discuss how close Ndulue and his wife were in their youth, and Okonkwo regards this as a sign of weakness, even as Obierika and Ofoedu discuss how strong Ndulue was, leading Umuofia to war as a young man.
Okonkwo's vision of masculinity is not one that's shared by everyone in the clan. Okonkwo sees weakness in consulting a woman, whereas the other men don't believe that such behavior lessens Ndulue's achievements.
Themes
Masculinity Theme Icon
Okonkwo begins to feel better, and he leaves to tap his palm trees. Only men without title are allowed to climb the trees to tap them, and Obierika says that he wishes he had not taken the ozo title sometimes, since it pains him to see inexperienced young men killing the trees in the name of tapping. Okonkwo defends this as the law of the land, however, and says it is good that their clan holds the ozo title in high esteem.
Okonkwo acknowledges that it's a shame to kill palms, but the value of titles are very important to him, and he's willing to defend the law in order to maintain his status. Okonkwo is unwilling to think critically about any of his clan's traditions, unlike Obierika.
Themes
Tradition vs. Change Theme Icon
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Okonkwo returns to Obierika's hut later, when Obierika's daughter's suitor arrives with his relatives. They survey his daughter's body before drinking palm-wine and eating. After the pot is emptied, the suitor's family and Obierika work out his daughter's bride-price by passing broomsticks back and forth. After they settle on a bride-price of 20 bags of cowries, they criticize the bride-pricing customs of other clans. They discuss other cultures that seem strange to them, and Obierika mentions the story of white men who have no toes. One of the others makes a joke, saying that he's seen such a white man—a leper named Amadi.
We see the negotiations for the bride-price here, as well as an interesting discussion on different cultures. While we may see the broomstick method of haggling as rather demeaning, they clearly find that it is more respectful than other forms of haggling. It's also worth noting that the women have very little to do with this negotiation—in many ways in Umuofia society women are treated as objects to be traded by the men.
Themes
Tradition vs. Change Theme Icon
Masculinity Theme Icon