Things Fall Apart Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis from LitCharts | The creators of SparkNotes

Things Fall Apart

Things Fall Apart Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

The Feast of the New Yam, during which Umuofia celebrates the earth goddess, Ani, approaches. Everyone in the clan looks forward to the festival, since it heralds a season of plenty, but Okonkwo can never match this enthusiasm for feasting. He prefers working on his farm. His wives and children, however, are excited with the preparations, cleaning and decorating, and Ikemefuna in particular is excited to experience the feast.
Okonkwo's uneasiness towards feasting likely has to do with his discomfort with language—since feasts are just food and talk—which again separates him from his clan. Ikemefuna, on the other hand, is fully immersed in the activities of Umuofia.
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Okonkwo finds an outlet for his anger, accusing his second wife of killing the banana tree—even though she only cut a few leaves off to wrap food. He beats her, leaving her and her daughter weeping. Okonkwo then decides to go hunting with a rusty gun, even though he's never killed anything with his gun, which prompts his second wife to murmur about guns that never shoot. Okonkwo hears this and shoots his loaded gun at his wife, who scrambles away. He misses and goes off to hunt.
Whenever Okonkwo feels uncomfortable it drives him to anger, just as how his shame at the mockery of his father made him angry when young. And when he is angry he loses control and gets violent. The anger that he considers masculine turns out to have a lot of destructive potential—when he loses control, like he did during the Week of Peace, he's unable to stop himself from acting.
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The New Yam Festival is celebrated with joy, with in-laws arriving from different villages on the first day, before heading home after feasting. The second day brings the greatest wrestling match between Okonkwo's village and its neighbors, and Okonkwo's second wife Ekwefi is most excited by the wrestling. Many years ago, she had been the village beauty, and Okonkwo had won her heart by throwing the Cat. She married someone else because Okonkwo was too poor to pay her bride-price, but she ran away to live with Okonkwo a few years later.
Wrestling is a big tradition for Umuofia, demonstrating masculine strength. Ekwefi's story demonstrates her own strong will, running away from her first husband to be with Okonkwo, even though he couldn't afford to be with her before. She was attracted to his strength.
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On the morning of the second day of the festival, Ekwefi and her only daughter Ezinma talk as she prepares a fowl to eat. Ezinma asks many questions, calling her mother by her first name and wondering why the pot doesn't burn Ekwefi even though she handles it with bare hands. Nwoye's mother calls and asks Ezinma to bring her live coals, which Ezinma stokes into a live flame. The drums begin beating to signal the wrestling match, and as Ekwefi prepares the meal, she hears Nwoye's sister weeping. Ikemefuna and the first wife's children file in with dinner pots, but Nwoye's sister comes empty-handed. She had been showing off to the other children when she broke her pot, but she makes up a sad story to tell her mother. When her brothers are about to tell on her, Ikemefuna silences them with a look.
Names have power in Umuofia, and Ezinma calls her mother by her first name, showing how much power she has in the relationship. Also, both Ekwefi and Ezinma handle fire deftly here, and fire is often compared to Okonkwo's spirit. This makes sense, since he is particularly fond of both of them, even though he tried to shoot Ekwefi earlier. The scene with Ikemefuna also shows how much Ikemefuna has become part of the family. He has a leadership role among the siblings, silencing the younger ones when he has to in order to keep the peace.
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Ezinma brings Okonkwo a bowl of the pottage Ekwefi prepared and waits as he finishes his first wife's bowl. Her father is stern with her, berating her to sit like a woman and telling her she has little sense, but inwardly, he has a soft spot for Ezinma, who looks very much like her mother.
Okonkwo's idea of masculinity again keeps him from expressing his affection. He cares for Ezinma, but treats her sternly, just as he treats the other members of his household.
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