Things Fall Apart

Okonkwo Character Analysis

The novel's main character and an influential clan leader, Okonkwo fears becoming an unsuccessful, weak man like his father, Unoka. As a result, Okonkwo is hardworking and aggressive, traits that bring him fame and wealth at the beginning of the novel. This same fear also causes Okonkwo to be impatient and brash, however, leading to his eventual downfall when he can't adjust to the changes occurring in the clan.

Okonkwo Quotes in Things Fall Apart

The Things Fall Apart quotes below are all either spoken by Okonkwo or refer to Okonkwo. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Tradition vs. Change Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Anchor Books edition of Things Fall Apart published in 1994.
Chapter 2 Quotes

…[Okonkwo] was not afraid of war. He was a man of action, a man of war. Unlike his father he could stand the look of blood. In Umuofia's latest war he was the first to bring home a human head.

Related Characters: Okonkwo, Unoka
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:

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Even as a little boy he had resented his father's failure and weakness, and even now he still remembered how he had suffered when a playmate had told him that his father was agbala. That was how Okonkwo first came to know that agbala was not only another name for a woman, it could also mean a man who had taken no title. And so Okonkwo was ruled by one passion – to hate everything that his father Unoka had loved. One of those things was gentleness and another was idleness.

Related Characters: Okonkwo, Unoka
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 4 Quotes

But the Ibo people have a proverb that when a man says yes his chi says yes also. Okonkwo said yes very strongly; so his chi agreed.

Related Characters: Okonkwo
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:

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Okonkwo did as the priest said. He also took with him a pot of palm-wine. Inwardly, he was repentant. But he was not the man to go about telling his neighbors that he was in error. And so people said he had no respect for the gods of the clan.

Related Characters: Okonkwo
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 8 Quotes

Ezinma took the dish in one hand and the empty water bowl in the other and went back to her mother's hut. “She should have been a boy,” Okonkwo said to himself again. His mind went back to Ikemefuna and he shivered.

Related Characters: Okonkwo, Ikemefuna, Ezinma
Page Number: 64
Explanation and Analysis:

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“The world is large,” said Okonkwo. “I have even heard that in some tribes a man's children belong to his wife and her family.”
“That cannot be,” said Machi. “You might as well say that the woman lies on top of the man when they are making the children.”

Related Characters: Okonkwo
Page Number: 74
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 13 Quotes

It was a crime against the earth goddess to kill a clansman, and a man who committed it must flee from the land. The crime was of two kinds, male and female. Okonkwo had committed the female, because it had been inadvertent. He could return to the clan after seven years…

Related Characters: Okonkwo
Page Number: 124
Explanation and Analysis:

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As soon as the day broke, a large crowd of men from Ezeudu's quarter stormed Okonkwo's compound, dressed in garbs of war. They set fire to his houses, demolished his red walls, killed his animals and destroyed his barn. It was the justice of the earth goddess, and they were merely her messengers. They had no hatred in their hearts again Okonkwo. His greatest friend, Obierika, was among them. They were merely cleansing the land which Okonkwo had polluted with the blood of a clansman.

Related Characters: Okonkwo, Obierika
Related Symbols: Fire
Page Number: 124-125
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 14 Quotes

A man could not rise beyond the destiny of his chi. The saying of the elders was not true—that if a man said yea his chi also affirmed. Here was a man whose chi said nay despite his own affirmation.

Related Characters: Okonkwo
Page Number: 131
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 16 Quotes

But there was a young lad who had been captivated. His name was Nwoye, Okonkwo's first son. It was not the mad logic of the Trinity that captivated him…It was the poetry of the new religion, something felt in the marrow. The hymn about brothers who sat in darkness and in fear seemed to answer a vague and persistent question that haunted his young soul – the question of the twins crying in the bush and the question of Ikemefuna who was killed.

Related Characters: Okonkwo, Nwoye
Page Number: 147
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 17 Quotes

Living fire begets cold, impotent ash.

Related Characters: Okonkwo (speaker), Nwoye
Related Symbols: Fire
Page Number: 153
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 20 Quotes

“The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has a put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart.”

Related Characters: Okonkwo (speaker)
Page Number: 176
Explanation and Analysis:

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Okonkwo Character Timeline in Things Fall Apart

The timeline below shows where the character Okonkwo appears in Things Fall Apart. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
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At just eighteen, Okonkwo wins fame as the strongest wrestler in nine villages and beyond, throwing Amalinze the Cat,... (full context)
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Okonkwo's father, Unoka, died ten years earlier. He was known for being lazy and irresponsible, owing... (full context)
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When Unoka died, he had no titles and was still heavily in debt. Okonkwo is very ashamed of his father, but wins fame for himself as the greatest wrestler... (full context)
Chapter 2
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Okonkwo is just settling into bed one night when he hears the ogene of the town... (full context)
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...dark, and snakes are not referred to by their real names in case they hear. Okonkwo tries to figure out what the meeting might be about, and thinks that there might... (full context)
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...The Umuofia, for their part, only go to war when their Oracle accepts it. When Okonkwo arrives at Mbaino as the emissary of war, he is treated with respect, returning two... (full context)
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...Ogbuefi Udo to replace his murdered wife. As for the boy, the clan decides that Okonkwo will look after him until the elders decide his fate. For the next three years,... (full context)
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Okonkwo rules his household with a heavy hand and short temper, instilling fear in his wives... (full context)
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During planting season, Okonkwo works long daily hours on his farm and rarely feels fatigue. His wives and young... (full context)
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Okonkwo's wealth is clearly visible in his household. He has his own hut, or obi, and... (full context)
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When Ikemefuna joins Okonkwo's household, Okonkwo hands him over to his most senior wife, who asks if he'll be... (full context)
Chapter 3
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Okonkwo did not inherit a barn from his father, since Unoka had no barn to pass... (full context)
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Okonkwo did not inherit a barn, title, or wife from his father, but in spite of... (full context)
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Okonkwo worked to earn his first seed-yams with Nwakibie, a wealthy man in his village. Okonkwo... (full context)
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The year Okonkwo took the seed-yams from Nwakibie turned out to be the worst year for harvesting in... (full context)
Chapter 4
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People are struck by Okonkwo's roughness in dealing with less successful men. An old man uses the following proverb to... (full context)
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Okonkwo struggled against poverty and misfortune, earning success at an early age as the greatest wrestler... (full context)
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The virgin is given to Udo as a wife, and Ikemefuna is placed in Okonkwo's care until the clan can decide what to do with him, which ends up taking... (full context)
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...becomes popular in the household, and he grows very close with Nwoye in particular. Even Okonkwo grows fond of Ikemefuna, though he refuses to show it, since he believes that showing... (full context)
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...work is done and no violence is tolerated in anticipation of the planting season. However, Okonkwo is provoked when his youngest wife goes to a friend's house and doesn't return in... (full context)
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After the Week of Peace, Okonkwo begins preparing his seed-yams for planting. Nwoye and Ikemefuna help by counting, and occasionally Okonkwo... (full context)
Chapter 5
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...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... (full context)
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Okonkwo finds an outlet for his anger, accusing his second wife of killing the banana tree—even... (full context)
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...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.... (full context)
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Ezinma brings Okonkwo a bowl of the pottage Ekwefi prepared and waits as he finishes his first wife's... (full context)
Chapter 7
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Ikemefuna has spent three years in Okonkwo's household, becoming a part of his new family. He is especially close to Nwoye, who... (full context)
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...a new source of food. They arrive in the cold season after the harvests, as Okonkwo and the boys are working on the outer walls of the compound. They come in... (full context)
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A group of elders arrive at Okonkwo's house early the next morning to discuss Ikemefuna's fate. After they leave, Okonkwo calls Ikemefuna... (full context)
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The next day, the party sets out with Ikemefuna and Okonkwo, who disregards Ezeudu's advice. Ikemefuna is reassured by Okonkwo's presence, feeling that Okonkwo truly is... (full context)
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When Okonkwo walks into the house at night, Nwoye knows that Ikemefuna has been killed, and he... (full context)
Chapter 8
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Okonkwo doesn't eat for two days, drinking only palm-wine instead. He calls Nwoye to sit with... (full context)
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Okonkwo wishes for work to distract him, but this is the season of rest between the... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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Okonkwo begins to feel better, and he leaves to tap his palm trees. Only men without... (full context)
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Okonkwo returns to Obierika's hut later, when Obierika's daughter's suitor arrives with his relatives. They survey... (full context)
Chapter 9
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Okonkwo begins to sleep well again after three nights, but then Ekwefi wakes him in the... (full context)
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Okonkwo returns with ingredients, and he and Ekwefi prepare the medicine. Once the medicine is ready,... (full context)
Chapter 10
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...Forest. The narrator points out that one of the egwugwu has the springy walk of Okonkwo, but if anybody notices, they keep this fact to themselves. (full context)
Chapter 11
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...for a long time and then spins around when she hears noise behind her. It's Okonkwo. (full context)
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Okonkwo sits down to wait with Ekwefi, and she recalls their younger days together, when she... (full context)
Chapter 12
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...Ezinma sleeping on her back in the morning and walked back to the village with Okonkwo and his wife trailing behind at a distance. Chielo put Ezinma to bed and walked... (full context)
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As the women head out, Okonkwo feels very tired and sleepy, since he didn't sleep at all the night before, out... (full context)
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...in-laws might be closefisted, but the in-laws end up bringing fifty pots in total, when Okonkwo had only predicted thirty. (full context)
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...they take the bride with them to spend seven market weeks with her suitor's family. Okonkwo makes them a gift of two roosters. (full context)
Chapter 13
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Drums and cannons signal the death of Ezeudu, the oldest man in the village. Okonkwo shivers as he remembers the last time the old man had visited him and advised... (full context)
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...it's discovered that Ezeudu's sixteen-year-old son has been killed by a piece of iron from Okonkwo's gun. (full context)
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Because Okonkwo has killed a fellow clansman, he must flee the clan, but since the crime is... (full context)
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As the day breaks, a crowd of men from Ezeudu's quarter set fire to Okonkwo's houses, killing his animals and destroying his barn. They do this simply out of justice... (full context)
Chapter 14
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Okonkwo's kinsmen in Mbanta receive him and his family kindly. Uchendu, Okonkwo's mother's younger brother, is... (full context)
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After the rain, Okonkwo and his family work hard to plant a new farm, but Okonkwo is discouraged by... (full context)
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Uchendu sees Okonkwo's despair and decides he will talk to him after the ceremony for his youngest son,... (full context)
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Uchendu calls Okonkwo together with his relatives. He tells his family why Okonkwo is now living with them... (full context)
Chapter 15
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In the second year of Okonkwo's exile, Obierika comes to visit him, bringing two heavy bags of cowries. Okonkwo and his... (full context)
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...the first white man in Abame. “Never kill a man who says nothing,” he says. Okonkwo agrees that they were fools and should have armed themselves in preparation. (full context)
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Okonkwo's first wife cooks dinner and Nwoye brings the wine. After dinner, Obierika mentions that the... (full context)
Chapter 16
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Two years later, Obierika returns to Mbanta to visit Okonkwo, this time with news that the white missionaries have come to Umuofia. Furthermore, he reports... (full context)
Chapter 17
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One morning, Okonkwo's cousin, Amikwu, passes by the church and sees Nwoye among the Christians. He tells Okonkwo... (full context)
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Okonkwo sits in his hut, wondering how he could have been cursed with such a son.... (full context)
Chapter 19
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Okonkwo reaches the end of his seven years in Mbanta, bitter that he has lost the... (full context)
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As the final rainy months of his exile draw to a close, Okonkwo decides to throw a feast for his mother's kinsmen to show his gratitude. Ekwefi harvests... (full context)
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...eat. Towards the end of the meal, one of the oldest kinsmen rises to thank Okonkwo and to warn the younger generation about forgetting the bonds of kinship. He reiterates that... (full context)
Chapter 20
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Okonkwo returns to his clan knowing that seven years is a long time to be away.... (full context)
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In the seven years of Okonkwo's exile, the church has grown to influence more of Umuofia's culture. More clan members have... (full context)
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Upon hearing these things, Okonkwo wonders why the clan does not fight back and expel the white men. Obierika replies... (full context)
Chapter 21
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Many people in Umuofia do not feel as strongly as Okonkwo does about getting rid of the white men. Although the white men bring a strange... (full context)
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...Brown's health begins to break down, however, and he has to leave Umuofia shortly after Okonkwo's return. He attempts to greet Okonkwo with news of his son Nwoye upon Okonkwo's return,... (full context)
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Okonkwo's return is not as memorable as he hopes, even though his daughters do arouse interest... (full context)
Chapter 23
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Okonkwo is pleased that the village has retaliated, feeling that this is a return to the... (full context)
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...when they need to urinate, and starve them for three days. On the third day, Okonkwo angrily says that they should have killed the white man, and he's overheard by a... (full context)
Chapter 24
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Okonkwo and the other leaders are set free once the fine is paid, but they leave... (full context)
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The village crier beats his gong at night and arranges another meeting in the morning. Okonkwo sleeps very little that night, anticipating war with excitement. He swears vengeance against the white... (full context)
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The marketplace fills as the sun rises, and Obierika and Okonkwo go to the meeting place together. Okonkwo looks for Egonwanne in the crowd and spots... (full context)
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The meeting is interrupted by the arrival of five court messengers. Upon seeing them, Okonkwo, filled with hate, springs to his feet and confronts the head messenger. The court messenger... (full context)
Chapter 25
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The District Commissioner arrives at Okonkwo's compound with an armed band of soldiers and court messengers and demands to see Okonkwo.... (full context)
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...others, and the Commissioner follows along with his men. They're led to a tree behind Okonkwo's compound where they find Okonkwo's body dangling. Obierika suggests that perhaps the Commissioner's men can... (full context)