OKONKWO is the central character of this novel. A strong, proud, capable man, throughout the novel he attempts to compensate for the experience of being the son of what he calls his "worthless" father-Unoka, a weak-willed, indebted, flute-playing, charming, impoverished, and irresponsible man who left Okonkwo no inheritance and achieved no titles of rank in the tribe. Okonkwo greatly prizes masculine virtues. He gains fame as a young man by defeating a famous wrestler, and has always been one of the blood-thirstiest and most successful warriors when the village went to war. Okonkwo wins a great deal of wealth by working hard and share-cropping until he can afford his own land and crops. His major flaw is his violence, short-temper, and proud inability to adapt to change. He is expelled from the village for committing a sin against the goddess of the earth, Ani-he accidentally kills a sixteen year old boy during the wild celebrations of the boy's father's funeral. As is the custom, his neighbors raze his land and he departs to his mother's village to live and farm there for seven years until his term of exile has elapsed. During his absence, however, white men encroach on the village and a missionary establishes a church and school there. Okonkwo's own son defects to the missionaries, and when he returns it is impossible to regain the noble stature that he was on his way to enjoying when he left. Okonkwo is bitterly disappointed and cannot adapt to the new conditions-he constantly encourages violence against the missionaries and the stealthily installed British administration. After a riot caused by the dishonoring of a traditional spirit-dancer by a British convert, Okonkwo is one of the men who go to the British administration to discuss the issue. He and the others are locked up, humiliated, and ransomed to the village by the British. Okonkwo goes to a meeting where the village is meeting to a discuss a reponse to the outrage, but when messengers paid by the British show up to spy on and disband the meeting, Okonkwo loses his temper and kills one of the messengers. No one else follows his lead. Knowing he has lost any place he might have had in this new society, he goes back to his compound and hangs himself.
EKWEFI is Okonkwo's third wife. She married him for love-she left a first husband to do so. So many of the children born to her by Okonkwo died at a young age that the tribe decided her womb was haunted by a kind of evil child-spirit which keeps dying in order to return to the mother's womb and repeat the cycle. Finally she has a daughter named Ezinma who lasts for longer than the others, and she falls desperately in love with this daughter in a way she has not allowed herself to do anymore with the other babies. The senior priest conducts a sort of exorcism of Ezinma when she is older, and Ekwefi watches over her like a hawk, often has her sleep in her bed, and allows her treats that other children are not allowed. When Ezinma is carried off temporarily one night by Chielo, the priestess of the Oracle, Ekwefi follows all night and waits desperately outside the cave until Ezinma is allowed out. Ekwefi is brave and determined-she is the most dramatic and passionate of Okonkwo's wives.
NWOYE is Okonkwo's eldest son: twelve at the beginning of the novel, and a young man by the end. He is a close friend of Ikemefuna, the boy-hostage from another village who lives with Okonkwo's family for three years until the village elders decide that he should be taken out of the village and killed to appease the earth goddess. Nwoye never fully recovers from Ikemefuna's death, which is particularly traumatic for him since his father dealt the final blow that killed Ikemefuna. Nwoye loves his mother's folktales and is never as masculine or decisive as his father would wish, even though he became more so when Ikemefuna lived in the compound. When the missionaries arrive he is captivated by their stories and hymns, and repelled by the fear and sorrow he associates with the traditional religion. He converts despite being disowned by his father, and leaves his home to go to the missionary's school, where he learns to read and write.
UCHENDU is Okonkwo's senior kinsman in his mother's homeland, and he welcomes Okonkwo and his family when they seek refuge in exile. He is a strong patriarch who also understands the importance of mothers and the female principle; he lectures to Okonkwo about this when Okonkwo seems to be despairing in his exile from Umuofia. Uchendu is a representative of the old, traditional system of life which is disappearing under the encroachments of the British. He has a great knowledge of the past and the clan's spiritual tradition, and possesses an integrity and wisdom which all respect.
MR. BROWN is the first missionary to settle in the area-he sets up his main school and church in Umuofia and sends a trusted Igbo convert, Mr. Kiaga, to start another church in Mbanta. Mr. Brown is a strong believer but also a kindly and accommodating man who makes many of his converts through hymn-singing. Brown tries to live in harmony with the elders of the village. He has several long respectful philosophical discussions with an elder in another village who is very knowledgeable and wise in the ways of the Igbo religion, and who eventually presents him with an elephant tusk as a sign of honor. Mr. Brown tries to convince people to attend his school even if they do not wish to convert because, as he explains to them, literacy will be the key to any sort of economic independence in the future. He is respected by all the villagers, including the ones who decide not to convert.
REVEREND JAMES SMITH is the successor to Mr. Brown, and he is an exacting, stern, and aggressive man who exacerbates the tension between the village elders and the mission. "He condemned openly Mr. Brown's policy of compromise and accommodation. He saw things as black and white. And black was evil. He saw the world as a battlefield in which the children of light were locked in mortal conflict with the sons of darkness." (Chapter 22.) Reverend Smith aids and abets the colonialist administration which is beginning to appear on Igbo territory, most importantly after the stand-off between himself and the Igbo religious dancers who come to destroy his church in order to avenge an insult to their religion made by one of the Christian converts. Smith is courageous enough to walk out and speak to the screaming dancers, but when he can't convince them not to tear down the church he brings the British administrators in to intervene brutally and punish the village.
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Chapters 1 and 2
Chapters 3 and 4
Chapters 5 and 6
Chapters 7 and 8
Chapters 9 and 10
Chapters 11 and 12
Chapters 14 and 15
Chapters 16 and 17
Chapters 18 and 19
Chapters 20 and 21
Chapters 22 and 23
Chapters 24 and 25