influential clan leader in Umuofia. Since early childhood, Okonkwo’s
embarrassment about his lazy, squandering, and effeminate father,
Unoka, has driven him to succeed. Okonkwo’s hard work and prowess
in war have earned him a position of high status in his clan, and
he attains wealth sufficient to support three wives and their children.
Okonkwo’s tragic flaw is that he is terrified of looking weak like
his father. As a result, he behaves rashly, bringing a great deal
of trouble and sorrow upon himself and his family.
in-depth analysis of Okonkwo.
oldest son, whom Okonkwo believes is weak and lazy. Okonkwo continually
beats Nwoye, hoping to correct the faults that he perceives in him.
Influenced by Ikemefuna, Nwoye begins to exhibit more masculine
behavior, which pleases Okonkwo. However, he maintains doubts about
some of the laws and rules of his tribe and eventually converts
to Christianity, an act that Okonkwo criticizes as “effeminate.”
Okonkwo believes that Nwoye is afflicted with the same weaknesses
that his father, Unoka, possessed in abundance.
in-depth analysis of Nwoye.
only child of Okonkwo’s second wife, Ekwefi. As the only one of
Ekwefi’s ten children to survive past infancy, Ezinma is the center
of her mother’s world. Their relationship is atypical—Ezinma calls
Ekwefi by her name and is treated by her as an equal. Ezinma is also
Okonkwo’s favorite child, for she understands him better than any
of his other children and reminds him of Ekwefi when Ekwefi was
the village beauty. Okonkwo rarely demonstrates his affection, however, because
he fears that doing so would make him look weak. Furthermore, he
wishes that Ezinma were a boy because she would have been the perfect
in-depth analysis of Ezinma.
boy given to Okonkwo by a neighboring village. Ikemefuna lives in
the hut of Okonkwo’s first wife and quickly becomes popular with
Okonkwo’s children. He develops an especially close relationship
with Nwoye, Okonkwo’s oldest son, who looks up to him. Okonkwo too
becomes very fond of Ikemefuna, who calls him “father” and is a
perfect clansman, but Okonkwo does not demonstrate his affection
because he fears that doing so would make him look weak.
first white missionary to travel to Umuofia. Mr. Brown institutes
a policy of compromise, understanding, and non-aggression between
his flock and the clan. He even becomes friends with prominent clansmen
and builds a school and a hospital in Umuofia. Unlike Reverend Smith,
he attempts to appeal respectfully to the tribe’s value system rather than
harshly impose his religion on it.
in-depth analysis of Mr. Brown.
Reverend James Smith
- The missionary who replaces Mr. Brown. Unlike Mr.
Brown, Reverend Smith is uncompromising and strict. He demands that
his converts reject all of their indigenous beliefs, and he shows
no respect for indigenous customs or culture. He is the stereotypical white
colonialist, and his behavior epitomizes the problems of colonialism.
He intentionally provokes
his congregation, inciting it to anger and even indirectly, through
Enoch, encouraging some fairly serious transgressions.
younger brother of Okonkwo’s mother. Uchendu receives Okonkwo and
his family warmly when they travel to Mbanta, and he advises Okonkwo
to be grateful for the comfort that his motherland offers him lest
he anger the dead—especially his mother, who is buried there. Uchendu
himself has suffered—all but one of his six wives are dead and he
has buried twenty-two children. He is a peaceful, compromising man
and functions as a foil (a character whose emotions or actions highlight,
by means of contrast, the emotions or actions of another character)
to Okonkwo, who acts impetuously and without thinking.
The District Commissioner
- An authority figure in the white colonial government
in Nigeria. The prototypical racist colonialist, the District Commissioner
thinks that he understands everything about native African customs and
cultures and he has no respect for them. He plans to work his experiences
into an ethnographic study on local African tribes, the idea of
which embodies his dehumanizing and reductive attitude toward race relations.
father, of whom Okonkwo has been ashamed since childhood. By the
standards of the clan, Unoka was a coward and a spendthrift. He
never took a title in his life, he borrowed money from his clansmen,
and he rarely repaid his debts. He never became a warrior because
he feared the sight of blood. Moreover, he died of an abominable
illness. On the positive side, Unoka appears to have been a talented musician
and gentle, if idle. He may well have been a dreamer, ill-suited
to the chauvinistic culture into which he was born. The novel opens
ten years after his death.
close friend, whose daughter’s wedding provides cause for festivity
early in the novel. Obierika looks out for his friend, selling Okonkwo’s
yams to ensure that Okonkwo won’t suffer financial ruin while in
exile and comforting Okonkwo when he is depressed. Like Nwoye, Obierika
questions some of the tribe’s traditional strictures.
second wife, once the village beauty. Ekwefi ran away from her first
husband to live with Okonkwo. Ezinma is her only surviving child,
her other nine having died in infancy, and Ekwefi constantly fears
that she will lose Ezinma as well. Ekwefi is good friends with Chielo,
the priestess of the goddess Agbala.
fanatical convert to the Christian church in Umuofia. Enoch’s disrespectful
act of ripping the mask off an egwugwu
annual ceremony to honor the earth deity leads to the climactic
clash between the indigenous and colonial justice systems. While
Mr. Brown, early on, keeps Enoch in check in the interest
of community harmony, Reverend Smith approves of his zealotry.
oldest man in the village and one of the most important clan elders
and leaders. Ogbuefi Ezeudu was a great warrior in his youth and
now delivers messages from the Oracle.
priestess in Umuofia who is dedicated to the Oracle of the goddess
Agbala. Chielo is a widow with two children. She is good friends
with Ekwefi and is fond of Ezinma, whom she calls “my daughter.”
At one point, she carries Ezinma on her back for miles in order
to help purify her and appease the gods.
clan leader of Umuofia. Akunna and Mr. Brown discuss their religious
beliefs peacefully, and Akunna’s influence on the missionary advances
Mr. Brown’s strategy for converting the largest number of clansmen by
working with, rather than against, their belief system. In so doing,
however, Akunna formulates an articulate and rational defense of
his religious system and draws some striking parallels between his
style of worship and that of the Christian missionaries.
wealthy clansmen who takes a chance on Okonkwo by lending him 800 seed
yams—twice the number for which Okonkwo asks. Nwakibie thereby helps Okonkwo
build up the beginnings of his personal wealth, status, and independence.
native-turned-Christian missionary who arrives in Mbanta and converts
Nwoye and many others.
famous medicine man whom Okonkwo summons for help in dealing with
Ezinma’s health problems.
son. Maduka wins a wrestling contest in his mid-teens. Okonkwo wishes
he had promising, manly sons like Maduka.
daughter of Okonkwo’s first wife. Although Obiageli is close to
Ezinma in age, Ezinma has a great deal of influence over her.
third and youngest wife, and the mother
of Nkechi. Okonkwo beats Ojiugo during the Week