Unoka is Okonkwo’s father, who died ten years prior to the opening of the novel. Although Unoka is not physically present in the novel, he plays an important role in Okonkwo’s memory. Ever since he was a child, Okonkwo felt deeply ashamed of his father. For one thing, Unoka felt squeamish about blood. His fear of blood prevented him from becoming a warrior and earning the kind of title that would have won him distinction within the community. In fact, Unoka tended to be more of a drain on the community than an active contributor. He had a reputation for borrowing large sums from various people, and he rarely if ever repaid his debts.
Unoka also was drawn to creative activities, such as music. To Okonkwo, his father’s aversion to violence and his preference for the arts marked him as an effeminate idler, precisely the opposite of what Okonkwo hoped to become. In the novel, Unoka’s negative reputation drives Okonkwo’s obsession with masculinity and personal achievement.