Things Fall Apart—Reading Guide

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Things Fall Apart—Reading Guide

Answer each question on a separate piece of paper. Do not rewrite the question. Use textual evidence and page numbers where it is applicable.


Part One

Chapter One


  1. What was Okonkwo’s first great personal achievement?

  2. Describe Okonkwo.

  3. Who is Okonkwo’s father? Describe him.

  4. How does Okonkwo feel about his father?

  5. What is kola? How do the Ibo use it?

  6. Why does Okoye come to see Unoka? What is Unoka’s response?

  7. What are cowries? How do the Ibo use them?

  8. What is Umuofia? How many villages are there among the Ibo?

Chapter Two

  1. What does the ogene announce in the middle of the night?

  2. How is the night described? What is the difference between nights with moonlight and nights without?

  3. What crime has been committed against Umuofia?

  4. Why does Okonkwo go to Mbaino? What does he bring back? Why?

  5. What does Okonkwo fear? How does this impact his personality?

  6. Who is Nwoye? Why is Okonkwo worried about him? How does he treat Nwoye?

  7. Describe Okonkwo compound.

  8. Who is Ikemefuna?

Chapter Three

  1. What is Agbala? Who is allowed to see Agbala?

  2. Why does Unoka visit Agbala? What is the response?

  3. What is a chi? What kind of chi did Unoka have?

  4. What is the Evil Forest? Why was Unoka taken there?

  5. Why did Okonkwo start his life at a disadvantage?

  6. Why does Okonkwo go to Nwakibie? How does Nwakibie treat Okonkwo?

  7. What does the folktale of Anasi tell us about a man’s wives?

  8. Explain the proverb, “A toad does not run in the daytime for nothing.”

  9. Explain “An old woman is always uneasy when dry bones are mentioned in a proverb.”

  10. Why does Igwelo drink the palmwine dregs?
  11. How does Okonkwo try to prove his worth to Nwakibie?


  12. What does Nwakibie think of Okonkwo? What does he give him?

  13. Why does Okonkwo say his first year as a farmer was “like pouring grains of corn into a bag of holes”?

  14. Why was Okonkwo’s first year as a farmer “the worst in living memory”?

Chapter Four

  1. Why does Okonkwo call Osugo a woman?

  2. How does Ikemefuna feel when he first comes to Okonkwo’s? How does Okonkwo treat him?

  3. How does Okonkwo break the Week of Peace? Why is this week celebrated?

  4. Does Okonkwo feel badly about what he’s done? Who does he tell? Why?

  5. What does Ogbeufi Ezeudu say about the custom in Obodoani concerning those who die during the Week of Peace?

  6. How does Okonkwo treat Nwoye and Ikemefuna while they are helping prepare the yams for planting? Why?

  7. Describe the planting of the yams.

  8. Why does Nwoye grow to admire Ikemefuna so much?

Chapter Five

  1. Who is Ani? Explain her importance.

  2. Describe the New Yam Festival. Why doesn’t Okonkwo enjoy festivals?

  3. Why does Okonkwo try to shoot his wife? What does this tell us about him?

  4. Who is Ekwefi? Why does she enjoy the New Yam Festival so much?

  5. Who is Ezinma? How is she different from other children?

  6. Who is Obiageli? Why is she crying?

  7. What really happened to Obiageli? Why does Ikemefuna protect her?

  8. What does Okoknwo think of Ezinma?

Chapter Six

  1. Why do women sit under the silk-cotton tree?

  2. What does Ekwefi mean when she say Ezinma has “come to stay”?

  3. Who is Chielo? What is her role in the village?

  4. Describe the wrestling match.

Chapter Seven
  1. Why is Okonkwo pleased to hear Nwoye “grumbling about women”?


  2. To what does he attribute this change in Nwoye’s behavior?

  3. How are Okonkwo’s stories different from the ones Nwoye’s mother tells? Which stories does Nwoye like better?

  4. How do people of Umuofia react when the locusts come? Explain why this is an unexpected reaction.

  5. What news and advice does Ezeudu bring to Okonkwo about Ikemefuna?

  6. Where does Okonkwo tell everyone Ikemefuna is going? Do they believe him?

  7. What happens to Ikemefuna in the forest? What does Okonkwo do? Why?

  8. What does Ikemefuna’s death remind Nwoye of? How does he feel about it?

Chapter Eight

  1. How does Okonkwo feel at the beginning of the chapter? Why?

  2. Why does Okonkwo think Ezinma “should have been a boy”?

  3. What does Obierika think about Okonkwo’s decision to participate in Ikemefuna’s death?

  4. What story does Ofoedu tell about Ndulue and Ozoemena? Why is Okonkwo surprised to hear that Ndulue was devoted to his wife?

  5. Do all the Ibo clans have the same attitude and customs? How do you know?

  6. Why did Obierika ask Okonkwo to come to his house? What deal is being decided?

  7. What is a “bride price”?

  8. Why might the Ibo think that white men have no toes? Is this an example of emic or etic perspective? Explain.

Chapter Nine

  1. Why do you think the Ibo made up the story about the mosquito? What makes this a folktale?

  2. What does Okonkwo demonstrate with his treatment of Ezinma?

  3. Why did Ekwefi choose the names she did for her children?

  4. What is an ogbanje? What does the medicine man suggest the family do with the ogbanje?

  5. What does Ekwefi blame for her misfortunes?
  6. What was the iyi-uwa? What was finding it supposed to do?


  7. What story does Ezinma remember about the snake-lizard? What does it explain?

  8. How does Okonkwo treat Ezinma’s illness?

Chapter Ten

  1. What is the ilo?

  2. What are the egwugwu? Who are they really?

  3. Why have the egwugwu been summoned?

  4. What verdict do the egqugwu reach? What is ironic about the verdict for Okonkwo?

Chapter Eleven

  1. What story does Ekefi tell Ezinma about Tortoise? What is the point of the story? Why do you think Achebe includes it in the book?

  2. Why does Chielo come to Okonkwo’s compound? How is she different than usual?

  3. Why does Ekwefi follow Chielo at a distance? How does she feel? Why doesn’t she go home even when Chielo yells at her?

  4. Who else is at the shrine? Is this surprising? Why? What memory does this make Ekwefi think of?

Chapter Twelve

  1. What is the uri?

  2. How did Okonkwo feel about the events of the night before?

  3. What do the villagers think of the market at Umuike?

  4. Why do all the women suddenly drop what they are doing and rush away?

  5. What do the in-laws bring to show they are worthy?

  6. How does the uri end?

Chapter Thirteen

  1. What does the ekwe announce?

  2. What is the funeral like?

  3. What tragic accident happens at the funeral?

  4. What happens to Okonkwo because of this accident?

  5. What happens to Okonkwo’s compound?

Part Two

Chapter Fourteen

  1. Who is Uchendu? What is Mbanta?
  2. What do people call the frozen rain? Why?


  3. How does Okonkwo feel about his new home?

  4. What great passion had ruled Okonkwo? What has happened to that dream?

  5. What is the isa-ifi ceremony?

  6. What does Uchendu have to say to Okonkwo about the importance of one’s motherland? Why does he tell him this?

Chapter Fifteen

  1. What does Obierika bring to Okonkwo?

  2. What has happened to Abame according to Obierika’s story?

  3. What strange visitor appeared in Abame? What was the “iron horse”?

  4. Why does Uchendu say the people of Abame were fools? What story does he tell to illustrate this point?

  5. Is Obierika serious when he asks Okonkwo to kill himself? How do you know?

Chapter Sixteen

  1. What changes have occurred in Umuofia since Obierika last visited Okonkwo?

  2. Who are the efulefu? What are they doing?

  3. What has Nwoye done?

  4. What message do the six strangers bring to Mbanta?

  5. What does the white man say about the Ibo gods? How do the people of Mbanta react to this?

  6. Why does Okonkwo stay too listen to the missionaries?

  7. What captures Nwoye’s attention?

Chapter Seventeen

  1. What land do the elders of Mbanta give to the missionaries? Why?

  2. What do the people of Mbanta expect to happen when the church is built?

  3. Who is Mr. Kiaga? Where did the man go?

  4. Why doesn’t Nneka’s family care when she joins the new church?

  5. What does Okonkwo do when he learns Nwoye was at the new church? What does Nwoye decide to do?

  6. What does Okonkwo think of Nwoye’s decision? What does he think of Nwoye?
  7. What does “Living fire begets cold, impotent ash” mean?


Chapter Eighteen

  1. What happened the first time the missionaries tried to “overstep their bounds”?

  2. What else have the white men supposedly brought to the Ibo? How do the people of Mbanta view these stories?

  3. Why can’t the people of Mbanta kill any of the Christians? What can they do if the Christians become too troublesome?

  4. What is an osu? How do some of the church members react when the osu come to church? What does Mr. Kiaga say?

  5. What is special about the royal python? What does one of the Christians supposedly do to this snake?

  6. What does Okonkwo think should be done with the Christians? What do the people of Mbanta decide should be done? How does Okonkwo feel about their decision?

  7. What happens when the Christian women try to go for water? Why?

Chapter Nineteen

  1. What do the names Okonkwo gives his new children tell us?

  2. Why does Okonkwo send money to Obierika? Why can’t Obierika build an obi for Okonkwo?

  3. Why will Ekwefi provide the cassava for the feast?

  4. Why does Obiageli call Ekwefi “salt”?

  5. Why does Okonkwo slaughter 3 goats instead of just 2?

  6. Why does Uchendu get to break the kola? What blessing does he ask for?

  7. In his speech at the end of the chapter, what fear does Okonkwo’s older relative express?

Part Three

Chapter Twenty

  1. Why does Okonkwo think the clan is like a lizard?
  2. How will Okonkwo try to regain the ground he has lost in his clan?


  3. What message does Okonkwo have for his sons?

  4. How has Ezinma changed in Mbanta? Why does Okonkwo want to her wait to be married?

  5. How is Ogbuefi Ugonna confused about communion?

  6. In addition to the Christians, what other strangers has come to Umuofia? What nickname are they given and why? How do the Umuofians feel about these strangers?

  7. Why is Okonkwo disappointed in his village? What does he think the people should do? Why does Obierika say they cannot do this?

  8. Why does Obierika say the white man is clever?

  9. What happened to Aneto and his family?

Chapter Twenty-one

  1. Who is Mr. Brown? What person in the congregation is he having trouble with? Why?

  2. What do Mr. Brown and Akunna discuss? How do they get along?

  3. What does Akunna say about Chukwu? How is the Christian God different from Chukwu according to Mr. Brown?

  4. How does Mr. Brown get people to come to the school? Why is he such a successful missionary?

  5. Does Okonkwo have the return to Umuofia he was hoping for? Why not?

  6. What has happened to Nwoye? What is he called now? Why?

Chapter Twenty-two

  1. Who comes to replace Mr. Brown? How is he different? What changes does he make in the congregation?

  2. What does Enoch do that is so terrible? What effect does this have on the people?

  3. How do the Christians decide to handle the situation? What do the egwugwu do?

  4. What message does Ajofia have for Mr. Smith? How does Mr. Smith react? How does the conflict end?

Chapter Twenty-three

  1. Why is Okonkwo almost happy again?
  2. What happens when Okonkwo and the other are called to the District Commissioner’s?


  3. What does the District Commissioner tell Okonkwo and the others they must do?

  4. How are the prisoners treated?

  5. How does the news of the village leaders’ capture affect the villagers? What do they decide to do?

Chapter Twenty-four

  1. How does Okonkwo act when he returned home?

  2. What does Okonkwo hope the village will decide to do? What is he worried might happen?

  3. What message does Okika have for the village?

  4. What does the court messenger bring?

  5. What does Okonkwo do? What does he understand now about the villagers?

Chapter Twenty-five

  1. Why is the Commissioner frustrated with the Ibo when he arrives to find Okonkwo?

  2. Where do Obierika and the others lead the Commissioner?

  3. What does Obierika ask the Commissioner and his men to do? Why?

  4. What does Obierika have to say to the Commissioner?

  5. What book is the Commissioner planning to write? What does the title tell you about his attitude towards the Ibo?

Final Discussion

  1. What sub-titles would you give each part of the novel?

  2. How are women treated in the Ibo culture?

  3. What is the effect of Achebe using authentic Ibo words?

  4. Does Achebe portray the conflict between the missionaries and Ibo as being primarily concerned with black versus white tensions? What else is going on here?

  5. Of Ezinma, Okonkwo thinks: "She should have been a boy.” Why is it necessary to the story that Okonkwo's most favored child be a girl?
  6. The title of the novel is derived from the William Butler Yeats poem entitled "The Second Coming," concerned with the second coming of Christ. The completed line reads: "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold." What layers of meaning are discernible when this completed line is applied to the story?

  7. Look back to your notes on Aristotle’s definition of a tragic hero. Which criteria does Okonkwo meet? How do you know?



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