Things Fall Apart Summary Part I, a novel by Chinua Achebe
"Things Fall Apart" Summary Part I: Chapter One
Okonkwo, a "tall and huge" personality with "very severe look" was "well known throughout the nine villages". He rested on his "solid personal achievements". While only eighteen, he had brought honour to his village by throwing Amalinze the Cat, a great wrestler unbeaten for seven years. It was more than twenty years ago. Okonkwo "had no patience with unsuccessful men", especially his father, Unoka that died ten years ago. Oknokwo's father was lazy and irresponsible. He wasted all his money if he ever got some. Unoka was a debtor to almost every villager. Unoka used to play the flute and sometimes neighbouring villages invited him for playing music and teaching them this art. "Unoka was never happy when it came to wars. He was in fact a coward and could not bear the sight of blood".
"Things Fall Apart" Summary Part I:Chapter Two
Okonkwo had just lied for sleeping when the town crier announced the message that every man of Umuofia must gather at the market place next morning. "The night was very quiet. It was always quiet except on moonlight nights. Darkness held a vague terror for these people, even the bravest among them. Children were warned not to whistle at night for fear of evil spirits. Dangerous animals became even more sinister and uncanny in the dark. A snake was never called by its name at night, because it would hear. It was called a string. And so on this particular night as the crier's voice was gradually swallowed up in the distance, silence returned to the world, a vibrant silence made more intense by the universal trill of a million million forest insects". The novelist tells us of African social life on: "a moonlight night it would be different. The happy voices of children playing in open fields would then be heard".
Okonkwo was thinking of war. He remembers he has brought home five human heads so far and still he is not old. He wants to prove his bravery in war. The novelist comments: "on great occasions such as the funeral of a
village celebrity he drank his palm-wine from his first human head.". Next day, all the men gathered in the market place. It was announced that a man of Mbaino village had killed a woman of Umuofia. They sent an ultimatum to the Mbaino village for choosing either war or to offer "a young man and a virgin as compensation". The novelist tells that "Umuofia was feared by all its neighbours. It was powerful in war and in magic, and its priests and medicine men were feared in all the surrounding country. Its most potent war-medicine was as old as the clan itself". The medicine was called "agadi-nwayi", old woman, and was believed to originate from an old woman with one leg that lived in the forest.
Umuofia "never went to war unless its case was clear and just and was accepted as such by its Oracle". Okonkwo was sent as emissary of war to Mbaino and he "returned home with a lad of fifteen and a young virgin". The elders decided that "the girl should go to Ogbuefi Udo to replace his murdered wife" while they decided to leave the boy, Ikemefuna, in the custody of Okonkwo till his fate was decided. "Qkonkwo ruled his household with a heavy hand" while his wives "lived in perpetual fear of his fiery temper". The novelist comments: "Perhaps down in his heart Okonkwo was not a cruel man. But his whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and of weakness. It was deeper and more intimate than the fear of evil and capricious gods and of magic, the fear of the forest, and of the forces of nature, malevolent, red in tooth and claw. Okonkwo's fear was greater than these. It was not external but lay deep within himself. It was the fear of himself, lest he should be found to resemble his father".
Okonkwo used to work very hard from early morning to evening in his farm. He used to rebuke his eldest son, Nwoye, for being lazy. "Okonkwo's prosperity was visible in his household. He had a large compound enclosed by a thick wall of red earth... Each of his three wives had her own hut". "Okonkwo kept the wooden symbols of his personal god and of his ancestral spirits. He worshipped them with sacrifices of kola nut, food and palm-wine, and offered prayers to them on behalf of himself, his three wives and eight children." Okonkwo brought Ikemefuna home and gave him to the care of his eldest wife saying "he belongs to the clan". Ikemefuna "was terribly afraid. He could not understand what was happening to him or what he had done. How could he know that his father had taken a hand in killing a daughter of Umuofia?"
"Things Fall Apart" Summary Part I: Chapter three
"The Oracle was called Agbala, and people came from far and near to consult it. They came when misfortune dogged their steps or when they had a dispute with their neighbours. They came to discover what the future held for them or to consult the spirits of their departed fathers". None had seen the Agbala; however, "his priestess stood by the sacred fire which she built in the heart of the cave and proclaimed the will of the god." Okonkwo's father, Unoka, had gone to the gods asking why he always ended up with lesser crop than others and they had asked him to "work like a man" if he wanted to succeed. Unoka died of swelling of the body and people that die this way were not buried in Umuofia; they were "carried to the Evil Forest and left there to die".
Okonkwo did not inherit anything from his father except the fear and he seemed to be "possessed by the fear of his father's contemptible life and shameful death". He had no start but he did manage to work hard and make a career for himself. Okonkwo worked with Nwakibie, a rich man with nine wives and thirty children, to get his first seed yams. The novelist tells us that the eldest wife is the most respectable in the family of a man. Okonkwo had requested Nwakibie for yams in the manner: "I began to fend for myself at an age when most people still suck at their mothers' breasts. If you give me some yam seeds I shall not fail you". Nwakibie told him that he does not trust people with his yams these days because most of the youth is lazy but he says to Okonkwo "I shall give you twice four hundred yams. Go ahead and prepare your farm".
This is how Okonkwo began with share cropping wherein after "all the toil one only got a third of the harvest". It was a slow career but it was how men like Okonkwo would struggle to be among the great. "Okonkwo was also fending for his father's house. It was like pouring grains of com into a bag full of holes. His mother and sisters worked hard enough, but they grew women's crops, like coco-yams, beans and cassava. Yam, the king of crops, was a man's crop". Okonkwo sowed 400 yams in the first planting but that was the worst year in living memory when the sun burnt all the crops: "the drought continued for eight market weeks and the yams were killed". When the rains returned, Okonkwo planted all the yams he had borrowed from Nwakibie "but the year had gone mad. Rain fell as it had never fallen before. For days and nights together it poured down in violent torrents, and washed away the yam heaps. Trees were uprooted and deep gorges appeared everywhere".
Okonkwo did not lose heart and kept on trying to save as much of his crop as he could. But it was the worst year. He knew he could survive anything if he survived that year. His own father, Unoka, had told him to not to despair.