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Chapters 1 and 2


Chapter 1

Okonkwo is a self-made man, known for his personal achievements and his heroic feat at age 18 of throwing Amalinze the Cat, a famous wrestler from another village who had gone unbeaten for seven years. Okonkwo is a sleek, powerful man who gets violent when angry. He has a constant desire to prove himself because he is the son of an unsuccessful man: Unoka, a lazy and improvident palm-wine drinker and flute-payer in debt to most of the village. Unoka's band was famous in the area, and he found a spiritual joy in music, but very poor and his wife and children had barely enough to eat. When a friend named Okoye once came to ask back money that Unoka had borrowed, Unoka laughed and refused, shamelessly showing him his huge pile of debt. When Unoka finally died, Unoka was heavily in debt and had taken no title (people pay for the honor of getting certain titles in this village, which is called Umuofia.) His son Okonkwo therefore had to prove his own worth, which he did by becoming the greatest wrestler in nine villages, marrying three wives, farming successfully, showing prowess in war, and taking two tribal titles. Okonkwo is now one of the greatest men of his time, due entirely to his own achievement: "As the elders said, if a child washed his hands he could eat with kings."

Chapter 2

Okonkwo is about to fall asleep when he hears the town crier call a meeting. After the call, the night is dark and silent and feels dangerous, unlike other moonlit nights when children play and lovers find a secluded spot. Okonkwo wonders if there has been a challenge from another village-he is a fearless warrior who has brought back five human heads from wars and drinks palm wine from his first skull on great occasions. At the town meeting the next day, it turns out that people from the neighboring village of Mbaino killed a Umuofia woman when she went to market at their town. Okonkwo's village democratically decides to send an ultimatum to Mbaino offering them a choice between war or giving up a young man and a virgin as compensation. The village of Umuofia is feared in the region because it has a powerful war-medicine, called agadi-nwayi, whose active principle is (the spirit of) an old woman with one leg. Since Umuofia is proposing a just war-one that the Oracle of the Hills and Caves would regard as just-this dreaded agadi-nwayi would fight for them and most surrounding villages would not want to risk such a war. Okonkwo is chosen as the emissary to Mbaino and returns with the compensation: a youth (fifteen year old Ikemefuna) and a virgin. The village elders give the virgin to the husband of the murdered woman, Ogbuefi Udo, to replace his wife, and ask Okonkwo to look after the boy (Ikemefuna) in his household until they decide what his fate should be.

Okonkwo's household is a harsh place because Okonkwo is desperately afraid of failure and avoids all qualities (such as gentleness and idleness) which once characterized his father. Okonkwo still remembers when a playmate first told him that the word agbala means both "woman" and "a man without any title," like his father. He makes everyone in his own family work painfully long hours at farming, particularly his first son Nwoye, who he fears might be lazy. Okonkwo hands the hostage, Ikemefuna, over to his most senior wife that night and orders her to look after him. Ikemefuna is terribly afraid and does not know why he has been taken away or what is happening.

Browse all book notes

Historical Context
Main Characters
Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Plot Summary
Chapters 1 and 2
Chapters 3 and 4
Chapters 5 and 6
Chapters 7 and 8
Chapters 9 and 10
Chapters 11 and 12
Chapter 13
Chapters 14 and 15
Chapters 16 and 17
Chapters 18 and 19
Chapters 20 and 21
Chapters 22 and 23
Chapters 24 and 25
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25


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