The seventh chapter of Chinua Achebe’s classic novel ‘Things Fall Apart’ shares the fate of Ikemefuna and examines the personalities and motivations of Okonkwo and Nwoye. Watch this video for a short summary of the chapter!
Family ; Adulthood
In Chapter 7 of Things Fall Apart, the story jumps ahead three years. During this time, Ikemefuna has continued to live in Okonkwo’s household. At this point, Ikemefuna is considered family. Nwoye, Okonkwo’s son, sees Ikemefuna as a bigger brother and begins to act in a more stereotypically masculine manner, which pleases Okonkwo greatly.
Okonkwo likes to see Nwoye grumbling about women and finding interest in war stories because he wants Nwoye to grow up as a man of action who has complete control of his household. Okonkwo also sees Ikemefuna as the reason for the changes in Nwoye.Okonkwo continues to encourage Nwoye to become more adult. He invites Ikemefuna and Nwoye to his hut at night, tells them stories of violence, and shares his evening meal with them.
Nwoye has not quite changed completely, however. He prefers the origin stories that his mother tells about how the earth came to be, such as stories about how the heavy rains of the yam season came to be. However, Nwoye also realizes that Okonkwo expects him to act in a more adult manner and that when he does so, Okonkwo doesn’t beat him so often, so he pretends to enjoy Okonkwo’s stories of bloodshed even though they don’t really fit his interests.
Locusts & Sacrifice
One day, as Ikemefuna and Nwoye help Okonkwo to re-roof his hut, a swarm of locusts descends on the village. This excites everyone, as locusts only come around once or twice in a lifetime. Everyone waits until dark to collect them and then roast them for eating.
As Okonkwo eats some locusts later that night, a village elder named Ezeudu comes to Okonkwo and tells him that the village oracle has declared that Ikemefuna must be put to death. He also warns Okonkwo that he shouldn’t be the man to kill Ikemefuna since Ikemefuna sees him as his father.The next morning, a group of men from the surrounding villages comes to Okonkwo’s house, where Okonkwo waits, depressed that Ikemefuna has been sentenced to die as a final sacrifice for the death of a Umuofian woman in Ikemefuna’s home village. He eventually lets Ikemefuna know that the young man is to be returned to his home in Mbaino. Nwoye cries at the news, and Okonkwo beats him for acting in an unmanly way.
Ikemefuna has a hard time coping with the news, excited about seeing his mother and sister, but sad about leaving the people who he sees as family now and unsure that he’ll ever actually make it home.The morning after this, the men come back, dressed as if taking a casual visit to another village, in order to return Ikemefuna home. During the journey, the men go from talkative to quiet, thinking about the killing that they must carry out. Ikemefuna daydreams of seeing his family again, worrying that they might have died while he was gone, but he then notices that Okonkwo is walking very far behind him and becomes scared.
Suddenly, a man clears his throat as the sign that it’s time to kill Ikemefuna and raises his machete, slashing at Ikemefuna. Ikemefuna, injured, runs toward Okonkwo for help, and in order to avoid appearing weak, Okonkwo uses his machete to strike Ikemefuna down for good.
Customs ; Disillusionment
When Okonkwo returns home, Nwoye can tell from his mood that Ikemefuna is dead.
It crushes him deeply and causes him to disagree with the customs that led to Ikemefuna’s death. He feels as he did the first time that he heard twin babies crying in the forest, discarded because the village believes that identical twins are an embodiment of evil. This marks a shift in Nwoye’s belief system away from the beliefs of his family and the village.
The seventh chapter of Things Fall Apart jumps three years ahead to describe the death of Ikemefuna, who is sentenced to die by the Umuofian oracle. The death saddens Okonkwo and changes Nwoye, who had tried to act more like his father desired, but comes to believe that the village’s cultural practices aren’t proper.