The Important Role of Ikemefuna in Things Fall Apart, a Novel by Chinua Achebe

What role or purpose does Ikemefuna serve in the story Things Fall Apart? In the novel Things Fall Apart, the author Chinua Achebe develops the story through the use of characterization. Ikemefuna, a boy sacrifice from the neighboring clan of Mbaino, kindles feelings of affection in Okonkwo and opens the door to manhood for Nwoye. In Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, Ikemefuna plays a crucial role in displaying the motifs of father versus son and masculinity versus femininity.

The father versus son motif is portrayed by the relationship between Ikemefuna and Okonkwo. Although Okonkwo rarely shows any emotion other than anger, “there was no doubt that he liked the boy [Ikemefuna]” (28). Okonkwo treats Ikemefuna like his own son. He would teach Ikemefuna the art of preparing seed yams along with Nwoye and assign Ikemefuna tasks that normally a son would do, such as carrying his stool and his goatskin bag at village meetings and feasts (28). “And, indeed, Ikemefuna called him [Okonkwo] father” (28). In return, Ikemefuna was also very fond of Okonkwo, and “he could hardly imagine that Okonkwo was not his real father” (59). Ikemefuna trusts Okonkwo completely. When Ikemefuna was walking in the forest with the men of Umuofia, he felt safe just because Okonkwo was walking behind him (59). Ikemefuna helps develop the father versus son motif by bringing out fatherly traits in Okonkwo towards both Nwoye and himself.

The theme of masculinity versus femininity is shown by the change that Ikemefuna brought in Nwoye. “He [Ikemefuna] was like an elder brother to Nwoye, and from the very first seemed to have kindled a new fire in the younger boy. He made him [Nwoye] feel grown-up” (52). Ikemefuna would teach Nwoye masculine things such as setting traps for rodents and identifying the trees that would make the strongest bows (28). He also sparked Nwoye’s interest in doing “difficult and masculine tasks in the home, like splitting wood, or pounding food” (52).

Despite opening the door to manhood for Nwoye, Ikemefuna also brings out the feminine side of Nwoye. Ikemefuna would tell Nwoye endless folk tales that were often regarded as feminine; however, Nwoye seems to savor these stories more than Okonkwo’s “masculine stories of violence and bloodshed” (53). Ikemefuna contributes greatly to the theme of masculinity versus femininity through his influence on Nwoye.

The father versus son and masculinity versus femininity motifs are developed in Things Fall Apart through the use of the characterization of Ikemefuna. Not only does Ikemefuna draw out Okonkwo’s fatherly side, he also helps Nwoye begin his journey to manhood. With the death of Ikemefuna, it is possible that Nwoye would grow more and more distant from Okonkwo and therefore break the father and son relationship between them forever.

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The Important Role of Ikemefuna in Things Fall Apart, a Novel by Chinua Achebe. (2022, Nov 30). Retrieved April 19, 2024 , from

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