A Brief Note on the Structures of Chinua Achebe's Thing Fall Apart

A Brief Note on the Structure

Superficially, the novel is divided into three parts, the first thirteen chapters centered in Umnofia (name of a village), being part one, the next six, exiled in Mbaino (a number of villages), are part two, the final six, accompose a turn to death, part three. These twenty five chapters are upon close analysis, divided into four groups of six chapters each with one pivotal chapter 13 in which Okonkwo accidentally kills Ezeldo’s son, Ikemefuna, and must flee. The plan is carefully worked out and merits closer analysis.


The first six chapters which might be called the coming of Ikemefuna, they themselves break into two three chapter units. The first deals primarily with Okonkwo, his strength and weaknesses, and the circumstances of the arrival of the sacrificial boy. The second three chapters deal with the Ikemefuna agricultural year and the festival and games that climax it. Over all, the first six chapters portray the people of Ikemefuna through the actions and affairs of one of its most prominent citizens. There is little plot action. Even Okonkwo’s beating off Ojiugo which retrospectively can be seen as his first overt crime against Ani (the earth or earth goddess) seems no more than a display of Okonkwo’s temperament and the village priest dealing with it. Similarly the disrespect Okonkwo shows his father only retrospectively may appear an offence to the earth.


The second six chapters carry a greater load of thought, in the three alternative chapter that shows Okonkwo in crisis; in chapter 7 the killing of Ikemefuna; in chapter 9 the subduing of the ogbanjo spirit in his daughter, Ezinma; and in chapter 11 the seizing of Ezinma by the priestess of the oracle of the Hill and Caves, Agbala. To these might be added chapter 13, the fourth crisis and pivotal (essential) chapter. The other 3 chapters (to which may be added chapter 14) carry less plot action, but are of great thematic importance for the deal with marriage. The married chapters take up the married contract of Obereika’s daughter, (Obereika is Okonkwo’s close friend who does not agree to Okonkwo’s action to kill Ikemefuna) the setting of marriage deputed by ancestral egwugwo, and the Uri of Obereika’s daughter.


The first six chapters may be described as oppressively masculine. Okonkwo’s manly and sometime vicious behavior and the hard work that goes into production of the man’s crop the yam. Even the celebration that climaxes the 6th chapter is dominated by the manliest sport, wrestling – the same sport through which Okonkwo first achieved fame, reported in the 1st paragraph of the novel. Thus the section ends as it began, with the manliest strength of wrestler.

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