The first chapter of Things Fall Apart revolves around the rapid success of Okonkwo and his ascension to fame in the village of Umuofia and beyond. His fame comes at the price of his industriousness and triumph over the undefeated wrestler nicknamed Amalinze the Cat.
Amalinze the Cat’s back has never touched the ground in a wrestling match from Umuofia to Mbaino in a long spell until he engages Okonkwo in a wrestling bout. Okonkwo changes this narrative.
Aside from being an outstanding wrestler, Okonkwo is an industrious and successful farmer who cannot contain his anger whenever an unsuccessful man crosses his path.
His hatred of unsuccessful people is borne out of the ignominy of being the son of a lazy, poor and untitled father, Unoka.
He had no patience with unsuccessful men. He had had no patience with his father.Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Unoka is a chronic debtor and a failure whose chances at success are stunted by laziness, merrymaking, negligence, and pungent love for palmwine.
Unoka has zero vision; he spends money lavishly and acquires more debts. A talented flute player, he spends much of his life on playing music with his band and the dancing egwugwu at festivals.
His friend, Okoye, whom Unoka also owes a huge amount of money, is entirely the exact opposite. He also plays flutes known as ogene. He is however very hardworking, active, and agile.
Being that a man’s success is measured by the number of his wives, his barns of yam, and the titles he holds, Okoye is in every right a successful man. He has three wives and his barns are filled with tubers of yam. He is also conferred the title of Idemili, the third biggest title in the land, as a recognition of his success.
Okonkwo’s hunger for success is fueled by his father’s failure and distaste for everything his father stands for.
He is very much different from his failure of a father who is buried like a pauper he is. Okonkwo is extraordinarily hardworking and full of intelligence. He is a risk taker too. He reaps these in financial success.
He does not allow his father’s enormous debts to hinder his prospects. He is everything his father is not. While his father is a coward, Okonkwo has been to wars and has earned his place as a feared and respected warrior. While his father is untitled, Okonkwo has taken for himself two titles.
Despite being young, Okonkwo is revered for his achievements. Towards the end of the chapter one of the novel, Okonkwo is entrusted the care of an “ill-fated” lad called Ikemefuna. The boy is sacrificed to the village of Umuofia by their neighbors to avoid war and bloodshed. That Ikemefuna is put in care of Okonkwo shows how much his achievements have put him on the pedestal of recognition, reverence and importance in Umuofia Village.