Ikemefuna Described as an Ill-Fated Lad

In the book ‘Things Fall Apart’ Chinua Achebe describes Ikemefuna as an ‘ill fated lad’. Behind the meaning of this description lie different literary elements that pay a great significance to the book, in general. Before the author describes Ikemefuna in this manner, he writes about Okonkwo’s reputation and youth. He says, referring to Okonkwo, ‘He was a wealthy farmer and had two barns full of yams, and had just married his third wife’. By saying these words, the author wants to show Okonkwo as a man who earned his good reputation by hard work and not family wealth.

He also writes ‘And so although Okonkwo was still young, he was already one of the greatest men of his time’ meaning that age was not the problem for him to succeed in life. ‘As the elders said, if a child washed his hands he could eat with kings’, by stating this proverb, the author means that being one of those boys who ‘washed their hands’, Okonkwo believed that he himself, could treat anyone in this manner if they ‘washed their hands’. He compares and contrasts Okonkwo’s youth against Ikemefuna’s who is later on described as an ‘ill fated lad’.

Behind the description of Ikemefuna as an ‘ill fated lad’ lies foreshadowing which shows the readers that the fate of Ikemefuna is not fortunate, and there will be some event later on in the book that will prove the description right. As well as foreshadowing, the words ‘ill fated’ are a metaphor. ‘ill fated’ if translated correctly means a fate that is ill, therefore unfortunate. Even though the passage where Ikemefuna is described is short, there lies a lot of significance that affects the book as a whole.

If the readers would not have read those lines saying ‘the ill-fated’ lad, they would most likely not predict anything unusual happening to him in the future. And because this line foreshadows the coming of Ikemefuna’s unfortunate fate, the readers pay more attention to the way Okonkwo treats Ikemefuna later on in the book. They see how Okonkwo treats him like his own son, and for the first time it is seen that Okonkwo becomes interested in something more than simply power and physical strength.

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