This chapter tells the story of how Okonkwo ends up with Ikemefuna. Okonkwo lies in bed contemplating the meaning of the gong sounded by the town crier late at night. The gong signals that the men must gather in the morning, but Okonkwo fears that something bad has happened. We learn that the people of Umuofia fear night’s darkness but will allow their children to play in the moonlight. In the morning, the whole village learns that last night’s gong was sounded for the death of a daughter of the clan. She was killed at the market by a neighboring clan and now Okonkwo wants to go to war to get revenge.
The neighboring clans, however, want to avoid war because they fear the Umuofia. When Okonkwo arrives in the neighboring village of the offending tribe, they offer a peaceful solution of a ritual sacrifice (not killing, but giving up of) of a boy and a virgin girl to the Umuofia clan. Okonkwo accepts the virgin girl and the boy – Ikemefuna – and returns home. The Umuofia elders decide that the virgin girl should be given to the man whose wife was just murdered. The boy’s fate goes undecided, so Okonkwo takes him home in the meantime. Ikemefuna ends up living in Okonkwo’s household for 3 years.
We learn that Okonkwo rules his family with an iron fist and his wives live in fear of him. He’s got a pretty bad temper. Achebe does a bit of psychoanalysis on Okonkwo and essentially his aggression stems from a deep-seeded, subconscious fear of being a failure like his father. Okonkwo recalls how a childhood friend called Okonkwo’s fatheragbala – meaning woman or a man without a title. Okonkwo’s M.O. is hating everything he thinks his dad stood for: gentleness and idleness.
In an attempt to be completely unlike his father, Okonkwo works hard tilling the fields until dark. His efforts keep his family prosperous. As you might expect from a man with three wives, Okonkwo has a child, a twelve-year-old son named Nwoye. Okonkwo, still consumed with fear, beats and chastises his son frequently because he’s worried that the boy is lazy. Not a good move.
At the end of the chapter, the narrative switches to Ikemefuna’s point of view. Okonkwo hands the boy over to his first wife and orders her to take care of him. Ikemefuna doesn’t really understand what’s going on. He’s just scared and confused.