Nwoye, who is Okonkwo’s oldest son, and child of Okonkwo’s eldest wife, grows up as a victim of his father’s impenetrable expectation. Okonkwo hates it if any of his sons act like his father, Unoka, who is lazy and irresponsible, falling into debt and gaining no title but shame for his family. As the text described, Nwoye “was already causing his father great anxiety for his incipient laziness. At any rate, that was how it looked to his father, and he sought to correct him by nagging and beating” (13). Okonkwo hates it if any of his sons act like his father, Unoka, who is lazy and irresponsible, falling into debt and gaining no title but shame for his family. Consequently, Nwoye has such a sorrowful childhood filled with his father’s violence and arbitrariness. It seems that Okonkwo had never ever been satisfied by Nwoye until the adoptive boy from another village named Ikemefuna shows up. Somehow Nwoye gets pretty close to Ikemefuna as we see “Nwoye, who was two years younger, become quite inseparable from him because he seemed to know everything” (28). In fact, before encountering Ikemefuna, Nwoye’s childhood can be considered as deficient, since anything he does is not approbatory to Okonkwo because it seems weak and feminine from his father’s perspective. However, Ikemefuna seems to be the one who pops up and refreshes Nwoye’s life. Although they are not similar at all, Nwoye begins adoring Ikemefuna and emulating him.
During the three years Ikemefuna lived in Okonkwo’s household, he made a remarkable impact on Nwoye. According to the text, “nothing pleased Nwoye now more than to be sent for by his mother or another of his father’s wives to do one of those difficult and masculine tasks in the home, like splitting wood or pounding food” (52). We can see the huge difference in Nwoye’s behavior as it has changed quite a bit. As a result, “Okonkwo was inwardly pleased with his son’s development, and he knew it was due to Ikemefuna” (52). Under the influence of Ikemefuna, Nwoye is finally able to impress his father and the crucial thing is he is enjoying the process of doing those manly things and even “grumbling about women” (53). It almost sounds like Ikemefuna glued Nwoye and Okonkwo’s relationship back together in a sense. Nwoye’s heart is now filled with happiness not only because his father doesn’t treat him as severe as before, but also because he enjoys having such an elder brother. Nevertheless, does it mean Nwoye is actually developing towards a man like his father? The answer is still: No. There’s one detail that should be mentioned, “Nwoye knew that it was right to be masculine and to be violent, but somehow he still preferred the stories that his mother used to tell” (53). This is exactly the reflection of Nwoye’s natural characteristics. No matter how much his habits change, he is still the boy who prefers peace and mercy rather than violence and bloodshed. He is still not the ideal son in Okonkwo’s mind. This is one of the moments which seem to be pretty ironic. Obviously, Nwoye doesn’t actually like the stories told by his father, he is still saying that “it was right to be masculine and to be violent” to himself. If anybody brings up this issue nowadays, I bet not many people would insist on how good violence is. Nwoye, however, admits that it is good to be violent. This is basically an example of the surrounding effects on him both from his father and from the entire warlike tribe. People have been brainwashed by customs, prophesies, curses and so on. Nobody ever tries to figure out what’s right from wrong. Everyone is doing things they don’t even understand why they are doing it. However, Ikemefuna brings a nicely positive influence on Nwoye undoubtedly.
Unfortunately, Nwoye’s happiness ends when Okonkwo returns from murdering Ikemefuna. That night, “Nwoye knew that Ikemefuna had