It is established early on in the story that as a result of the problems Okonkwo had with his lackadaisical father, Unoka he has little appreciation for weakness or laziness. It is even established very soon in the story that he equates weakness with femininity. He prides himself on how masculine he is although his definition of masculinity seems to be skewed in a more negative direction; it includes a hot-temper and violent outbursts that culminate in an abusive relationship between he and his family.
The boy, Ikemefuna is adopted by Okonkwo and forcibly made a member of his extensive family. He proved himself as a valuable addition to the family by providing a cornucopia of skills and abilities namely his skills with making flutes and rodent traps. He becomes like a big brother to Okonkwo’s other children and he even feels comfortable enough to call Okonkwo “father”. In comparison to Nwoye, Ikemefuna is a light in the darkness. Okonkwo’s family is generally composed of either women – who in his mind are inherently weak, and who are evidently not as strong as he in terms of their ability to complete hard labour – or children too young and small to do anything in a sufficient manner. From his perspective, Okonkwo is surrounded by weaklings.
Ikemefuna immediately fairs better than Nwoye does because of his apparent manliness. Fortunately for the sake of the family, his masculinity doesn’t manifest exactly like his adopted father’s. Okonkwo refuses to display any kind of emotion besides the occasional violent burst of anger. In a very clichéd fashion he believes that emotions are feminine and that would be inappropriate for him to express them. Ikemefuna on the other hand was nice to Nwoye and they became very close. Regardless, the idea is that compared to Ikemefuna everyone else in the family – Nwoye especially – was incompetent, weak and lazy. Additionally, as a result of him hailing from a different culture altogether, Ikemefuna came with an extensive set of new stories that the culture had never experienced before for the most part. In the Igbo culture – like many African cultures – it is heavily oral-oriented. Much of their culture is expressed through story-telling. This adds to the list of impressive skills that he possesses.
Finally, before his murder, Ikemefuna inadvertently performed one last deed for Okonkwo. According to Okonkwo, he had influence on Nwoye’s behaviour, shaping him into the man that Okonkwo desired him to be. Nwoye himself has really been changing as a result of both Ikemefuna and his father’s behaviour. Having Ikemefuna as an example of the ideal son and being under the iron boot of his father made him come to the unfortunate conclusion that to be the man that his father wanted him to be he needed to become chauvinistic and rude, which in his mind was the epitome of masculine behaviour.