Okonkwo's best friend, Obierika serves as a foil for Okonkwo. That is, Obierika's personality contrasts with and enhances the distinctive characteristics of Okonkwo's personality. Obierika is a reasonable person who thinks before he acts, unlike Okonkwo, who is impulsive. Obierika does not advocate the use of violence to get revenge against the British colonizers — Okonkwo does. Obierika is open-minded; he understands and appreciates the changing values and foreign culture that is infiltrating the Igbo traditions. Obierika is receptive to new ideas and is willing to adapt to change, whereas Okonkwo is narrow-minded, unable to accept any change to traditional Igbo culture and beliefs.
Even though the personalities of Obierika and Okonkwo are vastly different, Obierika supports Okonkwo as a friend. He comforts Okonkwo when Okonkwo is depressed over Ikemefuna's death, despite the fact that he disapproves of Okonkwo's role in Ikemefuna's murder. When Okonkwo goes into exile, Obierika sells Okonkwo's yams and seed-yams and gives Okonkwo the profits.
Unlike Okonkwo, Obierika questions the Igbo traditions and ritual, as well as their tribal law. He thinks that change may improve the Igbo society. Whereas Okonkwo's solution is to use violence against the British, Obierika understands that rising up against the British is too late. He comments that the white man "has put a knife on the things that have held us together and we have fallen apart."