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Conflict In Conrad's Heart Of Darkness And Achebe's Things Fall Apart

1055 words - 4 pages

The novel Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe and the novel Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad are very different from one another. While they each tell a very different story, we know that both take place in Africa and that they do have similarities. One of the similarities that each novel has is the main character struggling in both. Marlow is morally fighting a conflict. On the other hand, Okonkwo is physically trying to fight conflict. Both result in the main character losing his battle with the conflict at the end of each novel.
We learned very early on that Okonkwo is well-known for his physical capabilities. Achebe shared his history, “As a young man of eighteen he had brought honor to his village by throwing Amatinze the Cat,” (3; ch.1). This not only brought him fame but also respect in his village, Umuofia. His physical traits were a great asset when Umuofia was in a war with a neighboring village. Where Okonkwo ran into his troubles, was when he could not use his fists that he so greatly depended on. Others in the village could talk problems out and find solutions, while his solution was always war and killing. We learned that his lack of speaking skills was one of the main reasons for his attitude towards resolving issues through discussion; instead, “…Okonkwo thundered and stammered,” (14; ch.2). What he lacked in words because of his stammering and stuttering, he made up for with his fists and violent actions. The only problem was that as a result, compromise seemed to be a foreign principle for Okonkwo. When the five messengers came to the marketplace at the end of the book, the head messenger barely got a short message out before Okonkwo acted violently on him. Achebe described his actions:
In a flash Okonkwo drew his machete. The messenger crouched to avoid the blow. It was useless. Okonkwo’s machete descended twice and the man’s head lay beside his uniformed body…Okonkwo stood looking at the dead man. He knew Umuofia would not go to war. He knew because they had let the others escape. They had broken into tumult instead of action. (204-205; ch.24)
He seemed to believe that actions spoke louder than words. Due to his frustration at the moment, he killed the messenger.
In Heart of Darkness, Marlow was a foil to Okonkwo. He was not a fighter or even built like Okonkwo. In contrast, Marlow is described at the start of the novel in a meditation pose with, “…a straight back, an ascetic aspect, and, with his arms dropped, the palms of hands outwards, resembled an idol,” (4; prt.1). Marlow said early in the book, “You know I hate, detest, and can’t bear a lie, not because I am straighter than the rest of us, but simply because it appalls me. There is a taint of death, a flavor of mortality in lies-which is exactly what I hate and detest in the world-what I want to forget,” (44; prt.1). Although, at the end of the novel we witnessed him lying to Kurtz’s Intended. This was something he had been so set against at the...

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