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No Tragic Hero In Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart

969 words - 4 pages

No Tragic Hero in Things Fall Apart

    According to Aristotle a tragedy is "a drama...which recounts an important and casually related series of events in the life of a person of significance, such events culminating in an unhappy catastrophe, the whole treated with great dignity and seriousness." The novel Things Fall Apart, written by Chinua Achebe begins as a story about the life of a man named Okonkwo. It recounts the events beginning with his childhood and ending with his death. Part I of the novel is about Okonkwo, his family, and the customs and culture of his clan. In Part II the white men came from England, bringing with them their own culture, religion, and government. Part III focuses on the struggle between the clansmen and the missionaries. Okonkwos pride, ambition and overconfidence play a large part in the fight for freedom. According to Arthur Miller, "the tragic feeling is evoked in us when we are in the presence of a character who is ready to lay down his life, if need be, to secure one thing - his sense of personal dignity... Tragedy, then is the consequence of a man's total compulsion to evaluate himself justly."

 

    In the end of Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo does die for his cause, however whether or not his death can be classified as heroic is debatable. As the village was having a meeting as to what must be done in response to the invasion, they were confronted with five court messengers. The head messenger demanded passage, and was confronted by Okonkwo. When the messenger ordered the meeting to stop, Okonkwo drew his machete and beheaded the man. The next day the district commissioner arrived to take Okonkwo away, only to find that Okonkwo had hung himself. It can be argued that his death came from his "underlying fear of being displaced... his struggle... to gain his 'rightful' position in his society" (Miller). It can be argued that he was too proud, and that the value of his life was too great to be condemned by the white men. A tragic hero "insists on expressing himself even though he must suffer for his self assertion" (Hibbard, Holman, and Thrall). This is true in Okonkwo case. Also, it is said that "the hero is not arbitrarily struck down but has in some way contributed to his fall" (Hibbard, Holman, and Thrall). This is true in that Okonkwo did choose to kill the messenger, and did take his own life. In the novel, Obierika, Okonkwos best friend, relates to the Commissioner how he feels about Okonkwos death;

 

That man was on of the greatest men in

Umofia. You drove him to kill himself;

...

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