Okonkwo in Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart
Okonkwo, as presented by Chinua Achebe in the novel Things Fall Apart, wished to be revered by all as a man of great wealth, power and control--the antithesis of his father. Okonkwo was driven by the need to exhibit utmost control over himself and others; he was an obsessive and insecure man.
Okonkwo's father, Unoka, was "a failure," "a loafer," and "People laughed at him" (1426). This would bring great shame to any man as it did for Okonkwo. In Umuofia "a man is judged according to his worth and not according to the worth of his father" (1427). In Umuofia "achievement was revered." Okonkwo became obsessed with the need to prove to everyone that he, unlike his father, was a man worthy of respect.
Okonkwo worked hard and in time his "prosperity showed in his household" (1429). Okonkwo had "a large compound," "three wives" (1429), "two barns full of yams" and "two titles" (1427). Okonkwo had become a wealthy and respectable man. Still he feared that all would fall apart if he were to allow any slight deviation, any sign of weakness.
Weakness could be a slight disobedience of a wife, as happened during the "Week of Peace." Ojiugo was not home in time to prepare Okonkwo's meal and though it was "unheard of to beat someone during the sacred week" (1435), Okonkwo beat Ojiugo unmercifully. Likely, Okonkwo feared that others would view Ojiugo's indifference to her responsibilities as a sign of Okonkwo's inability to control his wife.
Okonkwo was just as demanding upon his children and he wanted his "son to be a great farmer and a great man" (1437). Okonkwo would become overly angry if Nwoye made small mistakes while learning. When Nwoye and Ikemefuna were splitting yams for planting, Okonkwo "found fault with their efforts, and he said so with much threatening," such as "I shall break your jaw" (1437).
While Okonkwo could be sensitive and caring, his obsession with control would not allow him to show it. Enzima, whom he "was especially fond of" (1441), became ill and was taken to the cave by Chielo. Ekwefi followed Chielo and the girl from a distance as she feared for her daughter's life. Okonkwo seemed to be unconcerned: "He had felt very anxious but did not show it." Unknown to Ekwefi, Okonkwo had made four trips to the cave before he found Ekwefi and "by then had become gravely worried" (1468). Okonkwo had waited to follow; he had "allowed what he regarded as a reasonable and manly interval to pass" before he went to the cave the first time (1468). To show his own fears and worries would show lack of control.
When it was "pronounced" that Ikemefuna should be killed, Okonkwo not only went along with the other men, he also "drew his machete and cut him...