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Things Fall Apart, By Chinua Achebe

1812 words - 8 pages

Fear is like religion which can poison thoughts and bias views before overwhelming and ultimately taking over one’s innocence and morals. In Chinua Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo’s reprehensible actions are caused by his fogged view of right and wrong since his life is dominated by a lifelong fear of failure. Okonkwo’s profound fear of failure originated from his failures of his father Unoka, and Okonkwo’s life purpose is to be the opposite of Unoka and to achieve high titles. If Okonkwo’s Ibo culture prospers then the title hierarchy will remain and Okonkwo can eventually earn his respected place in his community. Fear takes over Okonkwo’s’ ability to process reason and responsibility, and loses sight of why his village makes certain decisions when changing events make things go astray. Okonkwo feels as though he must maintain a high and respected title in his community, and he does all he can to protect his ego. In addition, his fear of failure causes Okonkwo to impulsively react to events that pose a threat to his chance at high titles and success. Due to Okonkwo’s fear of failure, he dangerously strives for personal achievement and success, which causes him to irrationally react to drastic changes in his Ibo culture and ultimately leads to his downfall.
Throughout the novel, Okonkwo’s fear of failure pushes him to have a high and well respected ego in his clan. Although Okonkwo does all he can to protect his ego, some obstacles cause Okonkwo to lose sight of reason. Earlier in the novel, Achebe describes the customs and rules of the Week of Peace, a single, sacred week in the year where the Ibo culture honors the Earth Goddess for a healthy year for crops. Although Okonkwo knows about the reason of the week and why he should follow customs, he still could not control himself. During the sacred week, one of Okonkwo’s wives leaves the house to braid her hair before cooking a meal, and Okonkwo violently beats her when she arrives home. In fear of being seen weak in front of his family, Okonkwo reacts impulsivity to ego threatening situations: “In his anger he had forgotten it was the Week of Peace” (Achebe 29). Okonkwo’s fear of failure makes him strive to have a strong ego, so he will in turn do whatever it takes to protect his ego, even if it means to upset and disrespect the gods. At stake was the potential of his family seeing him as weak if he let his wife disrespect him without consequence, yet Okonkwo fails to react proportionally to the situation. By beating his wife during the sacred week, Okonkwo not only significantly disrespects the gods by not following the customs of sacred week, but also starts a dangerous habit of not seeing reason just to protect his ego in an event of potential threat. Although Okonkwo knows his mistake, “he was not the man to go about telling his neighbors of his fault” (31). Since breaking the peace during the sacred week can affect the entire community (through the anger of the gods),...

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