The Character Of Okonkwo In Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart

1942 words - 8 pages

The Character of Okonkwo in Things Fall Apart

What makes a successful man? This, in itself, is a culture bound

question because it can vary from culture to culture. However, in the

perception of Okonkwo, the main character in Chinua Achebe's novel, Things Fall

Apart, the measure of a man's success is based on two elements, material

acquisition and growth, and physical prowess. This is ironic for Okonkwo since

his people's typical idea of success seems to be constructed of a complex,

strong spiritual culture, seemingly able to deal in traditional ways with any

challenge in nature and human experience. (Ravenscroft 9) Although Okonkwo is

undoubtedly an important member of Umuofian society, he is not a typical

representative of that society. (Taiwo 115) It is this basic dichotomy between

Okonkwo and his own culture that directly lead to the tragic fall of Okonkwo,

and ultimate disgrace.

I feel that it is important to note at this time that Things Fall Apart

is a tragedy, and Okonkwo is a tragic hero. For TFA to be a tragedy, it must

follow the following pattern...

"A tragedy .. is the imitation of an action that is erious, has

magnitude, and is complete in itself; in language with pleasurable accessories,

each kind brought in separately in the various parts of the work; in a dramatic,

not in a narrative form; with incidents arousing pity and fear, wherewith to

accomplish it catharsis of such emotions"

Aristotle, Poetics

Okonkwo is a tragic hero because he is superior to the regular people of the

tribe, "Okonkwo was well known throughout the nine villages and even beyond"

he's an extremist, ".whenever he was angry and could not get his words out

quickly enough, he would use his fists" (Achebe 3), he imposes his own reality

on people, "His wives, especially the youngest, lived in perpetual fear of his

fiery temper" (Achebe 9), demands more of life than life can give, "When did you

(Okonkwo) become an old woman?" (Achebe 45), and finally moves from a position

of happiness to that of misery, "It is an abomination for a man to take his own

life..." (Achebe 147). It is important to establish these facts because it

exemplifies Okonkwo's journey, and ultimately that of the Ibo people (as Achebe

intended), as tragic in nature.

As stated earlier, Okonkwo was obsessed with success. This manifested

itself in many materialistic ways. First, he started out with nothing since he

inherited nothing from his debt ridden father. He was forced to borrow seeds

from a wealthy man. This was something he hated doing, but realized it was the

only way to begin to become the man he wanted to be. "I began to fend for

myself at an age when most people still suck at their mothers' breasts. If you

...

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