The Power of Fear in Things Fall Apart
In the novel Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, the theme of the power of fear
is presented throughout the whole book and is mainly expressed in the main character, Okonkwo.
Okonkwo strives all of his life to become a stronger, more powerful, and a successful individual. He wants to do this because his father was a slack and lazy person who lived most of his life in debt and had no titles to his name. People often looked at his father as a women figure for the few achievements he redeemed. Okonkwo never wanted to be like his father and it eventually got to the point where he became fearful of becoming like him. Achebe uses the power of fear as a theme of to show how much it can devastate one’s outside personality and how it will never change who and what they are from the inside by using the literary devices of irony and tragedy.
Ever since Okonkwo was young, he was afraid to be the man his father was. His father was a poor man in debt who had not taken any titles in his lifetime. In Okonkwo’s culture, this kind of man with no titles was considered a woman. The people in his culture were judged by how successful you were and Okonkwo made sure he did just that. With the fear of becoming like his father, he did anything and everything he could to get to the point of being a well-known person of the tribe, “Perhaps down in his heart Okonkwo was not a cruel man. But his whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and of weakness” (Achebe 13). This is the fear Okonkwo had about turning out like his father. Okonkwo's mistaken concept of masculinity leads him to commit foolish acts and ironically causes his oldest son to absorb the characteristics Okonkwo despises as well as lead himself to his own downfall. Okonkwo became a strong member of his tribe because of his achievements such as throwing The Cat in wrestling, growing many yams each harvest, and by becoming one of the fiercest war heroes in Umuofia. Although it may seem that this fear of his father made him a better individual overall, Okonkwo drove himself to his own demise because of his accomplishments.
For all of his desire to be strong, Okonkwo is caught up by the constant fear of being perceived as weak. He is afraid of failure and afraid of being considered weak. This fear drives him to do whatever he can to not become a failure like his father which ironically contributes to his death. While Okonkwo was a strong and important figure in his tribe, he had to keep his reputation that way by making some hard decisions. One of them was when he had to kill Ikemefuna, a young boy from the neighboring tribe. Okonkwo started accepting the decision to kill Ikemefuna because he started to call Okonkwo father. He had to keep his own valor intact and kill the boy to prevent himself from showing any weakness, but deep down, Okonkwo was really upset because of what he did which was ironic, “’When did you become a shivering old woman,' Okonkwo...