Set in Africa in the 1890s, Chinua Achebe's ‘Things Fall Apart’ is about the tragedy of Okonkwo during the time Christian missionaries arrived and polluted the culture and traditions of many African tribes. Okonkwo is a self-made man who values culture, tradition, and, above all else, masculinity. Okonkwo’s attachment to the Igbo culture and tradition, and his own extreme emphasis on manliness, is the cause of his fall from grace and eventual death.
Within the Obi tribe, Okonkwo is an important man, who has risen from nothing to a man of great wealth and social status. Okonkwo is obsessed with masculinity, and he has a very narrow view of “manliness”. Okonkwo's relationship with his dead father is the root of his violent and ambitious conduct. He wants to rise above his father's legacy of laziness, which he views as weak and therefore feminine. This drive and fierce pride made him a great man, but they are also the source of all of his faults.
The Igbo are deeply patriarchal and violence is not uncommon. This male-dominance is inherent in the clan's language; the word for a man who has not taken any of the expensive, prestige-indicating titles is agbala, which also means “woman."
Okonkwo is deeply dedicated to the traditions and social hierarchies of his people. His culture is as patriarchal as any other, but in his need to be strong Okonkwo carries the preoccupation with manliness to an extreme. His sense of self-worth is dependent upon the traditional standards by which society judges him. Although it eventually sours his status, Okonkwo's violent and impulsive nature generally earns him respect within the community. He has "brought honor to his village by throwing Amalinze the Cat" in a wrestling match (Achebe 3).
For the most part, Okonkwo's idea of manliness is an extreme version of the clan's. He associates masculinity with aggression and feels that anger is the only emotion that he should display.
For Okonkwo, male power lies in authority and brute force. He believes that any tender emotion is feminine and therefore weak....