In Chinua Achebe's novel, Things Fall Apart, the impact of British Colonialism in Africa is critiqued through the story of an Igbo man, Okonkwo. Okonkwo is an extremely masculine man who has but one fear, the fear of being weak. Throughout the novel, his actions are motivated by this fear which defines him characteristically as on overly masculine man. This over masculinity is Okonkwo's flaw and it drives his moods and actions, ultimately leading to his demise. In this respect, Okonkwo plays the role of a tragic hero driven by his flaw which leads to his downfall.
Things Fall Apart, written by Chinua Achebe, depicts the life of a clansman of Umuofia, known as Okonkwo. Okonkwo was one of the wealthiest and respected men of his tribe. He gained respect as a great wrestler in his clan, and worked to surpass his father, Unoka’s image, which had been sullied by unpaid debts, and his work-shy attitude. Unoka was no man to Okonkwo, for Unoka had not taken any titles in his clan, therefore, he was nothing more than a woman in Okonkwo’s eyes. In such a patriarchal society being called a woman was disgraceful, and Okonkwo wanted nothing to do with anything womanly, and in turn he wanted nothing of his father, including any traits he carried, righteous or not. Okonkwo’s twisted view of masculinity and lack of compassion creates high expectations. When Okonkwo begins to see that his clan, family, and he himself cannot reach his expectations of strength, he will have nothing the turn to, but the noose that fate has made for him. The Igbo proverb “The thought that led a man to truncate his own existence was not conceived in a day” applies to Okonkwo’s suicide, which had begun with his twisted ideology of masculinity. The thoughts that led Okonkwo to commit suicide originate within his perception of weakness tied to his father; he sees this weakness in his son, in his tribe, and in himself. Okonkwo is disappointed in his son Nwoye for becoming so much like Unoka, he is ashamed of his clan for conforming to the views of the Christians, and he is
In Chinua Achebe’s novel, Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo, the protagonist, represents the manly ideal in a native African society of the Igbo that puts great value on masculinity. He prides himself on the fact that he became a well-respected member of the community with little help from others. However, he is not without flaws. When European powers begin colonizing Africa, Okonkwo finds his way of life disrupted. His greatest challenge becomes accepting the beliefs of others and relating to the majority. Okonkwo resists change, trying to hold onto the old way of life. In Things Falls Apart, Okonkwo proves himself to be a notorious anti-hero as he struggles with his own self-image, rules his household with fear, and
Okonkwo's first and most prominent flaw is his fear of becoming a failure. It is greatly influenced by his father, but Okonkwo takes his fear to the extreme. Okonkwo's father was a very lazy and carefree man. He had a reputation of being "poor and his wife and children had just barely enough to eat... they swore never to lend him any more money because he never paid back." (Achebe Page: 5) In Umuofia, a father is supposed to teach the children right and wrong, and in this case, the lessons were not taught, but self-learned. Okonkwo had to rely on his own interpretations of what defined a "good man" and to him that was someone that was the exact opposite of his father. As a result of his own self-taught conclusions, Okonkwo feels that anything resembling his father or anything that his father enjoyed was weak and unnecessary. Because of his fear to be seen as weak, Okonkwo even strikes down a child that calls him father: "(and as the machete came down] Okonkwo looked away. He heard the blow... He heard Ikemefuna cry 'My father, they have killed me!'... Okonkwo draws his machete and cuts him down, he does not want to be thought weak." (Achebe page:61) The fact that he kills the child shows that the way that he thinks is wrong, that reputation is more important than the life of a child. Although it is a shame to be
Okonkwo's thoughts and actions convey his motivation to become nothing like his father. Okonkwo's whole being is to be everything his father wasn't and hate everything hid father loved (Unoka is the name of Okonkwo's father). “Unoka, the grown-up, was a failure”. Okonkwo whom wanted to be nothing like his father despited any man that was a failure and had no titles, he would try to belittle whomever snd kill their spirit. “Without looking at the man Okonkwo had said: “ This meeting is for men.” The man who had contradicted him had no titles. That's was why he had called him a women. Okonkwo knew how to kill a mans spirit.” Okonkwo was nothing like his father, he was a highly respected man. “Okonkwo was well known throughout the nine villages and
He often "wish[es] she [Ezinma] were a boy."(122) For his son, "he wanted Nwoye to grow into a tough young man capable of ruling his... household." (37) The failure of his son to live up to Okonkwo's expectations for him are another factor in Okonkwo's own innate need to be exceptionally masculine.
Okonkwo life is “dominated by fear, the fear of failure and of weakness” (Achebe 13). When Okonkwo was a boy, his playmates teased him calling, saying that his father was agbala. Okonkwo’s father, Unoka, was lazy. He did not work on his farm; he died in great debt. He did not acquire a single title. He did not have a barn to pass down to his son. Unoka is a type of man who is scorned in Umofia. He is seen as weak and effeminate. As Okonkwo grows older, he is determined not become a failure like his father. His father was weak; he will be strong. His father was lazy; he will be hard-working. Okonkwo earned his fame by defeating the reigning wrestling champion. Okonkwo diligently plants yam, building a successful farm. He builds himself an obi, has three wives and many children. His fame “rested on solid personal achievements” (Achebe 3). Okonkwo will not let one womanly trait sully his reputation. Therefore, he “hate[d] everything that his father Unoka had loved” (Achebe 13). One of these was gentleness. Okonkwo refuses to show any signs of emotion, except his temper. He
Through the character of Okonkwo, Achebe illustrates the dangers of being selfish. Although successful, Okonkwo is one of the most aggressively selfish men among the Igbo people based on his self-centered needs and desires. This characteristic is prevalent throughout the entirety of the novel, and there are always consequences to his actions. For example, Okonkwo is fond of calling men “women” to make himself look more masculine. He does this to Osugo in front of a group of men in a meeting. “Okonkwo knew how to kill a man’s spirit. Everybody at the kindred meeting took sides with Osugo when Okonkwo called him a woman” (Achebe 26). Since the other men sided with Osugo, Okonkwo’s punishment for this narcissistic outburst is embarrassment. Continuing,
In the novel Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo’s shame for his father, Unoka, motivates him to be everything his father wasn’t. As a result, Okonkwo hides behind masculinity and conceals his emotions, in hope of escaping weakness. Stubborn and impulsive, Okonkwo makes rash decisions to uphold his reputation, which affects his tribe and his family. Okonkwo’s constant fear of resembling his father takes over his ability compromise and causes him to suffer from depression, the “loss” of his son, the loss of
Okonkwo’s merciless violence gave him the appearance of being impenetrable. His brutality in the book categorized him as emotionless and callous. His drive to become greater than his father meant he cared only about himself and his own success. Okonkwo beat his own son, Nwoye, for fear he was growing lazy like
One of the ways that the pressure to be masculine affected Okonkwo was that it made him cruel towards his wives and children. His family was frightened by him and how quickly he would
First, Okonkwo starts off as a poor child, as shown when the book states, “Okonkwo did not have the start in life which many young men usually had, he did not inherit a barn from his father. There was no barn to inherit” showing that Okonkwo and his family were penurious, compared to others in the Igbo tribe (Achebe 16). Eventually, through his hard work and effort, he became a noble leader, which emphasizes his role as a tragic hero. Throughout the story Okonkwo goes through many challenges, but “In the face of futility, however, he maintains his nobility of character”(Gaydosik).
The only thing he (Okonkwo) fears most is not ending up like his father, Unoka. However, Achebe ‘‘makes an insightful comment on the nature of masculinity through his representation of the tribal leaders. Achebe basically, was conducive in creating four alter egos of Okonkwo: one of which were the masculinity; next of his fatherly abilities; and the last of his family progress and four of his likelihood of success’’ (Achebe.179). My paper will explain how Okonkwo’s Masculinity from Achebe’s Things Fall Apart will be characterized by his fears, beliefs, and emotions for several reasons.
Okonkwo is initially introduced as a proud, hardworking, successful warrior. He is described as "clearly cut out for great things" (6). But he is the son of a ne'er-do-well father; though genial and inoffensive, Unoka must certainly have been considered a failure. He is lazy and does not provide for his family. Not only is this disgraceful, but life-threatening as well. He is dependent on other members of the clan and must have been considered unsuccessful. Okonkwo chafes under such disgrace and his success is a consequence of his desire to be everything his father is not; society's vision of an exemplar citizen. The fact that Okonkwo is able to rise above his poverty and disgraceful paternity illustrates the Igbo's acceptance of individual free will. But Okonkwo's fate and his disharmony with his chi, family and clan are shown to cause his ultimate disgrace and death.
The breakdown of Okonkwo’s relationship with his son is evident throughout this novel. The reason for this tumultuous relationship is, Okonkwo is too engrossed in maintaining his status quo, and his relationship was governed by his own beliefs, principles and his own “right way to do right things”. He treated his family very strictly as he believed that showing affection revealed a sign of social weakness; thus the disheartening lack of respect and love was a mal nourishing factor with in the family.