To begin, Okonkwo is shown to be a self made, well respected member of the Umuofia clan. Though, he seems stern, most of his life is dictated with fear. For example,the passage states “ And indeed he was possessed by the fear of his father’s contemptible life and shameful death.”(Achebe,18/1). This helps the reader understand that Okonkwo faces many challenges in life to prove to his village and the people themselves that he is nothing like his father, Unoka and is haunted by the fact that one day he will become a man whom he promised he will never become. The passage states “ Dazed with fear, Okonkwo drew his machete and cut him down. He was afraid of being thought weak.”(Achebe,61/1). This helps the reader understand the reason why
Okonkwo’s story portrays the major differences between African culture and the idea that the Western society had on the African culture. Okonkwo is native to the Umuofia tribe and represented this oversized human being who with holds no emotion. All this makes Okonkwo seem very unrelatable and unfriendly, but this is what makes his relationships with the characters in the book so entertaining. For example, Okonkwo had a very negative connection with his father that affected him so much that it brought him to the point where it changed his life and is also the reason why he is so strict with his kids. With the introduction of these missionaries into the tribe, it completely changed the way the tribe acted and ended up bringing Okonkwo to a point where he had to pay the ultimate price. It was all because they couldn’t get along.
Okonkwo’s adherence to a tradition of cruelty that harms large groups of minorities leads to a pronounced division once Western missionaries establish their church: a church which allows for aspects of life that tribal law did not. His adherence to traditional law and inability to compromise — rigidity in a culture of flexibility — alienates family members, members of his community, and furthers an internal pressure which ultimately helps the pressures of colonialism. Okonkwo’s inflexible interpretation of tribal law, borne of a need to escape his father’s seemingly feminine weakness, leads to morally bankrupt decisions. Unable to settle on a compromise between law and morality, he murders Ikemefuna: although correct in the eyes of law, the action lacks morals, is purely driven by a need for social power and fear of seeming weak. Such personal conflict culminates in intense inner pressure on both Okonkwo’s part and on the part of the community as a whole, leading to a collapse of long standing unity when faced with the external pressure of missionaries, providing a “way out”. This culminates in a scene in which tribal leaders call for an attack on colonialist forces, including other tribal members which have joined the
“He had a large barn full of yams and he had three wives. And now he was going to take the Idemili title, the third highest in the land” (12). Okonkwo was a successful man in his culture and lands far beyond Umuofia. He was prideful of what he had accomplished from a very young age, his culture meant everything to him as he had made his way to the top. He had everything he ever needed, the honor, he was a warrior, and he had made it to the top from absolutely nothing that his own father did for him. Sadly, towards the end of the book, Okonkwo had broken clan rules on purpose and killed himself. “Then they came to the tree from which Okonkwo’s body was dangling, and they stopped dead.” (Achebe 207). In this quote, it explains that Okonkwo had hung himself on the tree killing himself even though it went against everything he believed in; bravery, customs, and masculinity. Okonkwo’s personal pride was his response to the cultural collision because he was to stubborn to change his culture. He had shown resistance but also went against the clan rules. Okonkwo’s response to the colonizers shapes the meaning of the work as a whole by his suicide signifying things falling apart since it was the first time he purposely had broken the clan law. This shows that he had been struggling with any type of change in the book and finally he couldn’t adapt to any change. He was a
Okonkwo soon learns about this and confronts his son, Nwoye about his secret meetings, Okonkwo soon becomes enraged and disowns his son after hearing about his experience not before abusing him of course. This action causes an effect which ultimately leads to Okonkwo’s downfall. Okonkwo enraged by the spread of Christianity within his own village self-proclaims war on the “white man”. Okonkwo eventually was detained as a result of his actions towards the “white man”. After he was released from detainment Okonkwo killed a courier and began to truly understand he was a rebel without a cause as his fellow Tribesmen would not help him with his internal struggle. Okonkwo knowing, he would be caught and executed for his crimes, instead decided to ultimately end his own life by hanging himself. Okonkwo’s major downfall in the story was his inability to co-exist with the white man and began his own personal vendetta against the Christian missionaries. Throughout the story the main essential theme Achebe tried to relay to us would be the fact that even though individuals may be of different religions, skin color, and have different personalities there is a realization that
Since Okonkwo stood out more than all the other men he was seen as Umuofia's most powerful man. Although Okonkwo is the most powerful man in Umuofia he also has weaknesses. One of those weaknesses is his father, he doesn’t wanna be a weak man and careless like his father. As the white missionaries moved in into their home land, the Igbo people who are unsure of how to react to these traditions either switched to their ways or stayed faithful to their faith. Many people became persuaded of the new religions authorities, however Okonkwo who is an warrior at heart refuses to accept the changes that were taking place in his community.
The description given early in the novel clearly establishes his character as being a strong and wealthy man who is well respected among the rest of the tribe due to his superior fighting abilities and his influential personality. Having achieved such elite status within the Umuofia clan, Okonkwo appears to be old-fashioned as it is seen in his approach in raising his family and tribal people. However, Okonkwo’s character changes incrementally with the emergence of a boy, Ikemefuna, from a neighboring village, who was brought to him because of his brutal attack against his wife Ojiugo during the ‘week of peace’. Amongst the Umuofia clan, the ‘week of peace’ is a tribal ritual whose conditions are not to complete any evil sins in a certain week span. After having accepted Ikemefuna into the family, Okonkwo experiences a shift in his mental state. Shortly hereafter, he questions this change, which demonstrates his lack of willingness to change which is clearly demonstrated in the book in several different ways like in chapter Eight, Okonkwo proclaims to himself, “When did you become a shivering old woman, you, who are known in all nine villages for your valour in war” (Achebe 56). This represents that his character has become a weaker, less influential individual amongst the nine tribes where he is well known. Symbolically, this depicts a fragile reputation in Okonkwo’s status within the community to which he belongs.
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 asked himself, 'you, who are known in all the nine villages for your valor in war? How can a man who has killed five men in battle fall to pieces because he has added a boy to their number? Okonkwo, you have become a woman indeed.'" (Achebe 65). He continued to roll downhill when the white man comes to try and convert Okonkwo’s tribe. Okonkwo responds by killing one of the messengers that were sent. This cause Okonkwo's own tribe to question his actions. “"Okonkwo stood looking at the dead man. He knew that Umuofia would not go to war. He knew because they had let the other messengers escape.
The disparity between Okonkwo’s true motivations and his warped motivations lead Okonkwo to behave in ways which shocked other members of Umuofia with his apparent disregard for others, but which made sense to him as he saw weakness and Unoka in alternatives. When Ezeudu, a respected elder in Umuofia, informed Okonkwo that the village Oracle called for the killing of Okonkwo’s adopted son Ikemefuna, he asked Okonkwo not to take part. However, Okonkwo not only accompanied them,
He is impulsive. He acts before he thinks. He often offends the igbo peoploe and their traditions as well as the gods of his clan. When the white man brought Christianity to Umuofia, Okonkwo felt that the changes are ruining the Igbo culture. This is his tragic flaw, the inability to accept change. For him, hard work and effort were the true way of living and if you didn’t have any of those you were not worthy for his acknowledgement.
After a village elder had found what crime Okonkwo committed, he told Okonkwo that, “you are not a stranger in Umuofia. You know as well as I that our forefathers ordained that before we plant any crops in the earth, we should observe a week of peace in which a man does not say a harsh word to his neighbor” (30). The elder proceeded to give Okonkwo instructions on how to attempt amends with the goddess. After a single action was taken, his proceeding efforts were nearly non-existent. Any attempt to fix the situation were minimal, as were efforts to learn from his mistakes. Furthermore, Okonkwo advances to partaking in the death of Ikemefuna. The relationship between the two is complicated, but is closest description is that of a boy and his step-father. Killing Ikemefuna is not an evil against the earth, as beating a wife during the week of peace was, but a crime against himself. He is unhappy with himself, and still does nothing to fix his ways, continuing on to single handedly killing a boy at a funeral. Although accidental, Okonkwo was still the man behind the gun. “It was a crime against the earth goddess to kill a clansman, and a man who committed it must flee from the land….he could return to the clan after seven years” (124). Okonkwo had no choice but to leave for the seven years, perhaps upon his return
One key point in this novel was when Nwoye converted to the missionaries. Okonkwo was devastated and it was clearly shown by his actions. “Why, he cried in his heart, should he, Okonkwo, of all people, be cursed with such a son. He saw clearly in it the finger of his personal god or chi. For how else could he explain his great misfortune and exile and now his despicable son’s behavior? Now that he had time to think of it, his son’s crime stood out in its stark enormity. To abandon the gods of one’s father and go about with a lot of effeminate men clucking like old hens was the very depth of abomination. Suppose when he died all his male children decided to follow Nwoye’s steps and abandon their ancestors? Okonkwo felt a cold shudder run through him at the terrible prospect, like the prospect of annihilation.” Okonkwo and his son Nwoye also symbolize tradition and change, respectively. Okonkwo's character represents tradition, since he holds conventional ideas of rank, reputation, and masculinity in high esteem. As the book progresses, however, Okonkwo begins to fall out of favor with the clans, and his descent signals the crumbling of traditional Umuofia society. His adherence to tradition also drives him to kill his own surrogate son, Ikemefuna, driving away Nwoye in the process. Seeing his own son switch and disobey the tradition, hurt Okonkwo. It stripped a piece away from him
In a time of need, Okonkwo decides to improve his exterior image, instead of being the true father that Ikemefuna thought he was. A true father would have put his son before anything else and would have tried to keep Ikemefuna out of such a fatal situation. Lastly, Achebe states, “Obierika, who had been gazing steadily at his friend’s dangling body, turned suddenly to the District Commisioner and said ferociously: ‘That man was one of the greatest men in Umuofia. You drove him to kill himself’” (208). Okonkwo knows his clan won’t go to war and he does not want to continue to be a part of such a weak clan. Though his life’s purpose was to be nothing like his father, he is viewed as even weaker than Unoka. Since, suicide is “an abomination for a man to take his own life” (207). Through Okonkwo’s actions, the theme is clearly highlighted.
His tragic downfall truly begins when his is sent away because of an accidental murder of a boy. Okonkwo and his family are exiled from the tribe for seven years and Okonkwo is stripped of the fruits of his hard work. While he is away the white missionaries move into the village. They preach against the culture and its violent ways, causing Okonkwo to become saturated with rage. Seven years later, Okonkwo is able to return. He plans to reestablish himself and his position with the help of his family. However, Umofia is not as it once was. The white men have moved in and dismantled the tribe with their laws and government. Okonkwo wishes to fight, but the clan does not agree with his suggestion. After realizing the fate of the village, Okonkwo chooses to take his life. He would rather die than watch everything he had worked for fall apart because of weak people. His tragic flaw, a fear of weakness, is so strong it destroyed him.
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.