Okonkwo's Tragic Flaws in Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart Essay

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An increasing amount of contemporary literature traces its origins back to the early works of Greece. For ages, humans have fascinated themselves with the impossible notion of perfection. Unrealistic expectations placed on those who were thought to be the noblest or most honorable individuals have repeatedly led to disappointment and frustration, either on the part of those particular individuals or those they influence. Classic characters, like Odysseus and Oedipus for instance, exemplify the excess of some positive character trait, like pride or honesty, which ironically leads to their personal misfortune.

Throughout literary history, particularly within Grecian writings and apparently still evident in today's international
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Dr. Peter Smith identifies the characteristic of an archetypal tragic hero as having noble stature, a tragic flaw, free choice, and increased awareness (Smith 1). He maintains the theory that in order for a character to "fall" he or she must come from an original position of power and prestige. The tragic figure "falls" as a result of a personality flaw. While fate does in deed lend a hand in events surrounding a tragic hero, there must be some element of free choice available to the character. According to Smith, "the tragic hero falls because he chooses one course of action over another" (1). The hero must understand through increased awareness what went wrong before "he comes to his end." Additionally, in the case of a tragic figure, the punishment must exceed the crime. This is the injustice that evokes a kind of "catharsis" in the audience.

In Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo's greatest fears lay in the anger he holds for his father. His father, Unoka, is a man estranged from the tribe. Okonkwo hates him for his laziness and typically female traits. To Okonkwo's further frustration, Unoka is refered to as "agbala," meaning the weakest form of a man, one who has no property or one who resembles the weakness of a woman. Intense feelings for his father motivate Okonkwo to achieve a better life for himself and his family. He strives to avoid becoming anything like the man whom he despises and never forgives Unoka for

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