In the novel, Things Fall Apart, written by Chinua Achebe, Okonkwo is a sympathetic character and unsympathetic character in regards to his family relationships with his adopted son, Ikemefuna, his daughter, Ezima, and his father, Unoka, as a result of he appears to genuinely care about his family; but, the pride within himself prevents his expression of such pride and concern openly. The protagonist, Okonkwo demonstrates his sympathetic character solely to himself, personally, and infrequently not in the eyes of others. During the plotting of Ilemefuna’s death, Okonkwo was hesitant to make the boy aware of his fate and also hesitant to take part in his death. “‘I cannot understand why you refused to come with us to kill that boy,’ he …show more content…
Okonkwo also tries to show himself as an unsympathetic character to show that he is not a weak man, like his father, Unoka. (Being a weak man is a very degrading quality for the culture of Umofia.) An example of Okonkwo’s unsympathetic personality is Ikemefuna’s death. Although Okonkwo treasured the presence of the adopted buy, Ikemefuna, Okonkwo contributes the last and fatal blow to Ikemefuna, causing him to die in the Evil Forest. Okonkwo, regardless of his love for the boy, killed Ikemefuna ultimately to prove his manliness and strength to the tribe, a valued aspect of the culture. “Okonkwo’s machete descended twice and the man’s head lay beside his uniformed body.” (Achebe 146) Okonkwo is also very unsympathetic in regards to his father, Unoka. Unoka was a poor man who was always in debt; he had an interest in music and enjoyed talking. “He [Unoka] was very good on his flute, and his happiest moments were the two or three moons after the harvest when the village musicians brought down their instruments, hung about the fire place. Unoka would play with them, his face beaming with blessedness and peace.”… “Unoka loved the good fare and good fellowship…”(Achebe 5) In order to not become like his father, Okonkwo consciously strives to be prosperous, violent, resourceful, unable to show “soft” emotion, and denies music orientation. “And no Okonkwo was ruled by one passion—to hate everything that his
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
Okonkwo's fear of being perceived as weak tragically leads to him to be unnecessarily violent and excessively prideful. These two fatal flaws lead to Okonkwo’s own emotional isolation, and his inevitable downfall. Driven by the fear of being seen as weak and emasculated, Okonkwo exhibits hyper masculinity and rage. Although this behavior initially leads to success in the patriarchal society of Umofia, rage is his greatest bane: it masks his compassion and pusillanimity. Onkonkwo’s obsession to never appear feminine is driven to the extreme. He denies affection even to his own family, “never show[ing] any emotion openly, unless it be the emotion of anger. To [Okonkwo] show[ing] affection was a sign of weakness; the only thing worth demonstrating was strength.” (pg. 28). Okonkwo whose “whole life [is] dominated by fear, the fear of failure and of weakness.” (pg. 13) suppress his compassion in order to appear important and manly. Ironically this creates a stark juxtaposition between his own fear and his position as an alpha male. Rather than being masculine and courageous, Okonkwo just creates tension within his family and within himself. The pinnacle of this extreme hypermasculinity is when Okonkwo ignores the wisdom of the elder Ezeudu, and violently kills his “son” Ikamafuna: “As the man who had cleared his throat drew up and raised his machete, Okonkwo looked away. He had heard Ikamafuna cry “My father, they have killed me!”
The character of Okonkwo in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart was driven by fear, a fear of change and losing his self-worth. He needed the village of Umuofia, his home, to remain untouched by time and progress because its system and structure were the measures by which he assigned worth and meaning in his own life. Okonkwo required this external order because of his childhood and a strained relationship with his father, which was also the root of his fears and subsequent drive for success. When the structure of Umuofia changed, as happens in society, Okonkwo was unable to adapt his methods of self-evaluation and ways of functioning in the world; the life he was determined to live could not survive a new environment and collapsed around
Unoka is Okonkwo’s father, he is a very lazy man and has amassed many debts. Okonkwo is very ashamed of Unoka and seems to hate him very much. Achebe states
“…His [Okonkwo’s] whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and of weakness…It was the fear of himself, lest he should be found to resemble his father” (13).
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.
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.
When Ikemefuna came to Umuofia, Okonkwo “became very fond of the boy- inwardly of course… He therefore treated Ikemefuna as he treated everybody else- with the heavy hand. But there was no doubt that he liked the boy” (24). This establishes that Okonkwo loves Ikemefuna but because he wants to look strong and demonstrate power he shows little to no emotion of love towards him. Correspondingly, when Ikemefuna is facing his death, he runs to Okonkwo asking for help. As this happens Okonkwo, acting on impulse, slays Ikemefuna with his machete. Okonkwo try’s to act like he does not have affection for Ikemefuna, but the reader sees the reality when, after Ikemefuna’s death, “Okonkwo did not taste any food for two days…He drank palm-wine from morning till night…[and] did not sleep at night” (55). In other words, Okonkwo is mourning over the loss of Ikemefuna and. Though this is the case a close reader might see that Okonkwo’s impulse of killing Ikemefuna was because he wanted to seem strong but the evidence shows the reality of his emotion. One might conclude that Okonkwo can be loving and compassionate, but because of his need to look masculine his relationship with Ikemefuna is
In Things Fall Apart Okonkwo’s Dad, Unoka, “In his day was lazy and improvident and was quite incapable of thinking about tomorrow”. “Unoka, the grown-up, was a failure”, and Okonkwo wanted no part of him, for, “He (Okonkwo) had no patience with his father”. Unoka’s laziness and improvidence had an effect on many others. For example, Okonkwo lived in fear of resembling his father, so he took the extra step to live a very “honorable” life. Furthermore, when trying to live his “honorable” life, Okonkwo would affect the lives of many others. For example Okonkwo was a father, and he had no idea how to be a good father because his father, Unoka, wasn’t a good father. In turn “Okonkwo ruled his household with a heavy hand.” His youngest wife and his kids, especially, lived in fear. Okonkwo trying his best to show that he wasn’t weak, like his father, and ended up murdering Ikemefuna, a young boy that was like a son to him and like a brother to his son, Nwoye. Later in
Chinua Achebe unfolds a variety of interesting connections between characters in the Novel Things Fall Apart. Relationships with parents, children and inner self are faced differently, however the attitude that Okonkwo gave them determined what kind of outcome he generated from these relations. Okonkwo looks at everything through his violent and manly perspective and is afraid to show his real feelings because he thinks that he may be thought out as weak and feminine this paranoid attitude lead him to self-destruction.
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
One of the main causes of Okonkwo’s downfall is his fear of being like his father, who was weak and considered a failure. Okonkwo is told that Ikemefuna,
Okonkwo, as presented by Chinua Achebe in the novel Things Fall Apart, wished to be revered by all as a man of great wealth, power and control--the antithesis of his father. Okonkwo was driven by the need to exhibit utmost control over himself and others; he was an obsessive and insecure man.