The Character of Okonkwo in Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart

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The Character of Okonkwo in Things Fall Apart

What makes a successful man? This, in itself, is a culture bound

question because it can vary from culture to culture. However, in the

perception of Okonkwo, the main character in Chinua Achebe's novel, Things Fall

Apart, the measure of a man's success is based on two elements, material

acquisition and growth, and physical prowess. This is ironic for Okonkwo since

his people's typical idea of success seems to be constructed of a complex,

strong spiritual culture, seemingly able to deal in traditional ways with any

challenge in nature and human experience. (Ravenscroft 9) Although Okonkwo is

undoubtedly an important member of Umuofian society,
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It is important to establish these facts because it

exemplifies Okonkwo's journey, and ultimately that of the Ibo people (as Achebe

intended), as tragic in nature.

As stated earlier, Okonkwo was obsessed with success. This manifested

itself in many materialistic ways. First, he started out with nothing since he

inherited nothing from his debt ridden father. He was forced to borrow seeds

from a wealthy man. This was something he hated doing, but realized it was the

only way to begin to become the man he wanted to be. "I began to fend for

myself at an age when most people still suck at their mothers' breasts. If you

give me some yam seeds I shall not fail you." (Achebe 16) Here we can see that

Okonkwo started adulthood, in fact supporting his family, at a very early age.

He began to cultivate his farm before many of the other townspeople. This

unfortunately lead to disaster the first year since the rains came early and

much of his crop was