The Oxford dictionary defines “great” as being “of an extent, amount, or intensity considerably above average.” After reading Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, I cannot confidently state that Okonkwo is considerably above average. However, being great isn’t such a black and white matter. There is plenty of grey area, and one does not have to be flawless to be great. Unfortunately, Okonkwo’s best traits do not outnumber his worst ones. Okonkwo is rash and in no way understanding to those in his family or in the village. At his worst, he is so frigid in his Ibo people’s customs and afraid of looking weak that he physically harms people. Okonkwo also has no respect for anyone’s individuality and cannot accept change. Subsequently, by this …show more content…
Okonkwo invites him to eat with him in the hut and is proud of his manly demeanor. The Oracle however declares that the boy must be killed and Okonkwo makes it his job to carry this task out. Okonkwo betrays his adopted son by cutting him with a machete from behind, and his reasoning was that “He was afraid of being thought weak” (Achebe 61). Ikemefuna had called this man his father and yet Okonkwo killed him. Okonkwo killed his young adopted son to maintain his status among the Ibo people. Okonkwo does shows seem saddened by his death and the Achebe says, “now and then a cold shiver descended on his head and spread down his body” (Achebe 63). This sign of his remorse to me however cannot outweigh his cruel action. Okonkwo’s most trusted friend even says in response to this murderous action that, “What you have done will not please the Earth. It is the kind of action for which the goddess wipes out whole families” (Achebe 67). I cannot define a man as great after he killed his son; I can more readily describe this man as a traitor. Okonkwo has set views on what a boy should act like. In his mind a man should be strong, a fighter, and fearless; this description of Okonkwo’s version of a man is everything his son is not. Nwoye is affectionate, creative, emotional, and likes women’s stories. Okonkwo considers Nwoye’s strengths to be weaknesses saying, “to show affection was a sign of weakness; the only thing worth demonstrating was
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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
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
9. “Okonkwo’s first son, Nwoye, was then twelve years old but was already causing his father great anxiety for his incipient laziness. At any rate, that was how it looked to his father, and he sought to correct him by constant nagging and beating. And so Nwoye was developing into a sad-faced youth.”
Okonkwo’s oldest son, Nwoye, has to achieve high expectations, to be just like his father. If he falls short of Okonkwo’s near perfection, he will face consequence usually in the form of physical harm. Okonkwo wants Nwoye to be strong, powerful, independent, and hard-working. He must be like is father, and not like his grandfather, Unoka, or his mother. Unoka was an absolute failure in Okonkwo’s eyes, and a terrible father, who did nothing to help the family. Okonkwo is a man and wants his son to be a man too, not womanly like his mother. Okonkwo wanted “his son to be a great farmer and a great man” (33). Okonkwo is “worried about Nwoye....my children do not resemble me...too much of his mother in him” (66). Okonkwo knows that Nwoye resembles more of his mother than him, but also knows that he resembles Unoka too. Both fathers want their sons to be just like them, but do little to ask what they want in life, and neither father will budge on what they want for their sons.
After Nwoye’s childhood, he discovers the trouble he has with pleasing his father, and Okonkwo always contradicts Nwoye about not having the same or even more status as Okonkwo had when he was his age. Nwoye will never be the “great farmer and great man” Okonkwo wants him to be, during society at this time, opportunity to achieve success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative was very admirable (33). With the type of negative feedback, Nwoye receives from his father saying that he will amount to nothing, shows how Nwoye develops insecurity with his identity as an Ibo citizen. Contradictingly, Okonkwo is very pleased and rather arrogant with his status in matter of the village. He is already one of the “greatest” men of his time starting from his youth when in Ibo culture age was respected. The setting of Nigeria plays a major role in the identity of Nwoye and Okonkwo seeing that prosperity for men at that time is having wealth and potent personality. Okonkwo was obviously successful in terms of riches; he owned a huge barn full with yams, the king of all crops, and has three wives. During this time Okonkwo lives a lush life and could not have been more proud of who he is identified as. Having the drive to accomplish significance in life, Okonkwo’s achievements were admired by most people in the village, showing “if a
Okonkwo showed great interest in Ikemefuna and treated him like his son. However, Ikemefuna was boy from another village sacrificed to keep peace, thus soon there came a time when Ikemefuna had to die. The narrator shows that Okonkwo kills Ikemefuna, The pot fell and broke in the sand. He heard Ikemefuna cry, My father, they have killed me! as he ran towards him. Dazed with fear, Okonkwo drew his machete and cut him down. He was afraid of being thought weak. (Chapter 7 Pg. 61) Although Okonkwo loved Ikemefuna and had much affection for him, Okonkwo was forced to leave all of his emotions behind in order to kill Ikemefuna and not be seen as a weak man who could not kill another man. Okonkwo showed no mercy as he was blinded by his fear of his fathers submissive attitude. Oknokwo had to protect his status as a true warrior in his clan and if he was not able to slay Ikemefuna, then Okonkwo fears that he might be called an agbala just like Unoka, Okonkwos father. This quote also shows that Oknokwo is willing to sacrifice virtually everything in order to keep his high rank among his tribe.
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
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.
He believed that his father’s actions were feminine and therefore worked hard to become a warrior. Along with not wanting to appear feminine, Okonkwo does not think his actions through. When Ikemefuna was brought into Okonkwo’s family, he accepted him and the two became very close. But after three years Ikemefuna was sentenced to death and Okonkwo was sent out with him. As the man raised up his machete Ikemefuna run to Okonkwo, “My father, they have killed me!” as he ran towards him. Dazed with fear, Okonkwo drew his machete and cut him down. He was afraid of being thought weak”(Achebe 61). In this split second Okonkwo lets his emotions and fears of appearing weak win and did not allow himself time to think. Achebe utilizes Okonkwo to display the principle of cause and effect. Okonkwo is very proactive and does things on a whim. By doing so he makes hasty decisions that will be regretted in the long run. Okonkwo’s suicide was caused by a hasty decision and the responses of the tribesman. “He heard voices asking: “Why did he do it?”(Achebe
Okonkwo considers Nwoke to be weak, lazy and is more feminine than masculine. He feared that Nwoke will turn out to be like Unoka so, “he sought to correct him by constant nagging and beating” (11). Achebe shows that Okonkwo wants his son to be strong and fierce like him, but when this was not the case he feels that harming Nwoke will teach him. Though instead of the punishment helping Nwoke become manly, it had a negative effect on Nwoke leading him to fear and resents his father. In addition, the small relationship they had was completely broken when Nwoke finds an interest for the Christian religion. When Okonkwo hears that Nwoke is among the Christians, he gets furious and disowns his son because he does not want Nwoke to join the church . Likewise, when Obierika ask Nwoke how his father is he answers saying, “I don’t know. He is not my father” (124). This shows that instead of working out their different opinions they fought and in the end tore their relationship apart. One can not miss the reality that if Okonkwo was kind and not hurtful towards Nwoke tun he would have stayed with the Ibo culture. If this was the cause then the father and son would have had a better relationship. In the end the reader can conclude that Nwoke and Okonkwo’s relationship failed because of the actions and feelings they had for each
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.
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
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).
Ikemefuna, a boy given to Okonkwo by a neighboring tribe, became very close to Okonkwo's son. Okonkwo too becomes very fond of Ikemefuna, who calls him “father” and is a perfect clansman, but Okonkwo does not demonstrate his affection because he fears that doing so would make him look weak. One day Ikemefuna was ordered to be killed and okonkwo and another man the boy out and the man started killing Ikemefuna: “He heard Ikemefuna cry, "My father, they have killed me!" as he ran towards him. Dazed with fear, Okonkwo drew his machete and cut him down. He was afraid of being thought weak” (pg 61). Okonkwo's personality not only leads him to suicide but even leads him to brutally murder a child that has been living with him. The words “cut him down” really describe how merciless Okonkwo was when it came to not being weak. One other thing that should be put in consideration is that Okonkwo was traveling with a random stranger and although he did not know him he still decided he did not want to look weak in front of him. This quote is linked with how Okonkwo fell because it shows how far he will push himself and with this level of dedication comes comes huge punishments if he fails. Okonkwo’s son Nwoye starts going to a christian church where he is taught by white men about christianity. Okonkwo is furious about this and discusses it with his family: "You have all seen the great abomination of your brother. Now he is no longer my son or your brother. I will only have a son who is a man, who will hold his head up among my people. If any one of you prefers to be a woman, let him follow Nwoye now while I am alive so that I can curse him. If you turn against me when I am dead I will visit you and break your neck” (pg 172) Okonkwo has no respect for his son’s decisions at all. He is so embarrassed that one of his own sons decided to learn a different religion apart from