Igbo Culture In The Odyssey

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As Obierika explains, “The white man is very clever...he has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart” (176). Achebe’s in-depth story exhibits all aspects of Igbo culture and examines the way a culture can transform as the world progresses around it. Throughout the novel, readers sense the shift in the characters’ attitudes and beliefs towards once-vital traditions. The bold protagonist, Okonkwo, represents the culture, and as pressures to change appear from the outside world, he comes apart at the seams. In Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo, reminiscent of other literary characters, embodies the Igbo way of life and possesses traits that reflect his cultural values. In Igbo culture, the ideal man works hard, overcomes…show more content…
First of all, Okonkwo’s strength and control render him as a model Umuofian man. Achebe mentions, “Okonkwo ruled his household with a heavy hand” (13). Though Okonkwo’s family fears him, he possesses the qualities of the ideal Igbo man. Similarly, Odysseus’ strength demonstrates the value of Agathos, and his peers see him as a respectable, Greek man. Furthermore, Odysseus’ masculinity demonstrates the custom of disregarding everyone but all-powerful male characters. Upon his return to the barely recognizable Umuofia, Okonkwo thinks, “The warlike men of Umuofia...had so unaccountably become soft like women” (183). The members of the village of Umuofia widely respect Okonkwo, for male dominance does not seem out of the ordinary to them. Likewise, Odysseus treats women unfairly, yet does not receive any criticism. In addition, Achebe narrates, “He was still young but he had won fame as the greatest wrestler in the nine villages” (8). Because of Okonkwo’s determination to prove himself as a great man, he prospers. Odysseus’ journey allows him to win fame for himself as well. In summary, just as Greek culture sees Odysseus as the ideal man, the Igbo people view Okonkwo as the essence of their culture due to his strength and masculine…show more content…
His suicide at the end of the story seems fitting, for once the culture loses its unique way of life, he has nothing left to live for. Throughout his life, Okonkwo possesses a steady fear of failure. Toward the beginning of the story, Achebe says, “Okonkwo’s fear was greater than these. It was not external but lay deep within himself” (13). Internal forces constantly chip away at Okonkwo’s sanity, threatening to destroy him. When the white men arrive at Umuofia, he believes that he must go down with a fight to prove the contrast between his father and him. As the story progresses, many people of the Igbo culture begin to question their religious beliefs in the face of Christianity, and Okonkwo’s certainty in the strength of the culture falters. One Igbo man declares, “It is an abomination for a man to take his own life” (207). Ironically, Okonkwo’s suicide parallels other cultural shifts in this time period; what once was forbidden becomes accepted with the arrival of colonists. As it turns out, Okonkwo’s beliefs, or his inflexible beliefs, represent a poor fit for a culture that slowly becomes comfortable with a more malleable belief system. At the end of the novel, Obierika expresses his anger and disgust at the white men. Through choked sobs, Obierika manages to say, “That man was one of the greatest men in Umuofia. You drove him
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