Every main character in any story always has their flaws and Okonkwo perfectly demonstrates that. The main character in the book Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe, is a man named Okonkwo. The story tracks his and his family’s lives as they live prospering in their village. Although he was born into a poor family with an idle father, Okonkwo’s determination and hard work led him up the social ladder to be one of the most successful people in his village. His actions reveal him to be a very rough and often violent person.
Generally, a tragic hero is born into royalty and has already attained the noble status. However, Okonkwo was born into a poor family, and according to Okonkwo his father was “weak and feminine”. Regardless his father’s failures Okonkwo acquires respect in the Igbo society by defeating a great wrestler: As a young man of eighteen he had brought honor to his village by throwing Amalinze the Cat. (1) Okonkwo furthermore spends his hours toiling away in an attempt to earn his way up in the patriarchal society.
The novel “things fall apart” is about the fatal demise of Okonkwo and the igbo culture of Umuofia. Okonkwo is well known and respected leader in his community, who is successful in everything he does, such as wrestling and farming. He is quick with his hands and takes pride in his accomplishments. Okonkwo’s family relationship makes him a sympathetic character because of his support and an unsympathetic character because of his cruelty. In many ways Okonkwo showed that he had no sympathy for others , However at times he could be sympathetic.
Among those of the same culture, individuals who are adaptive and open-minded can be successful when there is cultural collision. When the Igbo and European cultures collide, Okonkwo gradually spirals out of control, losing everything he values and his own sense of self. From the beginning of the novel, Achebe depicts Okonkwo as a virile warrior and a successful farmer within the Igbo tribe. Reacting with violence to anything he considers “womanly” or “weak”, “He was a man of action and man of war” (10). Because of his reputation as a warrior he is highly respected by his community.
In “Things Fall Apart” Achebe gives background information on Okonkwo saying “He was a wealthy farmer and had two barns full of yams, and had just married his third wife.” (5). This quotation from chapter one demonstrates that Okonkwo’s nobility of prosperity is revealed by his success’ from his early years and forward. The villagers within Okonkwo’s clan love and honor him for his personal achievements, and he
Masculinity refers to the qualities, personality traits and roles that are associated with the male gender. In the 21st century, there has been a movement, a drive in the more socially aware sections of the world to equalize or balance out masculinity and femininity. Feminism or, at least the main stream feminism aims to find equality for the females in social, political and economical fields. Even today, as we work forward to find a middle ground for the two genders, masculinity is seen as the superior quality that only men are privileged to have. Hence, main stream feminism is so focused on emancipating women by encouraging them to let go of the ‘weaker’ feminine qualities and roles and fit themselves in a Man’s world by embracing masculinity
Fear is the core cause of the dramatic shift of lifestyle for both Okonkwo and Nwoye. Through the management of reputation and the avoidance of their father’s likeness, Okonkwo and Nwoye built new lives for themselves. Okonkwo sought power and authority to prove his masculinity and make up for Unoka’s reputation as a weak man. He did this to the point where manliness became his character. Fearlessness and violence were masculine qualities that in Igbo culture signifies strength and influence.
His fear of weakness and failure is derived from his father, Unoka’s failures, which ignite Okonkwo’s misogynistic views. Throughout his lifetime, Okonkwo associates femininity with weakness because of Unoka, who was called an “agbala” or woman by the people of Umuofia. Since women have this reputation for weakness, Okonkwo lives with constant fear that he will be given the same title as his father. Okonkwo’s first son, Nwoye’s effeminacy reminds Okonkwo of his own father. He says, "I have done my best to make Nwoye grow into a man, but there is much of his mother in him ."(Achebe, 66).
First, gender roles in a society have a huge cause and effect that affects the people in the society, in the novel things fall apart these roles greatly affect family life. An example of this is how Okonkwo, the main protagonist in things fall apart, leads his family. Okonkwo is very strict and expects his wives and children to obey his every command, this caused his young wives and children to be scared of him. “Okonkwo ruled his household with a heavy hand. His wives, especially the youngest, lived in perpetual fear of his fiery temper, and so did his little children”(13). The way the gender roles in his society were set up was the women had to always obey the men. This causes Okonkwo to be strict so he can manage his household. But the effect
Okonkwo’s aggressive ways caused Nwoye to rely on Ikemefuna, A boy given to Okonkwo by a neighboring village, as an older brother who teaches him a more gentle form of masculinity. The bond between Nwoye and Ikemefuna was stronger than the bond between Nwoye and Okonkwo ever was because of Okonkwo’s refusal to demonstrate affection towards his son as it could make him appear weak. However, because of the death of Ikemefuna, Nwoye fears having to return to the harsh values of his father. Okonkwo’s stubborn ideas of masculinity ruined his relationship with his son beyond repair. Okonkwo’s refusal to show emotion towards his family pushed them apart which shows that Okonkwo is not willing to give up his stern values and reputation to be emotionally committed to his family.
Similarly, Okonkwo’s misogyny is exceedingly apparent and eventually Okonkwo’s masculinity becomes a defensive resource, therefore, his adherence to a masculine philosophy will order his world (Osei-Nyame 3). Okonkwo’s character development is not a long path to a life-changing, mentality-transforming moment, but instead he essentially lacks character
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.
Chinua Achebe’s 1958 literary classic, Things Fall Apart (Achebe, 1958), is renowned for its authentic account of the black African experience. Set in post-colonial Nigeria, the fictional novel discusses the cultural roots of the Igbos and follows the life of the tragic hero, Okonkwo. This acclaimed novel deals with strong patriarchal ideals of masculinity within the Igbo culture and how Okonkwo is a direct manifestation of this. Achebe depicts the relationship between masculinity and both male and female characters, and how this, in turn, has an effect on Okonkwo’s relationships. The strongest relationship in the novel is between father (Okonkwo) and daughter (Ezinma); their bond is strong because Ezinma is everything Okonkwo would want in a son. This affects and can also be seen as a reflection of Okonkwo’s other relationships between male characters, namely Unoka, Nwoye, and Ikemefuna. This essay will discuss how Achebe portrays masculinity in Things Fall Apart (Achebe, 1958), how the hyper-masculinized character, Okonkwo, receives and interacts with certain characters. I will also discuss how Okonkwo’s ridged patriarchal ideals of virility are counterintuitive with his actions and intentions of ensuring a masculine household.
Okonkwo and Ezinma, an unexpressed love. In his novel, ‘Things Fall Apart’, Achebe presents to the reader, a story based around the village of Umuofia. Through his narration which is close to an oral tradition, we discover the culture and commodities of that village as well as of some surrounding villages. Superstitions, festivals and traditions, everything is vividly described.
Throughout the book Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, there are many references to the protagonist’s necessity to be recognized for his masculinity. Okonkwo, the protagonist, despises his father for his unsuccessfulness, and Okonkwo is motivated to become a prosperous man. His fear of being weak determines his actions in difficult situations, which causes an internal conflict. Eventually, this fear overwhelms Okonkwo, and he commits suicide. Okonkwo’s desire to be masculine in opposition to his father creates an internal conflict established in his fear of being thought weak, which ultimately leads to his death.