LiteraryAnalysis: Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe
ChinuaAchebe writes the novel, Things Fall Apart, about a Nigerian mancalled Okonkwo in the Igbo community. Okonkwo is a renowned, powerfuland influential leader in the nine villages in the Igbo tribe. He isa fighter and a wrestler as well. Okonkwo is also a hard workingfarmer. His crops yield well thus making him a role model in thecommunity. Everyone wants to work as hard as Okonkwo. Because of hishandwork, he attains the position as an Umuofia. These wererespectable leaders in the land of Igbo. His wives and children are asource of pride and respect to Okonkwo, though he is not alwayspleased with them. Having a large family means that the father can beable to support all the family members’ therefore making people torespect him. Okonkwo has many characters that can be seen as weaknessor strengths. There is also a conflict between the traditionalsociety of Umuofia and the Christian Missionaries.
Accordingto Aristotle Poetics, a tragic hero is defined as a man with a goodreputation and high social status but parades a tragic flaw andundergoes an experience of melodramatic hitch and powerful moment ofgratitude. In Chinua Achebe’s novel, Things fall apart. Okwonko isfeatured as a tragic hero. He is a renowned leader in the Igbocommunity, and is one of the hardest working men. His tragic flawincludes great dread of feebleness and failure. Unfortunately,Okwonko falls from grace and commits suicide. As such, he fitsAristotle’s explanation of tragic hero. Okonkwo has many weaknessesthan his strengths.
Atragic hero is a person who has great qualities and a high status inthe society, who endures a setback of affluence owing to majorcharacter mistakes. In the novel Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebeportrays Okonkwo, the main protagonist as a tragic hero. Like manytragic heroes in other works of literature, he also faces a terribleend through suicide. Regardless of the superior and highly regardedsocial position in Igbo community, Okonkwo’s Tragic flaws, fear ofletdown and anger bring about his downfall. Okonkwo is among theprominent people in the tribe of Igbo. “Okonkwo is well knownthroughout the nine villages and far beyond… he had brought honorto his village by throwing the cat (Achebe 5)”. From the context,we understand that power is accomplished by being famous andcelebrated through fighting and wrestling.
Okonkwodreads failure, and this is one of the major flaws. In the novel, wesee his father as a contributing factor to this. His father, Unoka isa slothful and calm man. The wife and children barely ate enough foodbecause he was a loafer. Okonkwo is ashamed of Unoka and does notwant to become like him. He fears to be labeled as feeble, thereforedespising anything that looked like Unoka or anything that Unokafound as fun and fulfilling. Okonkwo goes ahead to strike his childkilling him for calling him father. It is seen as a sign of frightwhich is also the weakness. He drew a machete cutting the child down(Achebe 20). The act of killing demonstrates that Okonkwo valuesreputation more than the life of the poor innocent child, it alsoshows the fear of weakness which later leads to his downfall where hedoes not give up the battle with the Christians for fear of beingseen as a weakling. Okonkwo is selfish in showing affection to thefamily. He lives in isolation portraying stubbornness and irrationalbehavior. As the man of the house, he makes the familyworklengthy hours irrespective of their age or physical strength. Hebeats his wives and son Nwoye who he feels resembles Unoka. Okonkwois also imprudent. He acts without thinking or consideration and inmost occasions ends up offending the Igbo people and their customsalong with the gods. He participates in the murder of Ikemefuna so asnot to be seen as weak
Okonkwoalso portrays having anger management issues. The flaw of anger stopshim from achieving greatness which at one point destroys his life. Hemakes his son Nwoye flee from home disowning him and the family. As away of getting back to his father, the son joins their enemies. Noyesgets mad because Okonkwo punishes him heavily for overhearing aconversation that Ikemefuna was to be taken back. Okonkwo’sinability to manage his anger causes him to have a great hatred tothe Christian missionaries resulting to him killing one. “Okonkwo’smachete descendent twice, and the man’s head lay beside hisuniformed body (Achebe, 50). He is inflexible and feels that adaptingto the white man’s rule will lead to the collapse of the Igbotradition. It is one of the cases that led the gods to be angry withhim, therefore, contributing to his downfall at the end. Though theact can be justified, he still has problems managing his highemotions and thinking rationally while he is angry. His clansmenabandon him because of this murder which makes him realize that he isdefeated therefore committing suicide, a disgraceful and shamefuldeath.
Okonkwo’sdeath eventually concludes the life of a tragic hero. The constantfear of failure and his sudden anger made him go actions that couldnot be reversed. Although he is respectable and maintains a highsocial status in the Igbo community, he cannot amend his tragic flawsresulting to his terrible downfall
Achebe,Chinua. ThingsFall Apart.New York: Anchor Books, 1994.