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Indigenous Tragedy: A Conclusive Perception Of Chinua Achebe's Most Acclaimed Character

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Autor:   •  March 16, 2011  •  926 Words (4 Pages)  •  761 Views

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Indigenous Tragedy

“Men acquire a particular quality by constantly acting a particular way. You become just by performing just actions, temperate by performing temperate actions, and brave by performing brave actions.” -Aristotle.

In Chinua Achebe’s famous novel, Things Fall Apart, the protagonist, Okonkwo, is proof of Aristotle’s statement. Although he is conceivably the most dominant man in Umuofia, his personal faults, which are fear of failure and uncontrollable anger, do not allow him true greatness as a human being. There are many reasons as to why this is true. One major reason is, because of his many flaws, it causes Okonkwo to lose track of his path in life. Another reason is because he is portrayed as a negative character. These are just a few of the many reasons as to why Okonkwo is considered a tragic hero by many.

Okonkwo’s first and most distinctive flaw is his fear of failure. Many people would agree that this flaw is driven by the fear of becoming his father, but Okonkwo takes this fear too far. Okonkwo’s father, Unoka, was known for being a very lazy and carefree man. He also had notoriety of being “…poor and his wife and children had barely enough to eat.” (Achebe 5). A big tradition in Umuofia is having a father who is supposed to teach his children right and wrong. In Okonkwo’s case, these lessons had to be self-taught. Okonkwo had to commit to his own understandings of what defined a “good man” and to him that was the exact opposite of his father. Because of his fear to be seen as weak, Okonkwo even murders a child that calls him father. Ikemefuna was sent to live with Okonkwo because someone was murdered in a nearby village. An example of Okonkwo’s ill-hearted actions are shown in the following quote: “As the man drew up and raised his machete, Okonkwo looked away. He heard the blow. He heard Ikemefuna cry, вЂ?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). The fact that he kills Ikemefuna shows that his reputation is more important than the life of a child. Okonkwo’s fear permits him to receive more respect from his tribe, but only because it inclines him to do better than anyone else.

Another of Okonkwo’s greatest flaws is his uncontrollable anger. Readers of this novel would agree that this flaw keeps him away from true glory. Although his temper has helped him achieve many things in life, it has also hindered his life. Okonkwo is extremely rough on his son, Nwoye. For example, when Nwoye overheard his father speaking of the death of Ikemefuna, he “…burst into tears, whereupon his father beat him heavily.” (Achebe 57). Okonkwo tries hard to force his personal views of what it means to be a real man onto his son. To Okonkwo, crying is womanly, which is why Nwoye was punished. Because Okonkwo is unable to control his anger, it eventually drives his son away. This makes Nwoye want to join what Okonkwo wants to destroy.

Another great example of Okonkwo’s uncontrollable anger is when he beheads the messenger. “He confronted the head messenger…in a flash Okonkwo drew his machete. The messenger crouched to avoid the blow. It was useless. Okonkwo’s machete descended twice and the man’s head lay beside his uniformed body.”


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