In the novel Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo’s story is told so the reader can get an understanding of the cultural values in the African tribe, which take place in Igbo village of Umuofia, Nigeria. Okonkwo is the main character, who symbolizes the African culture and the European involvement. The focus of the novel is Okonkwo because he is ambitious and is trying to overcome the reputation his weak father left behind. In the following questions answered below, we can see how he handled people and situations when times got rough.
From the village scenes we can see how they affect the main protagonist. White missionaries arrive in Umuofia, build a Christian church and possibly come converts. The missionaries have left the villagers surprised, especially when they build a church in the Evil Forest. This has allowed the Christians to gain power and many of the villagers start to notice that their beliefs are not as powerful as they thought. This shows how the missionaries are influencing the villagers on many things, not only religious views. While the changes are happening, Okonkwo is completing his exile. He does not like any of the changes, especially when he finds out his son Nwoye has converted to Christianity. He disowns his son and starts to become violent. The setting changes appropriately as things begin to fall apart. Okonkwo does not like the Christians. As his exile comes to an end, he has not improved his impulsive behavior. He considered the village of Mbanta a womanly clan because of their conversion to Christianity. When he returns to his village, he finds out that the white men have created a government court of law in Umuofia. He thinks that by being violent it will change things back to how they were, but it’ll only anger the white men. The white missionaries took over without learning or listening to the village’s customs and traditions.
The Africans believed in many Gods, like the god of rain and earth. They focused mostly on nature. This is also seen in the Greek play, Oedipus the King and the Indian Epic, Ramayana. These stories believed in superhuman forces. However, the Christians only worshipped one god. These stories also contain an Oracle. An Oracle can foretell what the future will hold. In this novel, the Oracle tells Okonkwo that Ikemefuna must be killed. Okonkwo is advised to not take part in killing Ikemefuna, however he doesn’t listen. Oedipus the King, the Oracle at Delphi tells Laius that his son will kill him and his wife, so they leave their son with a messenger. Another aspect of the African’s lives was the kola nut and palm wine. They were a sign of respect and welcoming guests to your home, especially at ceremonies. There was also the Week of Peace that was celebrated before they would plant their crops. The Week of Peace was in honor of Ani, the earth goddess. During the Week of Peace, the villagers were to not be violent. People had to relax and enjoy their time drinking palm wine. If there was a dispute or violence, it was an insult to Ani. During the Weak of Peace, Okonkwo was punished due to the circumstances that had happened. He had beat one his wives and he was sent to complete an exile. This impacted his life and the villagers because things rapidly changed due to the white missionaries who arrived. Also, his son was becoming interested in the religion and customs of the white men.
Okonkwo can be considered a static character because he was violent at the beginning and end of the story. He was unable to change the way he handled things. His inability to change his behavior would consider him to be a static character. He was portrayed as a respected individual who was determined to not be like his father. Okonkwo was a clansman and they were the law makers of the village, which people had to obey. He became obsessed with the idea that he does not want to commit the same mistakes his father made. He wanted to show his village that he wasn’t poor, lazy and that he was better than his father. The relationship between Okonkwo and Unoka was not the best. In fact, I think there was no relationship. Unoka was a musician. He did not work. He was called a woman. As a result of his father’s laziness, Okonkwo did not respect his father. He was determined to show his strength and everything his father never was. This can be considered a flaw because it leads him to his exile and when he returns to his village, he is not able to adjust to the changes that were made while he was gone. His angry and cynical attitude did not allow him to build relationships in his life, especially with his children. The same thing that happened between his father and him, happened with his own son. He had no mercy and struck back whenever he felt he was being provoked or wanted to prove his point.
At the beginning of the novel, Okonkwo is confident, strong and fierce. Later, he begins to feel hopeless and depressed, which leads to his life ending. Ikemefuna became part of Okonkwo’s family for three years. He was everything Okonkwo wanted his son, Nwoye to be. The death of Ikemefuna affected him for a bit. However, his inner fire peaks out again. He decides that he shouldn’t be feeling unhappy because if it would’ve happened during a busier time, he would’ve been unbothered by the death. This shows how unsympathetic he is and how his behavior and emotions never changed for the better. Since Okonkwo had a strong attitude and never showed his emotions. His relationship with his family members is not the same. He criticized his eldest son, Nwoye because he though he acted too much like his father, Unoka. However, he had a soft side for his only daughter, Ezinma. Ezinma was everything Okonkwo wanted Nwoye to be. He was gentle and gave her his full attention. Okonkwo only regrets that Ezinma is a girl and not a boy. I think one of his major flaws is his inability to show he has a heart. He was so afraid that he would look weak in front of others that he rather portray a strong masculine persona. I think he can be compared to Oedipus. Both characters refuse to listen to others intake on things and they do not like to be told what to do. Okonkwo and Oedipus were short tempered, and their anger got the best out of them. Their short temper prohibited them from listening to others and as a result it led to their downfall.
I think it was expected that something tragic was going to happen to Okonkwo. In the beginning of the novel, things were already falling apart. He was not a good father to begin with. He did not show his emotions unless it was with Ezinma. He favored her and disregarded the others. Since he ended Ikemefuna’s life, he could’ve done it with anyone in his family. He had already beaten one of his wives. However, I don’t think it was satisfactory because no one deserves to die when it comes to committing suicide. I think Okonkwo’s life had already began falling apart when he did not have a father-son relationship with his father. He couldn’t build a relationship with his own son. He had so much pride and a big obsession with not becoming his father, but in the end, he was like his father. I would say there was an appropriate closure when Okonkwo died. The traditions, customs and everything the village of Umuofia had died along with him. Personally, I would’ve wanted the novel to end differently. I think if Okonkwo would’ve not died if the white missionaries didn’t colonize and he continued to be the leader of his clan. Okonkwo should’ve stayed alive to change his ways. He could’ve made a change and perhaps started a father-son relationship with Nwoye. If he didn’t focus so much on not becoming his father, I think he would have been a different person. He would have had less pride and not a hostile personality. Perhaps if he didn’t like the white missionaries who took over, he could’ve come to an agreement with them so things would have not been so radical. I would’ve also wanted to see Nwoye and Okonkwo to have a relationship because if they would’ve had a relationship then he would’ve not been like his father.
The novel Things Fall Apart, has a big significance behind it. The title becomes obvious because the author shows it through characterization and setting. It takes place in Africa. Chinua Achebe writes about a family and the village who go through obstacles and changes when the British men try to convert the village to Christianity, while some people try to keep their culture and traditions. However, many of the problems arise from the main character Okonkwo. His impotence to see the point of views of other leads to his downfall. His downfall was seen through his anger and cynical attitude. As a result, he couldn’t get what he wanted, and he became desperate. His success didn’t last long.
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