Is Okonkwo destined for tragedy or did his choices made of his own free will lead him to his tragic end? Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart provides the reader with a closer view to the African culture and history. Where the main character is Okonkwo. He is from Umuofia. “He is a well-respected man among the nine villages and even beyond”. (Page 3) Okonkwo gained everything he has by working hard. He is strict, manly and fearless. Okonkwo falls apart because he places too much emphasis on strength and manliness. Okonkwo avoids being like Unoka by placing too much emphasis on manliness and violence.
Okonkwo hates his father who was soft, musical, and gentle. ‘He was very good on his flute’ (Pg. 4). Unoka did not like working or violence unlike Okonkwo who was fearless and manly. Unoka and Okonkwo didn’t have a healthy father-son relationship. Okonkwo was ashamed of his father because, “he was a debtor, he never gave the money back”(pg. 4) Okonkwo had suffered a lot when he young. “Even as a little boy he had resented his father’s failure and weakness, and even now he still remembered how he had suffered when a playmate had told him that his father was “agbala” (pg. 3) Calling a man “agbala” was a big insult. “It was another name for a woman, it could also mean a man who had not taken a title” (pg. 13). “And so Okonkwo was ruled by one passion-to hate everything that his father Unoka had loved;one of those things was gentleness and another was idleness”(pg. 13). Although Okonkwo has a soft heart, he keeps hiding his true feelings and chooses to express anger instead. Okonkwo tries to hide his gentle feelings, but sometimes he loses control and forgets about everything that happened in the past. “Even Okonkwo himself became very fond of the boy inwardly of course”(Pg. 4).
Okonkwo showed his kind side when he first met Ikemefuna. In the Igbo culture a man cannot show any feminine or gentle qualities. “He therefore treated Ikemefuna as he treated everybody else- with a heavy hand, but there was no doubt that he liked the boy” (pg. 28). Okonkwo’s uncontrollable anger is his most prominent flaw that keeps him away from true greatness. Although his anger has served him well in his life, ultimately, it destroys his way of life “Okonkwo was provoked to justifiable anger by his youngest wife, who went to plait her hair at her friend’s house and did not return early enough to cook the afternoon meal”.
Okonkwo beat up his wife in the week of peace. Although we know that Okonkwo respect his culture, but when it comes to anger he can never hold it. Okonkwo’s relationship with his wives was based on fear and violence. Okonkwo suffers the consequences of taking the wrong decisions. Achebe makes it clear that Okonkwo takes the wrong decisions just to be thought strong in front of the villagers. He never took a decision without thinking of being strong. Okonkwo killed Ikemefuna just to be thought strong. “He heard Ikemefuna cry, 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”(pg. 61). There was no doubt that Okonkwo liked Ikemefuna. He didn’t have to kill him but he chose too. Okonkwo’s life began to fall apart since he killed Ikemefuna. There was no doubt that Okonkwo was miserable but he chose not to share with anyone his sadness. “Okonkwo did not taste any food for two days after the death of Ikemefuna”( pg. 63). “Nwoye knew as soon as his father walked in, that night, that Ikemefuna had been killed, and something seemed to give way inside him, like the snapping of a tightened bow”(pg. 1) Nwoye was shocked because he used to like Ikemefuna who was like an older brother to him. Nwoye felt like a piece of him has died. He was scared of his father since that moment. He was moving further away from his father. Achebe makes it clear that okonkwo’s personality have been fading away throughout the chapters since the death of Ikemfuna.
“Okonkwo had killed a boy accidently with his gun while he was at his father’s funeral”(pg. 124). “It was a crime against the earth goddess to kill a clansman, and a man who committed it must flee from the land”(pg. 124). Okonkwo had been exiled for seven years. Umuofia had indeed changed during the seven years Okonkwo had been exile. The church had come and led many astray” (pg. 174). He thought that everything will be the same but after he went back. “He knew that he had lost his place among the nine masked spirits who administered justice in clan. He had lost the chance to lead his warlike clan against the new religion , which, he was told, he gained ground”(pg. 171). After Okonkwo heard of the new religion that came to Umuofia he got very upset; anger didn’t help him this time because Nwoye was one of the people who decided to convert to Christianity.
Nwoye liked the new religion because it was peaceful. “Since the day that Nwoye had converted to Christianity Okonkwo didn’t wish to speak about him” (pg. 144). Okonkwo tried to face the missionaries but instead of talking with them he used violence. He killed one of the messengers who tried to stop the meeting that the villagers made to get rid of the new religion. “Okonkwo’s machete descended twice and the man’s head lay beside his uniformed body” (pg. 204). After Okonkwo left the messengers came after him. They found Okonkwo’s body dangling, and they stopped dead” (pg. 207). Okonkwo’s choices made of his own free will led him to his tragic end. He used violence and fear to run away from the truth instead of facing his fears he killed him self. Okonkwo’s life wasn’t a perfect life like all people thought instead it was sad and dominated by fear. Why didn’t Okonkwo change throughout the seven years that passed? Is it because he thought that he didn’t have to change because he was perfect? Or because his fear has captivated him and he couldn’t get rid of it?