Critical Analysis of the Character of Okonkwo in Things Fall Apart




Okonkwo, a "tall and huge" personality with "very severe look" was "well known throughout the nine villages". He rested on his "solid personal achievements". Okonkwo wishes to be known exactly opposite to the nature of his father, Unoka who was never happy when it came to wars. He was in fact a coward and could not bear the sight of blood". But Okonkwo has grown a craze of wars just to prove that he is not a coward like his father. His father was a failure so he would do his most to prove that he is not a failure. And indeed, he is one of the elders of the clan. He is widely respected and feared for his wealth, barns and bravery. He has three wives. Okonkwo has brought home five human heads so far and still he is not old. He wants to prove his bravery in war.

Okonkwo did not inherit anything from his father except the fear and he seemed to be "possessed by the fear of his father's contemptible life and shameful death". He had no start but he did manage to work hard and make a career for himself. Okonkwo worked with Nwakibie, a rich man with nine wives and thirty children, to get his first seed yams. The novelist tells us that the eldest wife is the most respectable in the family of a man. Okonkwo had requested Nwakibie for yams in the manner: "I began to fend for myself at an age when most people still suck at their mothers' breasts. If you give me some yam seeds I shall not fail you". Nwakibie told him that he does not trust people with his yams these days because most of the youth is lazy but he says to Okonkwo "I shall give you twice four hundred yams. Go ahead and prepare your farm".

Okonkwo's general behaviour with unsuccessful men was harsh and humiliating. During a kindred meeting he had rebuked one such man with words that "this meeting is for men". He indirectly called him a woman while all the people in the meeting sided with that man and Okonkwo had to take his words back. "Anyone who knew his grim struggle against poverty and misfortune could not say he had been lucky. If ever a man deserved his success, that man was Okonkwo".

He belongs to Umuofi, known for its military might. But Umuofia "never went to war unless its case was clear and just and was accepted as such by its Oracle". A man of another tribe had killed a woman of Umuofia. Okonkwo was sent as emissary of war to Mbaino and he "returned home with a lad of fifteen and a young virgin". The elders decided that "the girl should go to Ogbuefi Udo to replace his murdered wife" while they decided to leave the boy, Ikemefuna, in the custody of Okonkwo till his fate was decided. Okonkwo took the boy to his house and there the boy almost of forgot his own family because the family of Okonkwo had got so close to him. Okonkwo himself came to like him. At couple of occasions, elders of the village asked Okonkwo not to get so close to the boy because it belongs to the clan.

Ultimately, Okonkwo began considering the boy his son while the boy had similar feelings towards Okonkwo. At that moment of life, the tribe demanded the boy back from Okonkwo for sacrificing according to the desire of the Oracle. Okonkwo, in deep association with the boy, did not want to separate the boy but fearing that the people may call him a coward went with the men and himself slayed the boy. Okonkwo did this just to prove how strong he is but his conscience never let him at peace. He could not sleep. After sometime of the boy's murder, Okonkwo' gun fired in a funeral and a boy was killed. As per the laws of the clan, Okonkwo had to leave the village for seven years. His house and all belongings were destroyed after he left.

Okonkwo returned his village after seven years. Everything had changed. His boy, Nwoye, had converted to Christianity. Missionaries openly preached and became social with the people. The publicly argued against the gods of the locals. Okonkwo wanted an open war with the white men. One day, a native convert killed one of the egwugwu of Umuofia. The clan got angry and destroyed the building of the church. Next morning the commissioner of white men invited all the elders of Umuofia. They went there thinking it a routine matter. But he arrested them all. His subordinate staff humiliated the clan. Okonkwo could not bear that. When they were released, they held a public meeting to decide upon how to avenge their insults. During that meeting one of the assistants of the commissioner came and misbehaved with Okonkwo. This he could not tolerate. Hence, Oknokwo killed the messenger. People dispersed and Okoknwo knew that nobody will support him for having killed the messenger of the white men.

Later, the commissioner came with a regiment of armed men to arrest Okonkwo, he was informed that Okonkwo had committed suicide to avoid the embarrassment of being dragged to the court of justic




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