Chinua Achebe 's Things Fall Apart Essay

Chinua Achebe 's Things Fall Apart Essay

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In Chinua Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart, fear plays a huge role throughout the main character Okonkwo’s life. Journalist Dorothy Thompson said “the most destructive element in the human mind is fear. Fear creates aggressiveness.” This statement has never be more true than it is when applied to Okonkwo in Things Fall Apart. Okonkwo’s entire life is controlled by his fear, he is afraid of being a failure, afraid of looking weak, and afraid of letting down his clan. This fear dictates many of his actions and is a driving factor towards his eventual downfall.
Okonkwo tries to manage his fear of failure in several different ways. One way he does this is by pouring everything he has into working hard and making a name for himself. He is deathly afraid of being the outcast and disappointment that his father was, and the fear he feels is converted into hard work and dedication. Okonkwo has “no patience with his father” or men like him, and works with an incredible ferocity towards being successful and making a name for himself (Achebe 25). Even from a young age Okonkwo can be seen borrowing seeds for yams and working as hard as he possibly can to obtain a higher title. He takes many wives and builds the biggest barn possible, both of which are seen as status symbols in his society. Although Okonkwo’s fear of failure is what undeniably makes him so successful and well respected, it also contributes to his downward spiral and eventual suicide. After returning home from his exile Okonkwo is unable to cope with the fact that the times have changed and he is no longer as powerful and respected as he once was. His clan no longer looks up to him in the same way that they once did and because of this he becomes even more unstable and frustra...


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...131). The only thing that keeps him from ending his life right then is the drive to come back and regain his old title. After killing the messenger at the end of the novel, it is very likely that Okonkwo feels like he has once again disgraced the clan. The rest of clan no longer agrees with his ideas and he let them down by committing that murder. Unsure of where to turn and blinded by his fear he takes his own life.
Okonkwo’s fear of looking weak, being a failure, and letting down his clan members clearly has a drastic affect on his entire life and are the driving factors towards his sad and sudden death at the end of the novel. The reader of this novel can make connections from it to their own life and learn from Okonkwo’s mistakes. They can learn that if fear is allowed to control someone 's life, then just like Okonkwo, they will be unable to become truly happy.

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