There are multiple examples of Okonkwo’s lack of adherence to Umuofian customs, i.e., beating his wife, Ojiugo, during the Week of Peace (28-31); beating his wives and children for the most minuscule of reasons; and speaking out whenever he should remain silent. However, the one custom that he breaks that causes the most hardship for himself and, it can be argued, his family, is the killing of his adopted son, Ikemefuna. Although the murder is prescribed by the Oracle of the Hills and Caves and is condoned by the village elders, neither the Oracle nor the other men of the village expect Okonkwo to partake in the killing; in fact, Ogbuefi Ezeudu, a well-respected warrior and elder of the tribe, suggests that Okonkwo remain behind when the other warriors lead Ikemefuna to slaughter. “. . . Umuofia has decided to kill him,” Ezeudu says,...
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...s insistence on proving himself, as represented in the killing of Ikemefuna and his other discreditable actions, are results of his constant need to impress. His desires to prove himself, become a respected member of the tribe, and maintain his image as a strong warrior all combine with an inability to adapt to a changing world in the latter half of the book. “Okonkwo [is] deeply grieved” (183) by the arrival of the Europeans and the changes they bring to Ibo culture. Thinking that he can be the one to lead the effort to drive the Europeans out of the land and restore the traditions of the tribe, he commits yet another rash act; whenever he does not get the results he expects, he commits his last transgression against tribal tradition: suicide.
Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. New York City: Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc.,
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