Chinua Achebe’s novel, Things Fall Apart, follows the tragic life of Okonkwo, a man who suffers a miserable fate due to the fear of failure that controls every action he makes. Though the fear of failure acts as motivation to become a successful and respected man at first, it later cripples Okonkwo in such a way that failure ultimately defines his life. Okonkwo is constantly afraid of being a victim of weakness and desperately tries to remain a strong and unyielding man. It is his overwhelming fear of weakness that causes things to fall apart in his life, as his attempts to avoid failure and weakness eventually lead to the ultimate defeat: his shameful suicide. Fear of failure and weakness dominates Okonkwo throughout his life.
Masculinity ruled his life and anyone in his clan or household that he viewed to be weak or any man that he regarded to be feminine suffered the full wrath of his irate alpha male outbursts. The difference between Holly and Okonkwo is that while Okonkwo displays his masculinity to mask his insecurities and maintain order, Holly only expresses his masculinity when he is trapped in a life or death situation or when he is hunting. The only people who Holly harms are those who are an immediate threat to his life, whereas with Okonkwo, nobody is safe from his angry outburst.
The Inflexibility and Hubris of Okonkwo in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart This novel is the definitive tragic model about the dissolution of the African Ibo culture by Nigerian author, Chinua Achebe. Okonkwo, a great and heroic leader, is doomed by his inflexibility and hubris. He is driven by fear of failure. He had no patience with unsuccessful men. He had no patience with his father.
Okonkwo’s birthright was fear, fear that he would become like his father. His whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and of weakness. The irony in the story is that Okonkwo’s life ends much like his father’s had ended. Both father and son died in ways that were considered appalling with Unoka dying from swelling and Okonkwo taking his own life. Okonkwo struggles to do everything differently than his father which results in Okonkwo bringing pain to his family, becoming an arrogant person, and ending his life in a way that is considered an abomination to the tribe.
Hanging is looked to as a very disgraceful death in today’s society and ancient societies. Okonkwo crumbled under the newly developed society of the white man in Umofia. He could no longer act on his fury, vehemence or impetuousness, because acting in those non-compliant ways got him no further advancement and was frowned upon. Okonkwo lost his mental composure and everything in his life went to pieces because of it. His lack of sensitivity and understanding of those different from him handicapped his entire life.
Okonkwo struggled his entire life with his perception of manliness. Societal expectations and norms of power, strength, and achievement were only reinforced and amplified by his loathing for his father's laziness and "womanly qualities" such as compassion, warmth, and cowardice in war. This defiance to become the opposite of everything his father was created internal and external conflict that led to Okonkwo's eventual doom. Okonkwo's angry and power-hungry personality stems from experiencing the affects of his father's failure in life. Unoka, Okonkwo's father, "was lazy and improvident and was quite incapable of thinking about tomorrow" (2937).
Okonkwo opposed change and died along with the old customs of Umuofia. Change is unavoidable, and those who too frightened to adapt are left behind As a child, Okonkwo resented his father, Unoka, who was lazy and irresponsible. He obtained a great amount of debt and brought dishonor to his family. Okonkwo feared that he would be a failure, like his father. Okonwo’s, “whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and of weakness… It was deeper and more intimate than the fear of evil and capricious gods and of magic, the fear of the forest, and of nature, malevolent, red in tooth and claw.
In the first section of the paragraph it is made known that Okonkwo was “…ruled by a great passion - to become one of the lords of the clan.” This was evident at the very beginning of the book by his fear of failure. The loathing he had for his father and what he stood for had driven Okonkwo to work hard through his entire life. This commitment help confirm the manliness that he had be seeking for, the one thing that could separate him from the shame of his childhood. However his strong will and determination has left him with a very egomaniacal self-image that leaves Okonkwo helpless when he actually fails in something. His banishment to Mbantu was a very hard blow to his self-image, leaving him weak and broken while trying to live there.
The Downfall of Okonkwo In the novel, Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe, Okonkwo’s tragic downfall is illustrated alongside the downfall of his clan. Okonkwo was, the protagonist, was borne with a father that was a pathetic, selfish man. His whole life was controlled by the fear of becoming what his father once was, and this showed who he truly was. Throughout the story, Okonkwo, who was once a great man, undergoes a dramatic change. He falls from the top of the clan to the bottom, having to deal with many conflicts along the way, the toughest being his own fears.
It is another to sympathies for a man who believes he is powerful and respected by many when in reality, he is feared by his own family and that is another reason that leads Okonkwo to his downfall. He started positive, motivated but down the line, Okonkwo treats his wives and children very harshly. When the author mentioned, “Okonkwo ruled his household with a heavy hand. His wives, especially the youngest, lived in perpetual fear of his fiery temper, and so did his little children” (pg.13). This is not power but a weakness when Okonkwo uses power to rule his own house, detaching himself from the emotional connection with this family rather than being frightening to live with.