Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart

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Planet Earth harbors seven billion independent human minds, living seven billion independent, equally complex lives. Even more impressive, each mind contains unique perspectives and opinions. With so many different minds interacting, conflict between individuals’ perspectives and opinions becomes inevitable. Unfortunately, no single perspective, held by a single mind or a group of minds, dominates as the correct perspective. In Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, the meeting of different cultures creates conflict between perspectives, in which both parties assume righteousness but neither is entirely correct. Though Okonkwo may draw a readers’ sympathy for his role as the tragic hero, the author’s sympathy sits with Obierika, who is positioned between the missionaries and Okonkwo as the most humane balance of the two cultures. Okonkwo’s desire for respect motivates his quest to preserve the practices of Ibo culture, while Obierika preserves the practices of the Ibo culture with a more humanistic perspective. Achebe uses the differing approaches of Okonkwo and Obierika in maintaining the cultural doctrines of the Ibo people to reveal his sympathy for Obierika over Okonkwo. Okonkwo’s motives for maintaining the customs of the Ibo originate with fear. Okonkwo kills Ikemefuna while “dazed with fear,” drawing “his machete [to] cut him down” because, “he was afraid of being thought weak” (Achebe 61). Though Okonkwo attempts to appear strong to the people of Umuofia, his fearful motivation speaks to a hidden internal weakness. Okonkwo’s focus on eradicating the taint of “his father’s weakness and failure” and his yearning for respect drive him to kill Ikemefuna instead of the more proper motive of simply effectuating what the Ibo conside... ... middle of paper ... one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart” (176). Obierika should be the character that the reader sympathizes with instead of Okonkwo; he deals with the injustices caused by the missionaries without the flaws of Okonkwo, emphasizing his innocence. Though many may interpret Okonkwo as a tragic hero are drawn to him, Obierika deserves more sympathy from the reader than Okonkwo. Obierika suffers just as Okonkwo does under the thumb of the missionaries, but he lacks the selfish focus that drives most of Okonkwo’s actions. Ultimately, Obierika’s venerability springs from his ability to see the compromise that will allow the Ibo to find a method for adaptation to the inevitable changes brought by the missionaries. While Achebe evokes sympathy and respect for Obierika, the most generous emotion he evokes for Okonkwo is pity.

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