According to Aristotle a tragedy is "a drama...which recounts an important and casually related series of events in the life of a person of significance, such events culminating in an unhappy catastrophe, the whole treated with great dignity and seriousness." The novel Things Fall Apart, written by ChinuaAchebe begins as a story about the life of a man named Okonkwo. It recounts the events beginning with his childhood and ending with his death. Part I of the novel is about Okonkwo, his family, and the customs and culture of his clan. In Part II the white men came from England, bringing with them their own culture, religion, and government. Part III focuses on the struggle between the clansmen and the missionaries. Okonkwos pride, ambition and overconfidence play a large part in the fight for freedom. According to Arthur Miller, "the tragic feeling is evoked in us when we are in the presence of a character who is ready to lay down his life, if need be, to secure one thing - his sense of personal dignity... Tragedy, then is the consequence of a man's total compulsion to evaluate himself justly."
In the end of Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo does die for his cause, however whether or not his death can be classified as heroic is debatable. As the village was having a meeting as to what must be done in response to the invasion, they were confronted with five court messengers. The head messenger demanded passage, and was confronted by Okonkwo. When the messenger ordered the meeting to stop, Okonkwo drew his machete and beheaded the man. The next day the district commissioner arrived to take Okonkwo away, only to find that Okonkwo had hung himself. It can be a...
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...ncluded that Achebe purposely ended Okonkwos life in this way in order to convey to the reader a sense of depravity; to leave the book lacking. The end lacks an ending. The District Commissioner merely mentions that he may be able to use the story of Okonkwo to fill a paragraph of the book he is writing. This statement completely diminishes the importance of Okonkwos life; perhaps in an effort to relate the way that these people and this culture has been tossed away and ultimately forgotten, aside from the occasional
paragraph in some random, meaningless book. An ending truly tragic.
Hibbard, Holman, Thrall. Excerpts from: A Handbook to Literature, "Aristotelian Tragedy".
Miller, Arthur. "Tragedy and the Common Man," (an excerpt from the preface prepared by Miller for Death of a Salesman.), 1949