Okonkwo as Tragic Hero in Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe

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One of the most commonly asked questions about the novel Things Fall Apart is: why did Achebe choose a tragic hero, Okonkwo, as the main character in the story. According to Nnoromele, “A hero, in the Igbo cultural belief system, is one with great courage and strength to work against destabilizing forces of his community, someone who affects, in a special way, the destinies of others by pursuing his own. He is a man noted for special achievements. His life is defined by ambivalence, because his actions must stand in sharp contrast to ordinary behavior”(Nnoromele). In my opinion, he chose this type of hero to show the correlation between Okonkwo’s rise and fall in the Igbo society to the rise and fall of the Igbo culture itself. Many commentators have come up with various reasons for Okonkwo’s failure in the novel. Some say that it is just his chi that causes him to be a failure; however others believe it is because he is incapable of dealing with his culture deteriorating before his eyes. In Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo’s character as a tragic hero is a result of his chi, inability to cope with the destruction of the Igbo culture, and ultimately, his own suicide.

First of all, I feel that one of the main reasons why Okonkwo is considered a tragic hero is due to the weakness of his chi. His chi plays an important role in the novel because, according to Igbo culture, every time something goes wrong it is a result of bad chi. Throughout the beginning of Things Fall Apart Okonkwo seems to be one with his chi and everything seems to be going well. From the beginning the reader is meant to think that Okonkwo can overcome anything that he faces and this his chi is quite heroic up to this point in the story(Friesen).This i...

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Works Cited

Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. Anchor Books. New York, 1994. Print.

Criswell, Stephen. "Okonkwo As Yeatsian Hero: The Influence of W. B. Yeats on Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart." The Literary Criterion 30.4: 1-14. Rpt. in Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. Jeffrey W. Hunter. Vol. 127. Detroit: Gale Group, 2000. Literature Resource Center. Web. 8 Apr. 2010.

Friesen, Alan R. "Okonkwo's Suicide as an Affirmative Act: Do Things Really Fall Apart?" Postcolonial Text 2.4 (2006): 1-11. Rpt. in Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. Jeffrey W. Hunter. Vol. 278. Detroit: Gale, 2010. Literature Resource Center. Web. 8 Apr. 2010.

Nnoromele, Patrick C. “The Plight of A Hero in Achebe’s Things Fall Apart [1].” College Literature 27.2 (2000): 146. Literature Resource Center. Web. 25 Mar. 2010.
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