Things Fall Apart: Questions and Answers

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Q1. Describe Okonkwo, the protagonist of Things Fall Apart. Consider him as an Igbo hero character: How does he achieve greatness and defined by his culture? How does he differ from Western heroes you are familiar with? What are Okwonko’s strengths and weaknesses? Okonkwo embodies all the ideal and heroic traits of the Igbo culture. He is strong, authoritative, hardworking, and successful. The opening sentence states that “Okonkwo was well known throughout the nine villages and even beyond” (3). Okonkwo is great and famous because of his “solid personal achievements” (3). Okonkwo first achieved fame and recognition when he became the village’s wrestling champion. At eighteen years of age, he had “brought honor to his village” by defeating the seven-year champion. By winning the wrestling match, Okonkwo demonstrates to his village his great strength and skill as a warrior. After that his fame spread “like a bush-fire in the harmattan” (3). Okonkwo governs his household with authority. He “ruled his household with a heavy hand” (13). His wives and children lived “in perpetual fear of his fiery temper” (13). Okonkwo is a hard task-master. He works on his farm “from cock-crow until the chickens went to roost” and compelled his family to do the same (13). He does not tolerate laziness in his sons. He punishes his son, Nwoye, with “constant nagging and beating” (14). Okonkwo is the sole and unquestionable authority figure in his household. Okonkwo is a self-made man. He achieves greatness through his own hard work and determination. Okonkwo started his life without the benefits that other young men had. His father, Unoka, was a lazy man. He had acquired no honorary titles. When Unoka died, Okonkwo did not inherit any barn, title, or young wife. He merely acquired his father’s debts. Therefore, Okonkwo sets about to make a name for himself and to achieve greatness in his community. He diligently plants and harvests his yams, building a farm from scratch. He builds a large commune for his family. He marries three wives; one of them was the village beauty. He acquires two titles. Okonkwo is not a failure, like is father was. In Umuofia, “achievement was revered”, and Okonkwo’s achievement was immense (8). He was “clearly cut out for great things” (8). To the Igbo people, Okonkwo epitomizes greatness and success. Okonkwo is actually very similar to Western heroes, particularly the Greek tragic heroes. Okonkwo acquires the status and prestige similar to the Greek tragic heroes.
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