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Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

In Chinua Achebe’s Classic 1959 novel Things Fall Apart, we are faced with the foreign ways of the Ibo people of present-day Nigeria. The story is told through the experiences and often times thoughts of protagonist Okonkwo, an imperfect but respected clansman whose fear of appearing weak drives every decision he makes. In the peak of conflict, Okonkwo is exiled for seven years, loses much of the esteem he had gained and finds his bad Chi to be to blame. Eventually, this leads him to commit suicide. However, despite his belief that his Chi is blocking his good efforts, Okonkwo does have good Chi and free will, and it is his fear of weakness that truly brings upon his downfall.
Okonkwo has many flaws that Achebe points out to us. The most critical of which is that he is afraid of being weak, or being perceived as such. Early in the Novel Achebe writes, “Perhaps down in his heart Okonkwo was not a cruel man. But his whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and of weakness…It was the fear of himself, lest he should be found to resemble his father” (Achebe 13). As the driving factor in Okonkwo’s life, it plays a role in every single step that leads him to his eventual suicide. It is apparent that this is a flaw in Okonkwo’s character for it is not celebrated in the culture. By showing us this, Achebe is creating a classic tragic hero. The protagonist of the story has a fatal flaw, fear of weakness and unbalance that leads to his downfall. Achebe would see this as a serious character flaw because of the culture he comes from (Okafor).
Okonkwo is also unbalanced, another trait that is frowned upon by his society. Wise men, such as the elder Ogbuefi Ezedu, or Okonkwo’s friend Obierkia have a balance of warlike aggressio...

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...hebe 207).
Okonkwo’s actions lead him to the choice to kill himself, not bad Chi or fate. Specifically, his fear of being weak, his unbalanced lifestyle, and his lack of appreciation for his love of his sons drive him to exile and eventually suicide. A clearer head would have allowed him to value the Ibo ideals of balance and the bond between father and son. These ideals would have kept him from killing Ikemefuma, and the Earth would not have punished him. They would have allowed him to reason with Nwoye, the missionaries, and his clansmen. Instead, he chose the paths of extremity, of pure anger and aggression. Ultimately, those paths lead him to a tree, and Okonkwo hanged himself from it.

Works Cited
Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. New York: Anchor Books, 1994.

Okafor, Clement. "Ibo Cosmology and the Parameters of Indivual Accomplishment ." (n.d.): 67-81.

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