A sense of foreboding envelops us from the first. We sense all will not end well for Umuofia. The chill of fear grips us as the world of Okonkwo and his clan truly falls apart. Okonkwo will need all of his power to fight the forces against his world, but tragically he is crippled by the most destructive malady of all, fear of himself. Achebe employs the form of classical Greek tragedy to tell his African tale of the rise and fall of Okonkwo.
This most fearsome warrior has proven himself from the youngest age as worthy of honor and respect. He is driven by his father's legacy of shame and has no use for unsuccessful men. But as he projects his image of strength, we find that "His whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and weakness." (p. 13) The roots of the fear go deep. "It was not external but lay deep within himself. It was the fear of himself, lest he should be found to resemble his father." (p. 13)
For Okonkwo, all things are measured against the traits of his father. To be successful means to be manly. And manliness implies action, physicality, structure, and seeing things in black and white. He is respected for his accomplishment and hard work, but others notice "Okonkwo's brusqueness in dealing with less successful men." (p. 26) To him, they are not men at all. They are weak; as weak as women. And anything to do with idleness and pleasure equate with weakness. "And so Okonkwo was ruled by one passion- to hate everything that his father Unoka had loved. One of those things was gentleness and another was idleness." (p. 13) Purposefully, Okonkwo has formed the formidable fortress with which he deals with the world.
... middle of paper ...
... his force. In denouement, there is bitter irony, the District Commissioner will write his book, Okonkwo's life will deserve only a paragraph.
With Okonkwo, Achebe has created the classic hero, a man exalted far above others, seemingly destined for greatness. His use of Okonkwo and the tragic form heightens the impact of the tale, as we are moved through the essential elements of dramatic form. The rise and fall of Okonkwo engenders the pity and fear we are meant to feel, and catharsis as his unbearable torment ends.
Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart New York: Anchor Books, 1994.
Culross, Melissa. “Chinua Achebe and Things Fall Apart.” Available: www.postcolonialweb.org
Smith, Peter. “The Characteristics of an "Archetypal" Tragic Hero”. Characteristics of a Tragic Hero. 2002. Kentucky University. February 7, 2014. .
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