Achebe’s work, Things Fall Apart, is an epic; it resembles stories about heroes found in many cultures. In these stories, the heroes are extraordinary individuals, whose careers and destinies are not theirs alone, but are bound with the fortunes and destinies of their society. They become heroes by accomplishing great things for themselves and their communities, winning much fame as a result.
Okonkwo fits this pattern. The first paragraph of Things Fall Apart is notable in this respect, for it describes Okonkwo as follows:
Okonkwo was well known throughout the nine villages and even beyond. His fame rested on solid personal achievements. As a young man of eighteen he had brought honour to his village by throwing Amalinze the Cat. Amalinze was the great wrestler who for seven years was unbeaten, from Umuofia to Mbaino. He was called the Cat because his back would never touch the earth. It was this man that Okonkwo threw in a fight which the old man agreed was one of the fiercest since the founder of their town engaged a spirit of the wild for seven days and seven nights. (3)
In an epic story, the hero undergoes many tests, which we can see as rites of passage. In Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo undergoes such tests, including the wrestling match with Amalinze the Cat, his struggle with the negative legacy of his father, and the struggle to succeed on his own.
Praising heroes is a basic function of epics. As ...
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Nnolim, Charles E. "Achebe's Things Fall Apart: An Igbo National Epic" Modern Black Literature. ed. Okechukwu Mezu New York: Black Academy Press, 1971, 55-60.
Obiechina, Emmanuel. "Narrative Proverbs in the African Novel," Research in African Literatures, 24, 4 (1993), 123-140.
Okafor, Chinyere Grace. "From the Heart of Masculinity: Ogbodo-Uke Women's Masking." Research in African Literatures, 25, 3 (1994), 7-17.
Traore, Ousseynou. "Matrical Approach to Things Fall Apart; A Poetics of Epic and Mythic Paradigms." Approaches to Teaching Achebe's Things Fall Apart. ed. Bernth Lindfors. New York: MLA, 1991, 65-73.
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