The Tragic Hero Of Chinua Achebe 's Things Fall Apart Essay

The Tragic Hero Of Chinua Achebe 's Things Fall Apart Essay

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n his delineation of the defining factors of a tragic hero, Aristotle drew on the archetypes established in Greek tragedies by such masters as Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. Because this type of hero occurred often, and these three great tragedians ' works served as a basis for later writers, the archetype persisted in European literature, as evidenced in works by authors such as Shakespeare. A major question that arises, then, is whether the tragic hero is a purely European archetype, perpetuated as a result of prominent Greek tragedies, or whether he occurs throughout all human culture and was captured by the Greeks in an example of a universally human character. The main character of Chinua Achebe 's novel Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo, offers a potential solution for this dilemma, given both his and Achebe 's Nigerian nationality. Despite the tragic elements of his story, however, Okonkwo is not a perfect fit for Aristotle 's tragic heroic mold, and therefore the question of a solely European archetype is continued.

As a character, Okonkwo does embody several of the characteristics of a tragic hero. In the beginning of the novel, Okonkwo has already attained a high stature in his tribe of Umuofia. Over a period of twenty years, "[his] fame had grown like a bush-fire in the harmattan" (3) until he is "one of the greatest men of his time" (8). He thus embodies another archetype, the conquering hero, after the denouement of that hero 's adventures, usually culminating in great fortune and fame; most tragic heroes have similar status, such as Oedipus in Sophocles ' Oedipus Rex, who became king of Thebes after his victory over the Sphinx. While Okonkwo is revered among his clan for his achievements and wealth, he is presented t...


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...n literature, and his characterization of Okonkwo as almost a tragic hero serves that purpose. Because Okonkwo has similarities to Oedipus and others, such as Thyestes or Hamlet, he shows Western readers that Africans and members of other marginalized cultures are not completely foreign. As a corollary, Okonkwo 's failures to meet some of the qualities of a tragic hero demonstrate the failure of the mainly Western archetype to represent universal standards, a main point for postcolonialist writers. However, just because Okonkwo is an inversion of the traditional tragic hero does not mean that the archetype cannot hold for cultures outside of Europe; instead, it merely means that archetypes can be modified to create more literary variety in the same way that novels written by Africans, Europeans, and other cultures introduce essential diversity into the literary canon.

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The Tragic Hero Of Chinua Achebe 's Things Fall Apart Essay

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