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Tom Gravlin

Thing Fall Apart Analytical Essay

In Chinua Achebes Things Fall Apart Okonkwo is a tragic hero who embarks on a journey from poverty to fame and wealth; eventually confronting the ever-advancing white man and falling to the greater force.

Okonkwos great work ethic, forceful leadership and exceptional physique and aggressiveness make him a heroic figure. Okonkwos father was a man known for his gentleness and idleness (11). This would not be a very good skill set to have in a society focused on agricultural success and warfare, so inevitably Okonkwo and his family suffered (13) to survive. Okonkwo realized that his familys problems stemmed from his fathers failure and weakness (13) and he hated him for it. Okonkwo began to hate everything his father had loved (11) and would commonly do the opposite of his father. He developed a speech impediment, and when he could not get his words out quickly enough, he would use his fists (4). One of Okonkwos greatest traits is his great work ethic. He has this great ability because his father was very lazy, so to thwart his fear of failure such as his fathers, Okonkwo never stopped working. Okonkwo became a fierce fighter and warrior, much unlike his gentle (11) father, who was known for his refusal to take part in the warfare between tribes. When Okonkwo was a young man he took part in the yearly wrestling match, the event so loved by his people. Okonkwo was matched against Amalinze the Cat in the final round. Amalinze was considered a great wrestler (3) and the older members of the tribe called him one of the fiercest (3) fighters since the founder of their town. Okonkwo won a hard-fought match, eventually throwing the cat (3.) Okonkwos great victory was seen and heard by all and his

popularity grew exponentially. His fighting success evolved into great military prowess. Okonkwo is described as a man not afraid of war (10) and he became one of the best warriors. He took the head of 3 men, which is a great accomplishment. Okonkwos physical attributes are even the opposite of his father Unoka, who was tall but very tall and had a slight stoop.(4). Okonkwo was the polar opposite of this: tall and huge and his face was described as having a very severe look(4). Unlike his fathers lacking farming, Okonkwo was a very successful farmer of yams , a vegetable that stood for manliness (28). The characteristic of Unoka that Okonkwo shunned, which actually hurt Okonkwo, was his ability to express emotion and understand other people for who they were. Okonkwo never showed any emotion, unless it be the emotion of anger (24) because he thought it showed weakness (24). Many of Okonkwos problems, such as his anger (and violence), carelessness, unwillingness to accept others and their thoughts, and his inability to relax come from this. Okonkwo was also detached, in a sense, from general human compassion; he disregarded his sons (even killing Ikemefuna for personal hierarchical gains) and he mistreated his wives and children, often beating them for trivial things such as cutting a few leaves (off a banana tree) (38).

Right when Okonkwo has made his long-awaited for return to Umuofia, destined to regain his greatness, he is confronted by the inevitable invasion of the white man (Europeans/Western Life style) and his society. When Okonkwo gets to Mbanta he learns of the arrival of the white Christians who had established missionaries. They had began to convert the native people to their foreign religion. The missionaries first converts were the outcasts of the Igbo people. These people had no active part of society

so they jumped at the opportunity to join a community. They were They were mostly the kind of people that were called efulefu, worthless, empty men.(Ch. 16) The converts become very fond of their newfound religion and some high members of the Igbo society join the religion, leaving behind all that they had ever known. The Christian lifestyle appealed to the Igbo people who were not great farmers, warriors, or leaders because they could actually lead a life of happiness and success outside of farming and fighting. Okonkwo returns back home to Umuofia and finds more missionaries. He knows that he has lost a lot of ground politically but he never loses faith in his future which is described when he says He was determined that his return should be marked by his people (Ch. 20) Very soon after they came back from Mbanta, Nwoye (Okonkwos son), converts to the new religion. Okonkwo becomes very angry with him and tries o choke him. He eventually disowns Nwoye. Okonkwo asks himself Why, he cried in his heart, should he, Okonkwo, of all people, be cursed with such a son?,(ch.17) truly wondering why he cant seem to get anything right. When Obierika comes across Nwoye he asks him How is your father? Nwoye replied I dont know. He is not my father, said Nwoye, unhappily. (ch. 16) With each day more and more people leave the Igbo religion. Okonkwo becomes enraged and says k and break his head. That is what a man does. These people are daily pouring filth over us, and Okeke says we should pretend not to see. (ch. 18) when he learns of the killing of the snake. Okonkwo and some of the other leaders try and talk to the missionaries. They are welcomed and promised to have a fair conversation. While they are in the Christian church they are betrayed and handcuffed by the commissioners guards. The prisoners are kept for several days and are eventually released when the village people had paid the ransom. When they are released there is a

giant meeting called for all of the people from the surrounding villages. Okonkwo and some others call for war against the White men to defend their own freedom. In the middle of the meeting a messenger from the missionaries arrives to tell the people to stop the meeting. Okonkwo sees this is the man who offended him and he kills him, cutting of his head with his machete. Okonkwo runs away before any guards can catch him. H is found behind his compound, hanging from a tree. He had killed himself before anybody else could.

Despite Okonkwos cowardly death, many are saddened by the death of this great man; realizing their inevitable demise without him, the voice of strength and action in the Igbo society. Already the loss of Okonkwo is experienced when the district commissioner arrives at Okonkwos compound and commands the small group of Igbo people gathered to come outside, and they comply without even thinking about. This would never have happened around Okonkwo because he would have never let an outsider boss him or his people around. As they lead the white men to Okonkwo, the guards had their firearms held at the ready (207) , showing the missionaries growing power over the native people. Even though Obierika says it is an abomination for a man to take his own life (207) he shows how he really feels about the loss of his friend when he says That man was one of the greatest men in Umuofia. You drove him to kill himself; and now he will be buried like a dog (208) in a trembling voice. Without the voice of rebellion in Okonkwo, the village of Umuofia is destined to be completely taken over by the Christians. There is a sadness involved with Okonkwos death, it feels a s if

he was born into a life with too many obstacles to overcome to ever succeed in the long run. It feels as if he never even had a chance.