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Essay on the Downfall of Okonkwo in Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart

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The Downfall of Okonkwo in Things Fall Apart

 

Chinua Achebe's novel, Things Fall Apart, uses the changes in African tribal culture brought about by European colonization to illustrate the evolution of the character Okonkwo. As Okonkwo leads his life, his experiences, personality and thought are revealed to the reader. The obstacles he faces in life are made numerous as time progresses. Okonkwo's most significant challenge originates within himself. He also encounters problems not only when in opposition to the white culture, but in his own culture, as he becomes frustrated with tribal ideals that conflict with his own. The last adversary he encounters is of the physical world, brought upon himself by his emotional and cultural problems. The manner through which Okonkwo addresses his adversaries in Things Fall Apart creates the mechanism that leads to his eventual destruction.

 

The greatest opponent in life is the one that is created inside the mind. As Okonkwo grows up, he decides to be the absolute antipodes of his father Unoka. Okonkwo perceives his father as a culmination of the weaknesses in man. In this erroneous view, Okonkwo buries his feelings deep within himself. When these emotions emerge, he views them as a sign of weakness. When Okonkwo participates in Ikemefuna's killing, he is deeply affected as he has ended the life of one who he grew to love as a son. Okonkwo is excessively depressed after the slaying, "not tasting any food for two days." (61) As he notices his confusion, he calls himself weak like a shivering old woman. In his emotionless show of strength after Ikemefuna's death, Okonkwo actually proves his frailty by hiding what he feels. Okonkwo is dominated by his private fear of appeari...


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...clansmen come to decide what they should do, Okonkwo has already chosen war. As the messenger arrives to order an end to the meeting, Okonkwo is once again driven by his rage and kills the messenger. He realizes that the others were not prepared to fight, and he comes to understand the consequences of his actions. Instead of being executed, Okonkwo decides to take his own life.

 

Okonkwo takes his life as he sees himself a lone warrior in a society of weaklings. This isolation is truly imposed by his decision of how to handle the conflicts which he encounters. His unitary channeling of emotions, cultural inflexibility, and tendency to seek physical confrontation are compiled into a single notion. The idealized vision of a warrior by which Okonkwo lives is the instrument that leads to the climax of Achebe's novel, Things Fall Apart: Okonkwo's demise.

 


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