Irony in Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart


Length: 1503 words (4.3 double-spaced pages)
Rating: Excellent
Open Document
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Text Preview

More ↓

Continue reading...

Open Document

Things Fall Apart     


That year the harvest was sad, like a funeral, and many farmers wept as they dug up the miserable and rotting yams.  One man tied his cloth to a tree branch and hanged himself.  Okonkwo remembered that tragic year with a cold shiver throughout the rest of his life.  It always surprised him when he thought of it later that he did not sink under the load of despair.  He knew that he was a fierce fighter, but that year had been enough to break the heart of a lion.

   "Since I survived that year," he always said, "I shall survive anything."  He put it down to his inflexible will.  His father, Unoka, who was then an ailing man, had said to him during that terrible harvest month:  "Do not despair.  I know that you will not despair.  You have a manly and a proud heart.  A proud heart can survive a general failure because such a failure does not prick its pride.  It is more difficult and more bitter when a man fails alone."

    The above passages were taken from the end of chapter three, part one.  After finishing reading this book and then going back through it, I found these passages very ironic in regards to how the story eventually ended.  Okonkwo believed that because he was such a fierce fighter, he could conquer anything life threw at him.  However, it was his fierce, proud, fighting attitude that was his demise in the face of uncontrollable circumstances in the end.  Okonkwo believed that war and brute fighting would fix everything.  He was a proud and stubborn man constantly struggling to improve his standing in the tribal community.  Okonkwo also had intense pride for his tribe and way of life.  He believed it was the right way of life and not to be questioned.  Everyone was supposed to fear war with Umofia due to their fierce warriors and greatness in battle.  When the white men not only did not fear them, but openly threatened the tribal way of life, Okonkwo prepared to handle the situation the only way he knew how.  He wanted to got to war against the new white invaders, chasing them from tribal lands and ending the threat of different ways of life.

    The passage ends with, "it is more difficult and more bitter when a man fails alone.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Irony in Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart." 123HelpMe.com. 21 Sep 2017
    <http://www.123HelpMe.com/view.asp?id=5996>.
Title Length Color Rating  
Essay about Breast Given and Things Fall Apart - Achebe and Devi both used irony to highlight an issue at the closing of their respective stories. In “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe, the author used irony to show the disregard for the indigenous peoples and their customs by the District Commissioner and to emphasize the internal struggle of the main character, Okonkwo, as he tries to maintain his image of manliness with his actions. Mahasweti Devi closed the story “Breast-Giver” with ironic circumstances to explain the gratitude that should have been owed to Jashoda that she did not receive and the cause of her death by what had given so much to so many....   [tags: Achebe and Devi using irony]
:: 1 Works Cited
638 words
(1.8 pages)
Better Essays [preview]
Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart Essay - Chinua Achebe’s “Things fall apart” is a story about a man named Okonkwo who is successful and physically strong. However, Okonkwo is emotionally unavailable and afraid that he will be seen as weak and that others will compare him to his father. The book’s peak is when Okonkwo does something considered immoral by killing a boy who he had taken in and raised as his own for three years, because he did not want to be seen as weak. Okonkwo is ruled by one obsession and that is to hate everything that his father had loved....   [tags: Things Fall Apart Essays]
:: 3 Works Cited
1844 words
(5.3 pages)
Term Papers [preview]
Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart Essay - During the mid 1800s and 1900s, the continent of Africa was being invaded by European superpower nations such as Great Britain, France, and others. The proper act was named as Colonialism which according to my lecture notes means: “a racially based system of political, economical, and cultural domination forced on an indigenous majority by a technological superior foreign minority” (Zeitler). For instance, many European nations enforced imperialism on the continent of Africa because of its recently discovered natural resources which would be beneficial for their countries, and Europeans used western education and religion as a moral “cover” for their easy access to the native African’s land...   [tags: Things Fall Apart Essays]
:: 2 Works Cited
1595 words
(4.6 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
Gender in Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart Essay - This paper will look at the contradictions in the work of Chinua Achebe in relation to his placement of woman and femininity. Kristen Holst Petersen states that ‘the African discussion is between feminist emancipation versus the fight against neo-colonialism, particularly in its cultural aspect...which comes first, the fight for female equality or the fight against Western cultural imperialism’. This paper will attempt to highlight these contradictions in relation to Achebe’s Things Fall Apart....   [tags: Chinua Achebe Things Fall Apart Essays]
:: 3 Works Cited
1875 words
(5.4 pages)
Term Papers [preview]
The Power of Fear in The Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe Essay - The Power of Fear Fear is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat. The power of fear can lead to one’s destruction. In Chinua Achebe’s novel, Things Fall Apart, he uses fear to demonstrate the evolution of the protagonist- Okonkwo. Achebe uses conflict, irony to demonstrate the influential aspect of fear in his well-known novel which is examined by Robert Bennett in a literary criticism. Achebe uses internal conflict within his protagonist to demonstrate the power of fear....   [tags: literary criticism, okonkwo] 590 words
(1.7 pages)
Good Essays [preview]
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe Essay - ... His will to succeed, which was strongly influenced by his fear of failure made him successful and respected by his people. Although fear of failure made him an achiever, it was also what led to his downfall. This is the kind of irony that is pervasive in the lives of tragic heroes in the sense that the same characteristic that leads to their prosperity is the same characteristic that would lead to their demise. Okonkwo was fearful of becoming unsuccessful like his father, this reflected in his behavior....   [tags: conflicts, hero, fear] 865 words
(2.5 pages)
Better Essays [preview]
Essay on The Power of Fear in Things Fall Apart - ... This fear drives him to do whatever he can to not become a failure like his father which ironically contributes to his death. While Okonkwo was a strong and important figure in his tribe, he had to keep his reputation that way by making some hard decisions. One of them was when he had to kill Ikemefuna, a young boy from the neighboring tribe. Okonkwo started accepting the decision to kill Ikemefuna because he started to call Okonkwo father. He had to keep his own valor intact and kill the boy to prevent himself from showing any weakness, but deep down, Okonkwo was really upset because of what he did which was ironic, “’When did you become a shivering old woman,' Okonkwo asked himself, 'y...   [tags: Chinua Achebe, story analysis]
:: 2 Works Cited
1042 words
(3 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
Okonkwo as a Tragic Hero in Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe Essay - In the novel Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe Okonkwo is an example of a tragic hero. Okonkwo accomplishes and succeeds in many noble and brave tasks but also has some flaws that lead to his downfall. The definition of a tragic hero according to dictionary.com is: a great or virtuous character in a dramatic tragedy who is destined for downfall, suffering, or defeat. In the Novel, Thngs Fall Apart Okonkwo is a tragic hero in the fact that he is the protagonist, a character or superiority, he has tragic flaws, and his egoistic personality which ends up beaming his own destruction....   [tags: change, flaw, downfall]
:: 1 Works Cited
747 words
(2.1 pages)
Better Essays [preview]
Manliness in Things Fall Aprt by Chinua Achebe Essay - Manliness in Things Fall Aprt by Chinua Achebe In Chinua Achebe's novel, Things Fall Apart, it is immediately evident to the reader that Okonkwo, the hero of the story, is obsessed with manliness. His concern manifests itself in almost every chapter. The story begins with an account of his success as a wrestler - a "manly" competition - and ends with his murder of the court messenger, another "manly" act. In every action and every choice he makes, Okonkwo is determined to show that he is masculine....   [tags: Papers] 659 words
(1.9 pages)
Better Essays [preview]
Literary features of Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe Chapter 11 Essay - Literary features of Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe Chapter 11 Pg 70 Achebe throughout the novel uses many different literary features Literary features of ‘Things Fall Apart’ by Chinua Achebe Chapter 11 Achebe throughout the novel uses many different literary features to bring emphasis to certain points and equally to create a plausible picture of what tribal life was like. His particular style of writing, using specific detail of everyday things, brings the characters to life; it creates a depth and complexity to the characters that makes the tribe into a realistic civilization....   [tags: English Literature] 513 words
(1.5 pages)
Good Essays [preview]

Related Searches




"  I believe this is exactly what was the final blow to Okonkwo that pushed him into taking his own life.  Okonkwo attempted to provoke a war with the white men both when he spoke up in the tribal meetings and then when he lashed out and killed a messenger of the white men.  Okonkwo did this thinking the other tribal men would be behind him.  He believed the act would lead to the war with the white men he had been hungering for.  But after killing the messenger, Okonkwo immediately knew that he would be alone in his fight.  The end of chapter twenty four reads, "In a flash Okonkwo drew his machete.  The messenger crouched to avoid the blow.  It was useless.  Okonkwo's machete descended twice and the man's head lay beside his uniformed body.  The waiting backcloth jumped into tumultuous life and the meeting was stopped.  Okonkwo stood looking at the dead man.  He knew that Umofia would not go to war.  He knew because they had let the other messengers escape.  They had broken into tumult instead of action.  He discerned fright in that tumult.  He heard voices asking:  'Why did he do it?'  He wiped his machete and went away."

    Okonkwo was fully prepared for all out war.  But this was as a warrior for Umofia with all the other warriors of Umofia.  It is more difficult and more bitter when a man fails alone.  When Okonkwo finally knew that he was indeed alone in his wish for war and in his idea of Umofia still a powerful place, it was the final crushing blow for a once proud man and warrior.

    Throughout the story, you came to believe that Okonkwo could indeed survive any hardship he encountered in his life.  He had overcame his meager beginnings, the reputation of his lazy father, the one extremely harsh harvest, having to kill the young boy who called him father, the constant worry of losing Ezinma, being exiled from Umofia for the accidental killing of the young boy, and then having his own son leave home and convert to the white man's religion and way of life.  Despite all these trials and tribulations, Okonkwo was buoyed by his intense pride and the intense pride he had for Umofia and the tribal way of life.  This was what Okonkwo clung to as the steadying force in his life.  It was when he finally became aware that the way of life he so cherished was gone, that he gave up and took his own life.

    The very fact that Okonkwo took his own life underlines the loss of faith and hope Okonkwo had arrived at.  The end of the book explains that it is an abomination for a man to take his own life.  It is an offense against the Earth, and a man who commits it will not be buried by his clansmen.  His body is evil, and only strangers may touch it.  For a man and warrior who had such intense pride and worry about his place in the clan and the minds of the people of the clan, this was a shocking thing to go through with.  Okonkwo knew the customs and traditions better than anyone, so he would obviously know that his body would be evil and his reputation tarnished badly.  The fact that he still went through with hanging himself shows the great distance Okonkwo had fallen.

    Another ironic thing I found about this story is the fact that if Okonkwo and his father, Unoka, had been born at different times they would have been more successful or better suited for the time of the other one.  Okonkwo without a doubt would have better off during his father's time.  He would have been dead before the arrival of the white man and could have won his titles and enjoyed the clan way of life he so cherished.  At the same time, Unoka would have assimilated or adapted to the white man's arrival much more easily than Okonkwo and most likely easier than most of the clan due to his easygoing nature.  Unoka was unconcerned with titles and clan traditions.  He was more concerned with enjoying life, drinking with friends, playing his music, and in general relaxing while others worked.  This would not have necessarily helped him during the arrival of the white man, but he would definitely would not have had the enormous problems with pride that Okonkwo encountered.  Unoka also would not have had the relationship problems with Nwoye that Okonkwo experienced.  The problems were due to the polar opposite personalities and beliefs that Okonkwo and Nwoye had.  Unoka was an easygoing free spirit who most likely would have been the ideal father for Nwoye.  It was due to fate or blind luck that things were the way they were instead of the almost perfect way they could have been.

    Another thing that interests me is how Okonkwo will be remembered by his clan and how his death and the way he died will affect his remaining sons.  Okonkwo believed his own father to be a hindrance to his success and a model of what not to be.  It would be another ironic twist if the sons of Okonkwo were shamed by the suicide and actions of their father, therefore causing them to think of Okonkwo exactly like Okonkwo had thought of his own father.  If this was indeed the case, then ironically the only son that would forgive his father would be the one son that Okonkwo was ashamed of - Nwoye.  Because of Nwoye's new religion that stresses forgiveness, Nwoye would be the only son that would ultimately love him in the end.  And it would be the religion that Okonkwo hated so much that would make this possible.

    In closing, as I was looking through the back of the book and the glossary of Ibo words and phrases, I came upon the word efulefu.  Efulefu is defined as, "a worthless man."  As I thought about this term and its definition, I found it ironic that the story begins with it applying to one man and ends with it applying to a very different man.  In the beginning of the story, it is Unoka who was thought of as a worthless man by Okonkwo due to his having no titles and in general not being able to be successful in the clan way of life.  But in the end of the story, it is himself that Okonkwo believes is a worthless man due to him not being able to be successful or adapt to the new way of clan life


Return to 123HelpMe.com