Things Fall Apart
Things fall apart is a tragedy novel written by Chinua Achebe. Okonkwo, who is the protagonist of the novel and one of the most powerful men in the Ibo tribe often resorts to violence to make his points understood. Down in his heart, Okonkwo is not a cruel man, but his life is dominated by his internal conflict, the fear of failure and of weakness. He hated his father, Unoka, because he was a lazy debtor. Okonkwo made it a point in his life to set himself apart from his father by being well known and wealthy as well as becoming a great warrior in the tribal conflicts of Umuofia and the surrounding villages. His fear leads him to commit cruel actions that are disastrous for him and the clan, for examples, his uncontrollable anger has caused his family and the clan to fear him. Okonkwo’s external conflict will be his family and religion which is one of the reasons that led to the death of Okonkwo at the end.
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Okonkwo’s most prominent internal conflict, the fear of failure and weakness, destroyed his life and has made him a cruel man. His internal conflict gives him nothing but the fears of his family and clan have towards him. His conflict is greatly influenced by his father, but Okonkwo takes his fear to the extreme. Okonkwo’s father was a very lazy and carefree man. He had a reputation of being “poor and his wife and children had just barely enough to eat… they swore never to lend him any more money because he never paid back” (Achebe, pg. 61). In Umuofia, a father is supposed to teach the children right and wrong, and in this case, the lessons were not taught, but self-learned. Okonkwo had to rely on his own interpretations of what defined a “good man” and to him that was someone that was the exact opposite of his father. As a result of his own self-taught conclusions, Okonkwo feels that anything resembling his father or anything that his father enjoyed was weak and unnecessary. Because of his fear to be seen as weak, Okonkwo even strikes down Ikemefuna who lives with him for three years calls him father: “as the machete came down. Okonkwo looked away. He heard the blow. He heard Ikemefuna cry `My father, they have killed me!’ Okonkwo draws his machete and cuts him down. He does not want to be though weak” (P. 61). Even he act heartless and coldblooded, his guilt of killing Ikemefuna has caused him for not able to sleep and eats for days. This shows that he will destroy everything that makes him look weak no matter what.
Okonkwo’s uncontrollable anger is his another prominent flaw that keeps him away from true greatness. Although his anger has served him well in his life, ultimately, it destroys his way of life. Okonkwo is very rough on his son, for example, when Nwoye overhears that Ikemefuna was to be “taken back to his village, burst into tears… Okonkwo beat him heavily”(P57). Okonkwo tries to instill his personal views on how to live as a man to his son, and to Okonkwo, crying is very womanly, and so Nwoye is punished for it. Okonkwo’s inability to control his anger eventually drives his son away from him instead of teaching him what is right and what is wrong. It makes Nwoye want to join what Okonkwo wants to destroy. Okonkwo spies the District Commissioner and as he “trembles with hate, unable to utter a word… 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.” (P.204) Okonkwo’s hate and anger in this situation eventually leads him to his death. Although his hate and anger is justified here, it is clear that he is not able to control himself, and unrestrained anger does more harm than good. Achebe tries to show the readers that hate and anger is a very destructive way to live your life. If the people around sense the prospect of change, they will go against their ruler in hopes of change.
Okonkwo’s external conflict will be his family and religion which is one of the reasons that led to the death of Okonkwo at the end. The clans of the Igbo society worshipped their gods, which made of stones and woods, differently than other religions. They had a representative for each of their goddess such as the Oracle of the Hills. The main god that they worshipped was Chukwu, who was believed had created heaven and Earth. His hatred and the humiliation he get from the Christian make him kill the messenger of District Commissioner. Okonkwo thinks that the Christians have ruined their clans because the clans found a new and accurate teaching, they began to doubt their own religion and the Igbo society was no longer acted like one. The death of Okonkwo at the end was unpredictable because throughout the novel, Chinua Achebe described him as a strong warrior who feared of nothing besides failure and weakness. When Okonkwo committed suicide, he also committed the only thing he feared, and that was weakness.
In conclusion, Okonkwo’s most prominent internal conflict, the fear of failure and weakness, destroyed his life and has made him a cruel man. His uncontrollable anger is his another prominent flaw that keeps him away from true greatness. At the end, when Okonkwo committed suicide, he also committed the only thing he feared, and that was weakness.
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