The novel “Things Fall Apart” describes the tragic drop of the main character, Okonkwo, and the culture of Igbo. It is probably the most authentic narrative ever written about life in Nigeria at the beginning of the 20th century. Although the novel was published in 1958, thousands of its copies are sold every year in the U.S. alone. The novel has been adapted for the productions on the stage, radio, and on TV.
Is Okonkwo a tragic hero? To answer this question, it is necessary to know what the tragic hero is. As defined by Aristotle, a tragic hero is noble in nature, has a tragic flaw and finds his fate by his actions. In a novel by Chinua Achebe “Things Fall Apart”, Okonkwo is considered a tragic hero, because he meets all the criteria of Aristotle’s definition.
Okonkwo has a position of power and prestige, chooses his direction of actions, possesses a tragic flaw, and gets awareness of circumstances that lead to his fall. The tragic flaw of Okonkwo is his fear of weakness and failure.
In his thirties, Okonkwo is a leader of the Igbo community of Umuofia. He is a wrestler, a warrior, and a successful farmer of yams. He has three wives and many children. Throughout his life he leads a battle for status. His life is dominated by failure and weakness. Okonkwo tries to hide his affection and gentleness. Even though, he feels affection sometimes, he never portrays affection toward anyone. Instead he isolates himself by demonstrating anger through stubborn, violent, and irrational behavior. Okonkwo demands his family to work long hours despite their age or limited physical abilities and he beats his wives and son, who he believes has woman characteristics as his father.
Okonkwo is very impulsive and he acts before he thinks. Later, Okonkwo offend people of the Igbo and their traditions as well as gods of his clan. Okonkwo is advised not to take part in the murder of Ikefemuna, but he actually kills him, because he doesn’t want to seem weak. When the Christianity is brought to Umuofia, Okonkwo is opposed to accept new traditions. He feels that the changes brought destroy the culture of Igbo. Okonkwo finds that changes require compromise and accommodation, which is two things he finds intolerable. Being too inflexible and proud, he grabs to old beliefs and mourns the loss of the past.
When Okonkwo kills the messenger from the British district, his men in clan back away in fear. He sees that none supports him and he can’t save his village from the British colonists. Okonkwo lost. He commits suicide, a disgraceful and shameful death like his father’s.
The novel “Things Fall Apart” describes the tragic drop of the main character, Okonkwo, and the culture of Igbo. It is probably the most authentic narrative ever written about life in Nigeria at the beginning of the 20th century. Although the novel was published in 1958, thousands of its copies are sold every year in the U.S. alone.