Okonkwo as a Sympathetic Protagonist in Things Fall Apart

Topics: Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe, Family Pages: 2 (530 words) Published: January 18, 2007
Okonkwo as a sympathetic protagonist in Things Fall Apart

"Okonkwo's machete descended twice and the man's head lay beside his uniformed body" (146). Okonkwo, the son of the effeminate and lazy Unoka, strives to make his way in a world that seems to value manliness. In so doing, he rejects everything for which he believes his father stood. Unoka was idle, poor, profligate, cowardly, gentle, and interested in music and conversation. Okonkwo consciously adopts opposite ideals and becomes productive, wealthy, thrifty, brave, violent, and adamantly opposed to music and anything else that he perceives to be "soft," such as conversation and emotion. He is gruff, at times, and usually unable to express his feelings, but his emotions and motivations are quite complex. Despite his overall image as a violent brute, Achebe shows Okonkwo as a tender, worried father and a hard worker, who had "cracked [his palm-kernels] himself" (19).

Throughout the novel, Okonkwo treats most of the people harshly, however, Ikemefuna, a boy he takes into his family, and his daughter Ezinma are probably the only characters whom he treats kindly. Although Ikemefuna is not a member of his family Okonkwo felt that "his son's development…was due to Ikemefuna" (37) and felt proud when the two boys "sat with him in his obi" (37). Although, he strikes Ikemefuna down when the clan orders him killed it is not because of hatred but because "he was afraid of being thought weak" (43). Ezinma is Okonkwo's favorite daughter and the only child of Ekwefi, is bold in the way that she approaches—and even sometimes contradicts—her father. Okonkwo remarks to himself multiple times that he wishes she "should have been a boy" (45), since he considers her to have such a masculine spirit. As well, he and she are very similar in their characteristics, which are shown during Okonkwo's exile when Ezinma agrees to put off marriage until her family returns from exile so as to help her father leverage his...
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