Okonkwo Is a Tragic Hero

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Okonkwo is the protagonist in the book Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. Things Fall Apart is about Okonkwo rule by success and fuel by the absolute resentment of becoming like his father, Unoka. Okonkwo chooses to live life by creating fear and anger to his tribe and his family. Okonkwo is ruled by fear and anger, which takes part in his ultimate downfall. Okonkwo is not so much a martyr but a tragic hero because he is a man of importance brought down by an insurmountable amount of conflict within himself due to his tragic flaws and the dominating cultural influence that threatens change in a traditional society.

Since Okonkwo is a tragic hero, he must have tragic flaws. The first of which is his obsession with war, fighting, and conquering. Okonkwo constantly must be engaged in some activity that has physical exertion or combat. For Okonkwo, the desire to conquer and subdue is described as being, "'...like the desire for woman'" (30). He possesses a one-track mind that was focused on nothing but success. His second tragic flaw is that he can show no other emotion except for anger. He never shows his fondness for the young hostage, Ikemefuna, who eventually regards Okonkwo as his father. Inside, Okonkwo wishes that Ikemefuna were his natural son instead of Nwoye. It is also this flaw that causes him to beat his wife during the weak of peace for, "...killing this banana tree" (27). His anger almost causes him to kill his second wife with a gun. He feels very sorry for this act, but cannot show his true emotions. The example of this is when the Oracle of the Hill deems that Ikemefuma must die, but not by Okonkwo's hand, since he calls him father:

As the man who had cleared his throat drew up and raised his machete, Okonkwo looked away. He heard the blow. The pot fell and broke in the sand. He heard Ikemefuna cry, "My father, they have killed me!" as he ran towards him. Dazed with fear, Okonkwo drew his machete and cut him down. He...
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