Okonkwo, the Tragic Hero

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There are many great examples of tragic heroes throughout the wide world of literature but one of the greatest examples would be Okonkwo, the protagonist of Chinua Achebe’s classic novel, Things Fall Apart. A tragic hero would best be defined as a literary character that makes a mistake in judgment or has a fatal flaw that, combined with fate and external forces, brings suffering and defeat upon himself. There are multiple character traits that a tragic hero possesses. Some of those traits are that the hero is in a position of nobility, has a trait which leads to his downfall, is doomed to make an error in judgment, and he is responsible for his own fate. This paper will discuss Okonkwo and how he is the archetypal tragic hero.

One of the pivotal traits of a tragic hero is that he comes from some type of nobility. Okonkwo fits this bill. Only in his thirties, he is already a leader of the Igbo community of Umuofia. He is a fierce warrior that already participated in two wars and killed multiple men. Okonkwo was a revered wrestler, who “As a young man of eighteen … had brought honor to his village by throwing Amalinze the Cat. Amalinze was the great wrestler who for seven years was unbeaten, from Umuofia to Mbaino.” He was a successful farmer of yams (a manly crop), had three wives and had many children who lived in huts with him on his compound. He was also a fearsome man of considerable size, like it said in the book, “He was tall and huge, and his bushy eyebrows and wide nose gave him a very severe look.” His titles were held with the greatest esteem. However, Okonkwo was not always powerful. His father, Unoka, was “lazy and improvident and was quite incapable of thinking about tomorrow.” He was “a debtor, and he owed every neighbor some money.” Okonkwo grew up supporting the family in his father’s place. Unoka was, in Okonkwo’s mind, a failure. He vowed to never be womanly and disgraceful like his father, and he worked hard toward and achieved his goal of...
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