Things Fall Apart

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Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart can be perceived as one that highlights the idea of an Igbo epic hero. The text is an analysis of the protagonist Okwonko, as representative of an Igbo epic hero. The term epic hero often describes a character as being larger than life and who expresses extraordinary traits. When considering Greek mythology the greatest epic heroes are Odysseus who is worshiped for his virtuousness amongst other traits, as well as Achilles for his valor. In Igbo mythology an example of the ultimate epic hero is Beowulf of the Anglo- Saxon times, in which he portrays honorable characteristics (Nnolim, 1992). By considering Achebe’s Okwonko it is found that he does not possess the character traits of an ‘epic’ hero. Indeed the Igbo culture does not acknowledge the idea of an epic hero, but rather focus on the concept of heroism. The latter suggest that Okonkwo can be perceived as an epic hero within the Igbo culture. Justifiably so, considering that Okonkwo does not fit the conception of being an ideal epic hero but rather correspond to what is considered Igbo epic heroism. According to Azuonye Igbo epic, refers to real men that acquired heroism in pursuing a life protecting others in risking their own (Azuonye, 1984). However Okonkwo while being classified as an Igbo epic hero did not appreciate the idea of having a heroic obligation to society (Lindfors 1991, 17). Indeed the latter apply to the notion that Okonkwo classify affection with weakness- which is not an ideal of an Igbo epic hero. Furthermore, this concept of being afraid to show weakness through affection can be marked as the reason for his apprehension toward his responsibilities to others. Hence Okonkwo’s perception of the Igbo epic hero was that the hero must not reveal kindness, let alone feel feelings of emotion lest it be anger (Achebe, 2001). However, in the end Okonkwo’s erroneous belief of what describes the ultimate epic hero in Igbo culture will ironically lead to his down fall. The epic hero is defined as a great warrior; a role model; a man of intelligence; as self -restraint; a legendary figure and someone who is able to cross boundaries. However the heroes of Igbo society are handpicked individuals that must attain wealth through their own hard work due to their lack of hereditary kingship. Furthermore the epic hero’s loyalty is not merely to himself but he is also duty-bound to the existence of his society (Nnolim, 1992). There are many ironies with regards to Okonkwo’s character and the hero qualities he represents. The epic hero is normally born into royalty and wealth, just like Homer’s Odysseus. However in Igbo society, class systems or connections with powerful figures does not deem the worth of an individual. What is of great significance in Igbo culture is hard work and personal accomplishment, which is how Okonkwo achieved his powerful status in Umuofia (Nnolim, 1992). For the reason that he is a self- made hero, possessed remarkable strength and courage and is widely respected by many he fits the category of an Igbo epic hero. It is also for this reasons that Okonkwo enjoyed great recognition not only amongst his clan, but in neighboring villages as well. He therefore “[c]learly washed his hands and so he ate with kings and elders” (Achebe, 2001). The latter is in reference to the notion that Okonkwo achieved great things through hard work, despite his lack of affluence. Ironically Okonkwo fell apart because he deemed attainment as the essence for being an Igbo epic hero. Thus he assumed that for the reason that he asserted dominance and authority within his clan he did not amount to principles. Yet in the end it was it was this flaw that ultimately led to his end. The role of the Igbo epic hero also entails the ability to balance their emotions which contributes to their quality of self- restraint. Generally this idea of showing emotion is often perceived as a feminine quality. However in Homer’s The Odyssey there...
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