Things Fall Apart

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In life people are very rarely, if ever, purely good or evil. In novels authors tend not to create characters with an obvious moral standing not only to make their novel more applicable to the reader, but also to make the characters more complex and dynamic. Chinua Achebe uses this technique to develop the characters in his novel, Things Fall Apart. The main character, and protagonist in the novel, Okonkwo, is very morally dynamic showing some sensitivity to his family and friends, but in an attempting to rebel against his father, Okonkwo also exhibits the tendency to lash out violently.

Okonkwo's moral ambiguity is not simply inherent in his character, but is developed by the situation he was presented with in life. Okonkwo's father Unoka, exhibited qualities during his lifetime that were not respected by his fellow clan members. During the beginning of the book the reader can relate to how Okonkwo would want to be respected and can be happy for his success. It is the simple tendency of the reader to be happy when the protagonist succeeds; therefore when Okonkwo defeats Amalinze the cat in wrestling the reader is satisfied with the outcome. Okonkwo's moral ambiguity is defined when it is made clear that Okonkwo simply discards his father, whose death was described as being very painful. Although Okonkwo's father was unsuccessful in life, the reader still pities him when he dies because he was a compassionate person. Even though Okonkwo appeals to the reader's own want to be successful, and is viewed positively for that reason, he is developed as a morally ambiguous character because of the lack of compassion he showed toward his father.

Later in the book, as Okonkwo becomes more successful in his village by attaining wives and a large number of yams, the reader learns of his tendency towards violence and stubbornness. One of the first examples of Okonkwo's violence was during the village's sacred week of peace, when he severely beat his wife for...
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