"Things Fall Apart" by Chinua Achebe
a) Describe in detail your impression of Okonkwo's character having read part one of the novel.
b) What is Okonkwo's response to the arrival of the white man, and how does he cope with the changes that come about under the influence of a different culture.
c) Describe your own reaction to Okonkwo's actions at the close of the novel.
a) Okonkwo is a senior member of the Ibo tribe in Nigeria at the end of the last century. He is an extremely complex character, and in my opinion has two very different sides to his personality.
On one hand, Okonkwo is seen as a powerful, respected man, who is well known throughout his home village of Umuofia and beyond. He is a brave fearless warrior, who as a young man had brought great honour to his village by beating Amalinze, and who for seven years had not been beaten "from Umuofia to Mbaino". He is not a man to shy away from conflict or confrontation. He is not a particularly intelligent man, but a man of action, who is more likely to settle an argument through violence than negotiation. He has an impulsive, explosive nature which can often land him in trouble. By nature, he is energetic and hardworking, and has no patience with men that are idle. He is a pillar of the community, and is looked up to by the majority of his clan members for his success and prosperity in life.
However, beyond this manly display of strength and fortitude lies a man whose life is dominated by fear, a fear of being considered a failure. The main contribution to this fear is his father Unoka. When talking about Okonkwo, it is hard for Unoka's name not to come up, as he has been such a great influence and contribution to his personality, and the way in which he chooses to live his life.
Throughout his life, Unoka had been a lazy, incompetent man, who was regarded as a failure by the majority of his fellow clan members. Unlike Okonkwo, he was a very peaceful, merry man who disliked war and violence. He was also a very emotional man, with a sensitive and reflective nature. When he died, he died having taken no title, and was heavily in debt. Therefore, Okonkwo strives to stamp out any character traits that he sees in himself that remind him of his father. In fact, he tries to be the complete opposite of his father in every single way. Also, due to his father's unsuccessfulness in life, Okonkwo was not born with the head start in life that so many other young men had. No one could possibly say that Okonkwo was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, as from an early age he was already fending for himself, and all the great things that he achieved were due to his own merit and perseverance.
In some ways this was a good thing, as it made Okonkwo into the independent, strong headed man that he is. Nevertheless, while Unoka was far from perfect, he also had some good points, such as his gentleness, and his kindness. However, Okonkwo saw every aspect of his father's character as undesirable, whatever it may have been.
This leads people to believe that he is a cruel, harsh man, but in reality Okonkwo has a very protective, loving side to his personality. However, this is the side he prefers to keep hidden, for fear that people may compare him to his dead father, and he may be considered a failure. This would be an enormous tragedy according to Okonkwo, as he cares a lot about what other people think of him, and in every situation he is faced with, he tries hard to react in a way that people would consider to be brave and manly.
Okonkwo treats his children in the same harsh manner that he treats everyone else, though it is apparent that he cares for them very much. However, because he so badly wants them to be successful and prosperous in life, he tends to take the wrong approach, and is very rude and aggressive towards them. He also has a tendency to blow things out of proportion, and overreact to the tiniest mistake or...
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