Okonkwo as a Man’s Man
Chinua Achebe’s novel Thing Fall Apart focuses around the Ibo people in Nigeria but more specifically those of the tribe of Umuofia. In this tribe the male is the head of the household and must constantly prove himself to be worthy of his responsibilities. Each family in this tribe grows their own food and creates their own structures and supplies. To be successful a household must have a strong, powerful, and well respected male figure at its head. Is Okonkwo such a man that would have success in this society? Absolutely! Okonkwo is a man’s man especially according to the qualities held by his people. He is the most feared and probably the most respected man not only in his tribe but in the surrounding tribes as well. How does Okonkwo get this respect? We see him start his manly journey at a young age through hard work and proof of great fighting ability.
“As a young man of eighteen he 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 called the cat because his back would never touch the earth. It was this man that Okonkwo threw in a fight which the old men agreed was one of the fiercest since the founder of their town engaged a spirit of the wild for seven days and seven nights.” (Chapter 1 pg3) Okonkwo believes that it is not just these qualities that make him a man. He believes that aggression must be added to these traits. To him, men are superior to women and must prove so with authority because a meek attitude and a lazy hand are completely unacceptable and are not traits of a “real man”.
Where did he get this aggression toward laziness from? Okonkow’s aggression roots from his relationship with his father. He did not beat Okonkwo or force him to work hard or even yell at him. Instead, Unoka, Okonkwo’s father, was known for his laziness and carefree lifestyle.