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Essay Is Okonkwo a Tragic Hero

By JL_Squirrel Nov 29, 2014 974 Words
Jennifer Leung
10 English Literature
April 7, 2014
Ms. Britte
Is Okonkwo a tragic hero?
Okonkwo is the protagonist in Chinua Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart. He was one of the Igbo people and he was also one of the most important men in his society. I would like to define the term tragic hero before I discuss whether Okonkwo is a tragic hero or not. A tragic hero is a literary character who had noble life at first but eventually died because of his own wrong judgment about something and his judgment error isn’t worth his death at all. In my opinion, Okonkwo is a tragic hero with no doubt. There are several criteria in detail, but I think the most important one is to find whether this character made a wrong decision which led to his death or not. As for Okonkwo, the fatal flaw should be that he thought his men in Umuofia would all agree on having a war with the white men, and they didn’t lose all their bravery. The reason is that this created all the following problems and it was the beginning of his downfall. Okonkwo had been exiled from Umuofia for seven years and when he went back, everything has changed a lot and the most significant change is the coming of white men, which are the Christian missionaries. He decided that his people were still as brave and strong as before his leaving. He really believed that Igbo people would be together and fight against those Christian even if some of their people had joined white men. Okonkwo didn’t realize that his era as well as his village had already been falling apart. This mistake in judgment made him kill the messenger that came to stop their meeting that was going to decide if they should have a war with those white men who prisoned the six leaders of them and asked for fine because Igbo people burnt the church after one of the Christians killed their god. He expected that his people would all stand up and fight and kill the messengers instead of breaking into a tumult and letting the other messengers go. Achebe wrote in the novel that “He discerned fear in that tumult … He wiped his machete on the sand and went away”. This revealed that Okonkwo had clearly understood his situation and Umuofia’s situation. He finally realized the fact that Umuofia would never go into wars with white men. Here comes another feature of tragic heroes that Okonkwo fitted in. His pride of his own people, and himself, made him hang himself on a tree. He and his dignity couldn’t accept that he felt afraid when he saw the crowd broke into chaos. He should be fearless of everything and yet he felt afraid. He knew that if he wanted to start the war, he would have to fight by himself but there was no chance for him to win. His pride doesn’t allow him to lose as well because it shows weaknesses, which means that he may become similar to his father. He was famous for strength and he hated his father and weakness. He had so much pride that he killed himself at last. He could have lived well in the village if he ignore his dignity for a while. Those white men would not harm him, at least he would be alive. The weakness of him was the excessive of pride, which most of the tragic heroes have. Okonkwo had a noble life before his wrong decision of wanting to fight against white men although his childhood was poor. He was the strongest man in Umuofia because he had beaten Amalinze the Cat, whose back would never touch the ground. He worked very hard to get rid of poverty and grew a lot of yams. He hated what his father had done and he hated laziness. It made us empathy with him because he used his own hand to gain fame and wealth yet all became meaningless due to his hanging himself on a tree. We, as readers, obviously know that Okonkwo doesn’t deserve death. He was a warrior, in fact, a great warrior. As Obierika, Okonkwo’s best friend, had said: “That man was one of the greatest men in Umuofia. You drove him to kill himself; and now he will be buried like a dog”, Okonkwo should be alive with his wealth and all the things he had. Another reason for us to feel empathy with him was that he wasn’t perfect. He had weakness as every one of us has. His weakness was his father’s story and his pride. He thought that it was a shame to have a lazy and untitled father. Unlike Superman or Batman, he didn’t have supernatural abilities. Therefore, it would be easier for us to agree with him or find ourselves understanding his situation. This is another character of a tragic hero as well. Okonkwo fits in it. To conclude it all, Okonkwo had his fatal flaw, which is the decision to believe that the villagers were still able to defeat white men. This then led to a reverse in his life and eventually, he killed himself because of this. He was intelligent enough to recognize his mistake. He realized them all at the moment he felt fear in the crowd. Okonkwo made audiences identify with him because he was imperfect. He had extreme pride that made him kill himself at last and the fate of his death was apparently more than deserved since he didn’t do anything bad. All he wanted to do was to save his village, his men and all the things that he believed in. Each of these proved that Okonkwo definitely is a tragic hero.

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