In his novel Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe portrays Okonkwo as a respected and determined individual with one fatal flaw, a deeply rooted internal fear that he will turn out to be weak and a failure just like his father. It is this fear that drives Okonkwo’s every thought and action and ultimately leads to his downfall. Okonkwo considers many of his father’s characteristics to be feminine and as such he tirelessly strives to epitomize the masculine ideal of the Igbo society. As a result, Okonkwo becomes highly successful in many ways within his culture. However his fears motivate him to take actions that are often unnecessary and ultimately destructive. His fear of failure and weakness leads him to assist in the murder of Ikemefuna whom he loved, to beat his wives, be emotionally distant from his children, disown his own son and ultimately commit suicide. Ironically, after all his efforts not to end up like his father, Okonkwo is rejected in death by his culture just as his father was.
Okonkwo’s drive to compensate for his father’s failures, leave him with the inability to respect his own cultures desire for gendered balance. His hyper masculinity sets him up for an inevitable clash with the Igbo ideal of balance between feminine and masculine qualities. Derek Wright notes that “Okonkwo’s impetuous, aggressive individualism and the belief behind it—that he must wipe out his father’s memory by succeeding in everything his father failed at—are out of harmony with a society which is renowned for its talent for social compromise and which judges a man according to his worth, not that of his father” (1990, cited in Osei-Nyame 1999: 151). Okonkwo’s imbalance of the feminine and masculine ideal leads him to lack social compromise when his community is engaging in the more feminine practices such as relaxation and celebration. During the Week of Peace Okonkwo severely beats his wife Ojiugo as a punishment. “In his anger he had forgotten that it was the Week of...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document