Destiny Takes A Toll
While reading Things Fall Apart it is important to realize that in the end it is not Okonkwo’s choices but in fact destinies work that brought Okonkwo’s life to his tragic end. Since the day Okonkwo is born destiny is not on his side. His father is a nobody, Okonkwo accidently murdering a clan member and his son Nwoye converting to Christianity can all be shown to prove it is in fact destiny’s work and to show he has absolutely no say in his tragic end. Destiny is a debatable subject but it is clear that Okonwko has no choice in these three events. He cannot choose whether these events happen, they are destined upon him. Furthermore, when a person is destined, they cannot choose the outcome, it is simply brought upon them. This is what happened to Oknonkwo.
During the first chapter Achebe teaches us all about Okonkwo, but more importantly, his father Unoka. Unoka is a failure in Umofia, “he [is] poor and his wife and children ha[ve] barley enough to eat”(5). He is a man with no titles, does not have multiple wives and is not known as a warrior. “Unoka was never happy when it came to wars. He was in fact a coward and could not bear the sight of blood”(6). Therefore, since his father does not make a name for himself and is not strong like a warrior, Okonkwo is destined for failure. Like father like son. Achebe shows this by convincing the audience that Okonkwo overcomes his fathers curse by having many titles. Although this is true,
it causes him to live his life in fear of being the man his father is. Okonkwo lives with this his whole life stuck in the back of his mind. This causes Okonkwo to do the exact opposite of what his father does. Even when it comes down to farming, the clan of Umofia knows Unoka “for the weakness of [his] machete and [his] hoe. When [his] neighbors go out with their ax to cut down virgin forests, [he] sow [’s] [his] yams on exhausted farms that take no labor to clear”(17). This effect on Okonkwo alters who he really is. Whenever he makes a decision, his id (unconscious mind) gets controlled by his ego (what other people think of him), which makes him act like someone he is not. This is shown through his father. He does not want his clan mates to see him as they see his father. Unoka’s failure causes Okonkwo to make decisions that are violent and angry because his father is the exact opposite of those characteristics. Since he makes these violent decisions it is easy to see that he is destined for his tragic end because of his father. His father is a symbol and foreshadows what Okonkwo does to himself.
When thinking about the topic destiny, it is important to realize the person who it is affecting has no say or choice in what happens to them. It is simply destined to happen because of one reason or another. This can be perfectly shown in Things Fall Apart when Okonkwo’s gun explodes at Ezudu’s funeral. This leads to the accidental death of Ezudu’s sixteen-year-old son. In Umofia “violent deaths [are] frequent, but nothing like this [has] ever happened”(124). Okonkwo is the first to do such a thing; therefore he does not know what is going to happen. It creates unwanted fear. Although Achebe explains the event is an accident, it shows and proves that Okonkwo is never supposed to be one
of the top leaders of his clan. His life is destined to fail because he now has to move out of his town back to his motherland. Okonkwo realizes in Umofia “it [is] a crime against the earth goddess to kill a clansman, and a man who [commits] it must flee from the land”(124). Furthermore he is greatly disappointed because “his life [has] been ruled by a great passion to become one of the lords of the clan. That [has] been his life-spring. And he [has] all but achieved it. Then everything [is] broken. He [has] been cast out of his clan like a fish onto a dry, sandy beach, panting”(130). Okonkwo obviously does not want his gun to go off during the funeral, but once again, you cannot control destiny. Achebe uses the example of a fish being cast out onto a beach to describe what is happening to Okonkwo. Okonkwo is very new to the situation like a fish on land is. He does not know his surroundings, what to do and how to fix it. He tries everything to fix the situation, but he simply cannot do anything therefore he starts to pant. The outcome of this event causes Oknokwo to be distant from his original clan. The Europeans are then able to convert some of the Umofian clan members to Christianity. In the end, Okonkwo hangs himself because of the Europeans. If Okonkwo’s gun does not go off, who knows what the Umofia clan would do to the Europeans.
Lastly, it is quite interesting and key to take into account the actions of Okonkwo’s first son Nwoye. During the novel we learn that Okonkwo tires to teach Nwoye many things. All his attempts are failures because “Nwoye [resembles] his grandfather, Unoka, who [is] Okonkwo’s father. He [pushes] the thought out of his mind”(153). This is not how Okonkwo wishes his son to be like. Whenever his grandfather comes into his mind, he gets nervous and uneasy. When this happens he
thinks of all the accomplishments he has done. Okonkwo is given a son he does not want at all; in fact he thinks to himself, “how [did] I [get] a son like Nwoye, degenerate and effeminate? Perhaps he [is] not my son. No! [H]e couldn’t be”(153). To make matters worse, later in the novel Nwoye converts to Christianity. Interesting enough, Okonkwo once again has no say or choice in this event. It is destiny that is brought upon him. This causes Okonkwo to gain much more hatred towards the Europeans and wants to kill them even more then he already does. One time “as Okonkwo sat in his hut that night, gazing into a log fire, he thought over the matter. A sudden fury rose within him and he felt a strong desire to take up his machete, go to the church and wipe out the entire vile and miscreant gang”(152). The destiny of his son’s conversion to Christianity ultimately is what causes his thoughts and actions, which then lead him to his tragic end. Achebe uses imagery like the fire to help show Okonkwo’s anger towards the situation. Also this quote shows that he has a very short temper and does not think twice before he acts.
It is important to realize that in the end it is not Okonkwo’s choices but in fact fate that brought Okonkwo’s life to his tragic end. Okonkwo is first born into a family where the father is a failure, and then to make matters worse he accidently kills a boy and gets banned. This is not all; finally, his son Nwoye resembles his grandfather even more than before and decides to convert to Christianity. This all happens before the blink of an eye for Okonkwo. The harsh reality is he has absolutely no choice or option for these events happening. Can this perhaps relate to real life? It is quite often that the question why me is asked. Then to seek an answer but there is none, the person is left unsatisfied and uncomfortable. The answer is Destiny.