Tragedy in Things Fall Apart

Topics: Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe, Tragic hero Pages: 2 (735 words) Published: December 2, 2000
Consider the Aristotelian tragedy. It has yet to go the way of Eddie Bauer. In Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe devised a tragic African hero in Okonkwo, consistent with the classic stipulations of the figure. Thus, the novel--to its greatest practicable extent—inherently existed as a tragedy on all levels to accommodate Okonkwo. To illustrate this, I will dissect and analyze the many factors that make Things Fall Apart an exemplary model of Greek tragedy by Aristotle's own towering ideals.

First and foremost, the tragic hero must be of noble stature, occupying a high position within the community, innately embodying virtue and majesty. Okonkwo distinguished himself as an exceptional wrestler, defeating Amalinze the Cat—who had not been defeated in seven years—and winning thus a reputation as a "manly" figure. In his family compound, Okonkwo lives in a hut of his own, and each of his three wives lives in a hut of her own with her children. The prosperous compound also includes an enclosure with stacks of yams, sheds for goats and hens, and a "medicine house", where Okonkwo keeps the symbols of his personal god and ancestral spirits and where he offers prayers for his and his family.

Though the hero may be great, he may not be perfect. We must be able to identify with him, seeing him perhaps in others or ourselves. Having a notoriously short temper and an infamously wasteful father rendered Okonkwo imperfect, one who has problems and a past like everyone else.

The hero's downfall, therefore, is partially his own fault, the result of free choice, not of accident or villainy or some overriding, malignant fate. In fact, the tragedy is usually triggered by some error of judgment or some character flaw that contributes to the hero's lack of perfection noted above. This error of judgment or character flaw is known as hamartia and is usually (albeit hesitantly) translated as "tragic flaw". Often the character's hamartia involves hubris. The proud Okonkwo, a...
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