English 1 Honors Period 1
22 May 2012
Tragic Character and Plot in Things Fall Apart
Despite being written in 1959 and set in Nigeria, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe reads much like a Greek tragedy. AmidstPrinciples from Aristotle’s theory of tragedy in the Poetics are evident throughout the novel, and contribute to the development of the protagonist and the incidents of the plot. Amid the images of slaves, missionaries, and western colonialism, Achebe uses these principles to create a tragic character and plot that carrypropel his story.
Components of a the tragic character incorporated into the novel are present in the protagonist, Okonkwo. FirstIn him, the concept of hamartia, a tragic flaw in the protagonist, is evident in Okonkwo. His life is driven by ahis overpowering fear of failure. It is this fear that restrictsprevents him from showing sensitivity or any other sign of weakness when interacting with other charactershis family or friends:
Okonkwo ruled his household with a heavy hand. His wives, especially the
youngest, lived in perpetual fear of his fiery temper, and so did his little
children […]. […] his whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and of
weakness. (13) Time and time again, Okonkwo’s tragic flaw influences his actions in a negative way. Second, Okonkwo displays consistency in his personality, even to the point of obduracy. Although there are many opportunities for him to change his habits, he cannot rid himself of the fear of turning out like his father. When Okonkwo and his family are exiled to his motherland for seven years, Okonkwo’s uncle, Uchendu, observes the manner in which Okonkwo treats his family. He tells him, “Your duty is to comfort your wives and your children […]” (134). However, Okonkwo is still bound by thoughts of his father’s failures, and he continues to stay emotionally detached from his family. Third, Okonkwo exhibits a strong moral purpose and...
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