Things Fall Apart


Points To Ponder

1. Could Okonkwo be considered a tragic hero?

It is not easy to say that Okonkwo is a tragic hero. He is not consistently great. He is not better than ordinary men (except, perhaps, when it comes to farming). He is great when it comes to fighting, but he is motivated mostly by fear of failing rather than by any of the noble heroic virtues, such as duty, honor, fortitude, or justice. It is only near the end of the novel, when Okonkwo’s clan is dishonored by the Anglican missionaries, that he is compelled to avenge his and his clan’s honor. He makes bold statements that he will fight alone if necessary, yet when it is found that he will indeed fight alone, he hangs himself. Okonkwo, in other words, has more in common with the tragic modern man (or “hero,” if you will), such as Arthur Miller’s Willy Loman. It may be said that Okonkwo has more greatness in him than the salesman, but Okonkwo is so often stifled by his own fear of failure that he is continually frustrating his son, betraying the ones he loves, losing his fatherland, and suffering humilities (as a consequence of his distempered pride). To say that he is as mediocre as Miller’s modern “hero” would surely be an injustice to Okonkwo, but to say that he is as great as Sophocles’ Oedipus, for example, would surely be a stretch. Oedipus’s faults and downfall affect all of Thebes; it is debatable whether Okonkwo’s fall really has any affect whatsoever on Umuofia. He maintains to the end that if they had only listened to him… but then, he does not even seem to listen to himself.

2. How do Nwoye and Okonkwo represent opposing beliefs?

Okonkwo represents the heathen world, which is superstitious and ruled by blood. Okonkwo himself is not an intellectual; he is, rather, a man of action. He clings to earthly honors and does not question the customs of his time. He strives instead to obtain titles and be respected by the community, even though he often fails to control his temper and is talked about...

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Essays About Things Fall Apart