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Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” Essay, Research Paper

Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” presents its readers with an African tribe and its culture. Okonkwo, a well-respected member of the tribe, has some very interesting attributes. Specifically, he has an undying desire to be manly at all times complimented by a deeply rooted fear of being thought of as weak. Okonkwo has a very short, violent temper that is immediately triggered in response to actions that he deems to be weak. Okonkwo basically lived by the phrase, act first and think it through later. Unfortunately, almost every time that Okonkwo lets loose his violent temper in his manly way, he brings trouble upon himself, as well as those around him. One way to explain his actions and the misfortunes that usually follow is to conclude that Okonkwo has bad luck. Another way of looking at this fact is to say that the events are a result of coincidence. However, I disagree with these views, and instead assert that Achebe deliberately made sure that after each of Okonkwo’s outbursts, a tragedy befell him and those around him. I think that Achebe could have been trying to hint to the reader that placing too much emphasis on acting manly is bad.

One example of Okonkwo’s quick reflexes is seen when he kills Ikemefuna because he did not want his fellow clansmen to think that he was weak. After the Ikemefuna’s slaying, Okonkwo is unable to eat or drink for two days due to the fact that he is upset over the death of Ikemefuna. However, he must fight against his manly pride, which reminds him that killing someone should not bother him. However, he has trouble accepting this, but must for fear of being considered weak, like a “shivering old woman” (Achebe 45). Another instance of Okonkwo’s hot temper arises while he and some other men are locked up in a cell and Okonkwo reaffirms how he believes they should have killed Mr. Smith. A messenger overhears this remark and beats each of the men on their backs and heads with a large stick. A final illustration of Okonkwo’s rash actions leading to suffering for himself and those around him occurs when he hastily kills the head messenger who comes to Umuofia to break up a town meeting. The messenger is only able to speak 2 short sentences, before a furious Okonkwo assassinates him. This brings the ultimate suffering to Okonkwo, who hangs himself, as well as suffering for the rest of the tribe, who may not bury him and some of whom are brought to the court where Okonkwo and the others suffered earlier.

In conclusion, Okonkwo’s tragic flaw was his constantly flared temper, which was a result of a fear of being considered weak, or womanly. It was this temper that was constantly bringing problems to Okonkwo and others around him. In the end, Okonkwo could fight no more and had to take his own life. I believe that Achebe purposefully arranged the novel in this manner in order to convey that being manly is not as important as some believe it to be.


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