The Fall of National Identity in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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       The protagonist in “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe, is Okonkwo he is a man who grew up with little to nothing in his pocket, nothing to inherit but, he made a name for himself. He was the first person to beat the fiercest wrestler in the village, “Amalinze was the great wrestler who for seven years was unbeaten, from Umofia to Mbaino.”(Pg.1) Okonkwo was very strong and helpful to his village, but he was very mean to his family.

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Okonkwo would beat his wives and children because he wanted to work hard like he did but he did it in a harsh way. He also was a very respected man for his political position he would help his village evolve and he tried his best to let it continue growing but the new government after his seven-year exile was too much for him to handle leading Okonkwo to take his own life.

In the book “Things fall apart” By, (Chinua Achebe) the main character Okonkwo was a very angry man when it came to his family, therefore making me not feel sympathy for him at all. He really cares for his reputation and he will not let his children nor his wives mess it up for him and deep inside he was actually afraid of people thinking he was weak. “Okonkwo ruled his household with a heavy hand.” “Perhaps down in his heart, Okonkwo was not a cruel man. But his whole life was dominated by fear of failure and weakness.”(Pg.13) What made him this way was him seeing his father fail and be lazy he wanted to do what his father couldn’t/failed to do. He wanted a better life for himself and his family but, all he did was verbally and physically abuse them. “His wives, especially the youngest, lived in perpetual fear of his fiery temper, and so did his little children.” (Pg. 13) Okonkwo didn’t have the best life as a child he was poor. Any money his father came across would be spent on wine and all he did was share around. He’s doing that lead to him not leaving anything for his children when he passed away. “Okonkwo did not have the start in life which many young men usually had. He did not inherit a barn from his father. There was no barn to inherit.” (Pg.16) He just kept all his emotions (weakness) in because he felt it wasn’t worth it to let people show that he was “weak” because then if he did his family would probably never try for anything better. Even though he is handling it the wrong way (the abusiveness) he does have a good reason for it. “Okonkwo never showed any emotion openly, unless it is the emotion of anger. To show affection was a sign of weakness; the only thing worth demonstrating was strength.” (Pg.28) Okonkwo didn’t want to show that he was weak because he knew how people thought about his family because of his father and he wanted people to see the image that he had in his mind (A hard-working nonlazy man supporting his family) and so he did what he thought was right.

Okonkwo was a great wrestler, war representative, successful farmer, etc. But Okonkwo didn’t live his full truth. He was afraid of being weak so he was overly aggressive and would he would beat his family to keep them from being “lazy”. Okonkwo was able to make a name for himself because he was able to throw Amalinze “The cat.” “Okonkwo was as slippery as a fish in water.”(pg.1) The cat was a wrestler who had never been thrown in a fight but Okonkwo was too slippery to catch leaving him with the win and Amalinze with his first loss. Okonkwo was well respected and that respect was something that he didn’t ever want to lose or to see his family not have. “Okonkwo never showed any emotion openly, unless it is the emotion of anger. To show affection was a sign of weakness; the only thing worth demonstrating was strength.”(Pg.28) Okonkwo is very into doing traditional religious things “Okonkwo did as the priest said.” (Pg.31) He is respectful to higher authority and elders. He is one strong/weak, respectful, and respected man.

A tragic hero is someone meaning to do what right or what they believe is right but they have the wrong way of doing it, and they follow tradition so if an elder were to tell him something he would do it no matter what. I believe that Okonkwo is a tragic hero because he does want to help and support his family but he does it in the wrong way he just doesn’t want to be weak. He was even able to kill someone who has called him father, “My father, they have killed me!” “as he ran towards him. Dazed with fear, Okonkwo drew his machete and cut him down. He was afraid of being thought weak.” (pg.61) Although he was able to kill his “son” Ikemefuna he did have regret he had not eaten or slept for a couple of days, “Okonkwo was beginning to feel like his old self again. All that he required was something to occupy his mind. If he had killed Ikemefuna during the busy planting season or harvesting it would not have been so bad; his mind would have been centered on his work.” (Pg.69) He is feeling pretty poorly but he just wants to get back to work and stop feeling the way that he is because inside he is afraid of being thought weak. Okonkwo although it is a forced journey he did take one this is due to the death of a young man that was dancing around at his father’s funeral, Okonkwo’s gun had accidentally exploded leading a piece of iron to the boy’s heart. “The only course open to Okonkwo was to flee from the clan. It was a crime against the earth goddess to kill a clansman, and a man who committed it must flee from the land.” (pg.124) Okonkwo isn’t completely horrible because he does actually care for his family he wants them to be safe. Okonkwo had gone to check the caves to see where the priestess had to take Ezinma, “But the hills and the Caves were as silent as death. It was only on his fourth trip that he had found Ekwefi, and by then he had become gravely worried.” (Pg.112)

In the end, Okonkwo was tired of not being able to save his village, his culture, and his whole “world.” He was a very dependable man but this time he knew that there was nothing he could do to save it, so he just took his own life, “It is an abomination for a man to take his own life. It is an offense against the Earth…” (Pg.207) Okonkwo instead of trying gave up on himself and his village leaving them to suffer alone. What we can all take from this novel is that a dominant European culture can lead a smaller tribal culture to fall to the ground.                      

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The fall of national identity in Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart. (2021, Jun 03). Retrieved from