Things Fall Apart: Character Analysis Okonkwo

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Updated: Jun 04, 2021
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In the novel Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, Okonkwo is considered a tragic hero. He is a well-respected man in his thirties who is a leader of his community in Africa during the 1880s. He’s very tall, strong, and well known for his accomplishments in things such as wrestling and farming. Okonkwo is driven by his fear of becoming like his father who is lazy and weak. To keep his reputation tough, he shows almost no emotion other than anger and is quick to resort to violence. He also likes to try to keep things under his control and that’s why he beats his wives and son. He also doesn’t think before he acts which makes his behavior mainly impulsive.

Fear is Okonkwo’s tragic flaw. More specifically his fear of becoming seen as feminine and weak like his father. He deals with this fear every day and it influences a lot of his decisions whether he is aware of it or not. For example, this fear makes him passionate about being a hard worker and wanting to excel. The fear is so extreme he lets it totally consume and control him in the end to the point of taking his own life when his title is going to be taken away. Then just like his father, he didn’t get to receive a proper burial.

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In his culture in Nigeria, the father is expected to give his son an inheritance to help start their own farm but because Okonkwo’s father was broke, he never did that. By not being given this Okonkwo had to work harder than most other people for what he has which adds to his displeasure about his dad and proudness in what he has done on his own.

Another tragic character is Hamlet from William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. He was the Prince of Denmark and well-liked. He is a character that has a lot to him and is more difficult than others to understand. He is often so thoughtful to the point of obsessing over things such as who killed his father, death, suicide, and the afterlife. This obsessive nature is what leads to his tragic flaw of being too reluctant to do things when he has the opportunity presented. When he is told that his uncle killed his father, he procrastinates avenging him due to lack of proof. Then once he gets the proof he looked for and wanted, he doesn’t act on it still due to his timid nature even though it is something he really wants to do. Because he didn’t act when he had the chance to kill his uncle, he never gets to do it even though it was so important to him.

Although he often over thinks he still sometimes underthinks and acts impulsively. He does it in a surprising way that the characters and the readers cannot predict. A good example of this is when he kills Polonius without confirming who he is. Throughout the whole play, it becomes increasingly difficult to tell whether Hamlet is trying to act like a crazy person or if he’s just genuinely being himself.

Despite him being the prince and the stability of his country is being threatened from the inside, he gives it little to no thought throughout the play. This shows that although he can be very thoughtful, he is oddly selective on what does and does not need deep consideration.  

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Things Fall Apart: Character Analysis Okonkwo. (2021, Jun 04). Retrieved from