An Analytical Essay on the Flaws of Okonkwo in Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart

An Analytical Essay on the Flaws of Okonkwo in Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart
?Man, when perfected, is the best of animals, but, when separated from law and justice, he is the worst of all.? (Aristotle). In Chinua Achebe?s novel Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo is living proof of Aristotle?s statement. Although he is arguably the most powerful man in Umuofia, His personal flaws of fear of failure and uncontrollable anger do not allow him true greatness as a human being. Okonkwo is one of the most powerful men in the Ibo tribe. In his tribe, he is both feared and honored. This is evident by this quote, ?Okonkwo was well known throughout the nine villages and even beyond? [He] brought honor to his tribe by throwing Amalinze the Cat??(3) This suggests that in Okonkwo?s society, power is attained by making a name for yourself in any way possible, even if that means fighting and wrestling to get your fame. Although honor is a good thing, when people have to fight to gain it, it becomes an object of less adoration. Okonkwo?s ?prosperity was visible in his household? his own hut stood behind the only gate in the red walls. Each of his three wives had her own hut? long stacks of yams stood out prosperously in [the barn]? [Okonkwo] offers prayers on the behalf of himself, his three wives, and eight children.? (14) Okonkwo has also worked and tended to his crops in a very zealous fashion, and drives everyone around him to work as hard as he does. Because of this, he earns his place as one of Umuofia?s most powerful men. In many cultures, a big family is a source of pride. Although Okonkwo is not always pleased by his children and wives, it also brings him a source of pride to have three wives and eight children. Large families mean that the head of the family is able to support all of them. Okonkwo?s devotion to his crops and family gives to him the respect that any father and husband deserves, and in his culture, being able to fight and kill as well gives him even more influence and power.



Okonkwo?s first and most prominent flaw is his fear of becoming a failure. It is greatly influenced by his father, but Okonkwo takes his fear to the extreme. Okonkwo?s father was a very lazy and carefree man. He had a reputation of being ?poor and his wife and children had just barely enough to eat? they swore never to lend him any more money because he never paid back.? (5) In Umuofia, a father is supposed to teach the children right and wrong, and in this case, the lessons were not taught, but self-learned. Okonkwo had to rely on his own interpretations of what defined a ?good man? and to him that was someone that was the exact opposite of his father. As a result of his own self-taught conclusions, Okonkwo feels that anything resembling his father or anything that his father enjoyed was weak and unnecessary. Because of his fear to be seen as weak, Okonkwo even strikes down a child that calls him father: ?[and as the machete came down] Okonkwo looked away. He heard the blow? He heard Ikemefuna cry `My father, they have killed me!? ? Okonkwo [draws] his machete and ? cuts him down? He does not want to be though weak.? (61) The fact that he kills the child shows that the way that he thinks is wrong, that reputation is more important than the life of a child. Although it is a shame to be thought weak, Okonkwo?s actions here show that he is not truly a real person that is capable of being a ruler, but just a strong man that has fought for his whole life trying to be something different from his father. Okonkwo?s fear allows him to gain more respect from his tribe, but only because it motivates him to do better than anyone else.



Okonkwo?s uncontrollable anger is his most prominent flaw that keeps him away from true greatness. Although his anger has served him well in his life, ultimately, it destroys his way of life. Okonkwo is very rough on his son; for example, when Nwoye overhears that Ikemefuna was to be ?taken back to his village, [he] burst into tears? [Okonkwo] beat him heavily.? (57) Okonkwo tries to instill his personal views on how to live as a man to his son, and to Okonkwo, crying is very womanly, and so Nwoye is punished for it. Okonkwo?s inability to control his anger eventually drives his son away from him instead of teaching him what is right and what is wrong. It makes Nwoye want to join what Okonkwo wants to destroy. Okonkwo spies the District Commissioner and as he ?[trembles] with hate, unable to utter a word? in a flash Okonkwo drew his machete. The messenger crouched to avoid the blow. It was useless. Okonkwo?s machete descended twice and the man?s head lay beside his uniformed body.? (204) Okonkwo?s hate and anger in this situation eventually leads him to his death. Although his hate and anger is justified here, it is clear that he is not able to control himself, and unrestrained anger does more harm than good. Hate and anger is a very destructive way to live your life. Although respect and power are gained, it is gained out of fear. If the people around sense the prospect of change, they will go against their ruler in hopes of change. Anger begets fear begets power. Power that is easily taken away from change. Because Okonkwo was not able to realize that, his life was forfeit.



Mankind has many different faces. Although fear and anger are reactions that all men have, if left unchecked, they will consume all one has worked for and ultimately destroy everything that one holds dear. Because of that, before actions are taken, much consideration should be taken to make sure that personal flaws as well as flaws in society do not interfere with one?s judgement.

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