Okonkwo is the central character of Chinua Achebe’s Okonkwo, the timid and indolent Unoka’s son, tries to succeed in a society that seems to value manliness. By doing this, he disavows all he thinks his father stood for. Unoka was polite, engaged in music and conversation, indolent, impoverished, wasteful, and a coward. Okonkwo actively embraces opposing beliefs and develops into a successful, affluent, frugal, fearless, and aggressive man who is vehemently opposed to music and anything else he considers to be “soft,” such as conversation and feeling. He is really stoic.
Character traits of Okonkwo:
Okonkwo is the protagonist of the novel. He is a talented athlete, a revered warrior, and he has a strong desire to stand out among his contemporaries. Okonkwo’s determination, however, also causes him to behave violently and to support an exaggerated notion of masculinity. Because of his personality, Okonkwo usually disagrees with people. For instance, when he accepts responsibility for killing his own adopted son, Ikemefuna, his extreme attachment to masculinity reaches a boiling point. Ikemefuna’s murder has effects on both his family and the community at large. Nwoye, Okonkwo’s eldest son, is particularly hurt since he always treated Ikemefuna like a brother and now feels betrayed by his father’s cruel behavior. The killing of Ikemefuna also serves as a metaphor for the occasion of Okonkwo’s banishment, which has an impact on the whole Umuofia community.
Before Ikemefuna was put to death, Ogbuefi Ezeudu had forewarned Okonkwo against taking part in the killing. But Okonkwo disregards this warning. During the funeral for Ezeudu after his death, Okonkwo unintentionally shoots and kills Ezeudu’s kid. The horrifying homicide of Ezeudu’s kid is a crime against the soil goddess, and the only way to atone for it is to burn Okonkwo’s home and send him into exile.
Okonkwo’s struggle to defend his land:
Okonkwo’s relationships with the other members of Umuofia and the other nine villages worsen during the course of the story. Okonkwo wishes to defend Igboland from outside influences as European missionaries and government officials start to infiltrate the land. Other residents of the nine villages are becoming more interested in what the Europeans have to offer, despite his desire to uphold old traditions and protect his people’s dignity. Okonkwo cannot endure the sense of disempowerment that follows with the invasion of Europeans into Igbo country and he is indignant when his fellow villagers swarm to the missionaries to benefit from their education and healthcare. The British arresting Okonkwo and several other villagers marks the turning point of the novel. The arrest is Okonkwo’s final straw, and he wants his people to declare war. However, Okonkwo’s peers condemn his killing of a British messenger indicating that Okonkwo and his principles are no longer important. Okonkwo kills himself after realizing he has lost the battle.
Various Viewpoints On Masculinity
Much of Okonkwo’s aggressive and ambitious personality is influenced by his bond with his late father. He aspires to overcome his father’s legacy of wasteful, laziness, which he sees as weak and thus effeminate. He believes that rage is the only feeling he should express since he believes aggressiveness to be a sign of masculinity. Because of this, he often beats his wife and even threatens to kill them. In contrast to Okonkwo, Obierika “was a man who pondered about things,”. Obierika declines to go on the journey with the men to kill Ikemefuna, but Okonkwo not only agrees to go along with the group that would kill his surrogate son but also brutally stabs him with a machete because he is frightened of seeming weak.
The seven years Okonkwo spent away from his tribe only served to solidify his belief that males are more powerful than women. He stays with his motherland’s relatives while in exile, but he hates the entire time. He keeps telling himself that his maternal kinsmen are not as aggressive and fierce as he recalls the people of Umuofia to be, but the exile is his chance to connect with his feminine side and respect his maternal forebears. He criticizes them for choosing compromise, conformity, and avoidance over hostility and violence. Okonkwo believes that his uncle Uchendu is an example of this pacifist (and thus somewhat effeminate) approach.
His pride, which is frequently challenged both from inside and beyond his community, is Okonkwo’s biggest flaw. Okonkwo is proud of his accomplishments. But this pride is justified because of all that he has done. He has not only established himself as one of Umuofia’s most formidable fighters, but he has also advanced up the social scale more quickly than any of his contemporaries. However, Okonkwo’s pride also makes him quick to mock others who fall short of his high standards. For instance, Okonkwo worries about his own legacy and is hostile toward Nwoye since Nwoye seems to lack manly traits.
Okonkwo suffers a severe blow to his dignity as a result of his banishment in Mbanta. When he returns Okonkwo wants to regain his prestige by guarding Umuofia from European influence. He uses an analogy to illustrate his point: “If a man comes into my hut and defecates on the floor, what do I do? Do I shut my eyes? No! I take a stick and break his head.”. In the end, Okonkwo uses violence to uphold his pride, which tragically results in his demise.
Okonkwo as a tragic hero:
Okonkwo is a tragic hero in the traditional sense because, although being a good character, his tragic flaw—equating manliness with impatience, rashness, and violence—leads to his own downfall. Okonkwo is abrasive in some moments and is typically unable to communicate his sentiments (the narrator frequently refers to Okonkwo’s emotions as being felt “inwardly”). His emotions are in fact highly complicated as his “manly” ideals clash with his “unmanly” ones, such as his affection for Ikemefuna and Ezinma. Because the narrator has access to facts that Okonkwo’s fellow clan members do not, such as the fact that he sneakily pursues Ezinma into the forest, we are able to glimpse the sensitive, anxious father who lies underneath the outward appearance of indifference.
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