In the film 300 and the novel Things Fall Apart Leonidas and Okonkwo demonstrate the way that culture shapes men into fearless warriors who show little emotion by upholding and defending their cultural ideals through violence. The film and the novel highlight the worship of extreme masculinity and the culturally condoned violence that it entails. Their glorification of violence will eventually lead to their death.
Sparta as well as Umuofia culturally shape Leonidas and Okonkwo into men that embrace and glorify violence. Children from both societies are raised with the idea of violence. In one of 300’s opening scenes, Leonidas is a young boy training to become a warrior and this shows that children start violence at an extremely young age. Spartans are taught that violence is a virtuous attribute that they can use to contribute to the establishment of Sparta. If the children are taught to be violent at a young age then they can leave behind the sense of fear that children would normally face. In Things Fall Apart it is apparent that Okonkwo drives the idea of violence to his son Nwoye at a very young age, by telling him “masculine stories of violence and bloodshed” (Achebe 53). The belief that violence must be rooted in Nwoye is because of the resentment Okonkwo has against his father. Okonkwo also does not want his son to be an agbala, so he pushes these stories in order for him to lose the fear of being violent and ultimately become a man.
From their indoctrination as children Leonidas and Okonkwo continue their worship of violence through adulthood. In 300, we see that the Spartan’s profession is to be warriors. In the scene where the Spartans meet up with the allied soldiers the Spartans chant as a whole after Leonidas asks them, “ohh ahh ohh ahh” which shows the passion they have for violence. In Umuofia the way to get respect is by holding titles. Okonkwo becomes a man of many titles and gains the admiration of his community for killing five leaders and carrying their heads as symbols of accomplishment. For both of these societies violence is not seen as a terrible thing because they are raised to believe that war and violence are acceptable and admirable. They do not know any other beliefs because from a young age they are taught to value war and that all men should be raised to fight and use violence.
The accumulation of titles and demonstration of physical prowess constructs this cult of masculinity and leads to greater social status. Leonidas earns his title by showing potential at a young age. It is evident that as a teenager Leonidas goes through a test which shows perseverance as he fights and kills a wolf in order to prove worthy enough to be a Spartan man. This act of valor, along with others, shows his capability to lead and eventually earns him the title, king of Sparta. However, his success comes with hard training and makes King Leonidas the ideal warrior because he shows no fear in committing acts of violence. No one can cause disorder in his presence without him having to take any action. Okonkwo holds the respect of many of his fellow people because of the title he earns at a very young age. He earns the title of best wrestler by defeating Amalinze the Cat, the greatest wrestler in Umuofia, who "for seven years was unbeaten, from Umuofia to Mbaino" (3). The rise to success is due to the fact that Okonkwo had to use violence in order to obtain his title. Violence prompts both men’s approval and admiration by their fellow people. In order for both of the men to gain these titles, they had to go to extremes that no other man was able to accomplish. That is why these men are highly regarded within their own communities for showing perseverance and holding honor in any way possible.
Men in both societies are seen to carry the attribute of masculinity. In both works it is not customary for men to show their emotions. It is not until violence occurs that men seem to reveal their…