English 2 Honors (7th)
26 March 2015
Okonkwo: Afraid of Change or Weakness?
In Things Fall Apart Chinua Achebe uses internal conflict and tragedy to diligently demonstrate his theme of how the power of fear affects relationships and feelings of those around you.
Chinua Achebe portrays how the power of fear affects everyone in a community. This is displayed when she writes, “Without further argument Okonkwo gave her a sound beating and left her and her only daughter weeping” (Achebe 38). Okonkwo rules his household through fear of violence. He punishes his family for things like not having meals prepared or for making smart comments. He grew up in a bad environment with a father who could barely support his family; he did not want this for his family. As a result of his temper and poor childhood, Okonkwo beats his three wives and eight children. The physical fear Okonkwo demonstrates is also evident when Achebe effectively shows this in the quote, “Nwoye turned round to walk into the inner compound when his father, suddenly overcome with fury, sprang to his feet and gripped him by the neck” (Achebe 151). Okonkwo struggles with his family. He wants to be the dominant figure in his household. As a result, Okonkwo does not approve of his son’s decisions. He finds out that Nwoye is participating in events with the Christians and he becomes furious. He awaits Nwoye at home and attacks and chokes him when he comes into the compound. Okonkwo frightens those around him through the violence he puts upon his loved ones. Achebe dramatically shows the fear that Okonkwo instills among others. A secondary source says, “The point here is to underscore the contrast between the irrational outlook of Okonkwo, which is motivated by fear, and the outlooks of Obierika and Ezeudu, that are based on moral reasonableness” (Ikuenobe 6). Ikuenobe shows how Achebe contrasts Okonkwo and his best friend and proves Achebe’s ability to show everyone a broad view of fear. The power of fear overall is shown in what the characters do, say and think. This is true with people around the world, not just characters in a novel. Ikuenobe contrasts the characters Okonkwo and his best friend Obierika. Okonkwo is motivated by fear of his father and by the fear of being weak; therefore he takes this fearfulness and imposes it upon his family. Obierika is based on morals. He is not motivated by fear in any way. He and Okonkwo are character foils. Ikuenobe agrees that Achebe uses tragedy and internal conflict to develop the theme of the power of fear. Okonkwo’s horror frightens his family and his friends in his clan.
In Things Fall Apart, Achebe shows how Okonkwo’s phobia of change causes tragedy and takes a toll on human’s everyday lives. Okonkwo sits at night and wonders when “…a sudden fury rose within him and he felt a strong desire to take up his machete, go to the church and wipe out the entire vile and miscreant gang” (Achebe 152). It is a tragedy that Okonkwo constantly fears change. Okonkwo undergoes several misfortunate events in the novel. For example, he becomes infuriated when he discovers that his son is getting involved with the Christian missionaries. This causes anger and hatred towards his son and the Christians who intruded on his homeland. Achebe connects Okonkwo’s terror of changing and the tragedy displayed beautifully. Okonkwo says that, “To abandon the gods of one’s father and go about with a lot of effeminate men clucking like old hens was the very depth of abomination. Suppose when he died all his male children decided to follow Nwoye’s steps and abandon their ancestors? Okonkwo felt a cold shudder run through him at the terrible prospect, like the prospect of annihilation” (Achebe 153). Okonkwo is apprehensive to change. He becomes disgusted when he thinks about his son joining the Christians. This is another tragic event that Okonkwo goes through. It is disastrous because Okonkwo is undergoing this change due