Okonkwo is a symbol of strength in his village. However, his image of strength isn’t always accurate with his inner strength more his physical strength. Throughout Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo goes through several different conflicts which begin to take a toll on his life. These conflicts affect his image, and reputation in his village, but most of all they affect his mindset. Okonkwo gets torn between how he feels and how he believes he should feel. Morally he can’t decide what is right, and the cause is because he is completely enveloped in his image.
Okonkwo has always been self-conscious of his image. All his life, he strived to be strong, successful, and nothing like his father. His father, Unoka was weak in Okonkwo’s eyes. Unoka was known as a failure. He was high in debt, couldn’t feed his family, and was unsuccessful at harvesting anything. Okonkwo doesn’t want to be known as the son of a failure, and he doesn’t want to be anything of the sort himself. “the thought of his father’s weakness and failure troubled him”(pg. 66) He tries not to think about his father, but his fathers failure is a warning symbol to him in every choice he makes. This shows his mental weakness. The fact that Okonkwo can not look past what his father was, and will often ignore and push away from that, shows that Okonkwo isn’t mentally strong enough to ignore what others think of him due to his father, and be proud of who he is just as a person.
Okonkwo first made a name for himself when he threw Amalinze the cat. This event is a major highlight in his mind because it brought him such fame. In Okonkwo’s mind, it was the day that he was no longer known as the son of a failure. From that day on he was known throughout nine villages as a symbol of strength. This shows his physical strength in the story, which means just about everything to Okonkwo. Throughout the story, people in his village often refer back to the fight. One of his wives for example explain how she fell in love with Okonkwo at the fight. Also, people are very intimidated by him because of him winning that fight.
The major conflict that affects Okonkwo’s life most is when he goes and kills his temporary son, Ikemefuna. The town of Umuofia had decided to go and kill Ikemefuna outside of town. However, Ezeudu, the elder of the town, told Okonkwo that since he had become somewhat attached to the boy, that he wouldn’t have to go and be apart of it. Okonkwo, worried about showing any form of weakness, goes anyway. On the walk out of the city, one of the guards tried to kill Ikemefuna with his machete and fails. “Dazed with fear, Okonkwo drew his machete and cut him down. He was afraid of being though weak.” (pg. 61)…