March 25th, 2015
The Mind Makes Better Decisions Than the Heart
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In Heart of Darkness and Things Fall apart, both the main characters experience a series of changes throughout their lives. To adapt to these changes, Marlow and Okonkwo had different methods, but Marlow’s were ultimately more effective. Okonkwo’s methods are more impulsive and emotion based, while Marlow’s are more thought out and rational, allowing him to be affected less by the changes around him.
Okonkwo is an individual ruled by emotions, and as such often makes rash decisions while feeling strong emotions that punish him later. Though he is an model citizen that obeys the clan’s laws and customs, it is shown that sometime his emotions even overcome his rational thought and loyalty to his gods. This is first seen in the book when he beats his wife Ojiugo during the week of peace, which is a sacred week making violence of any kind a severe religious offence. Ezeani, the village priest even states “I shall not eat in the house of a man who has no respect for our gods and ancestors....You have committed a great evil” (Achebe 30). It is also worth noting that Okonkwo overreacted to a small change in his schedule, as his wife was simply home later than expected, and he beat her for that out of anger. Yes, his wife was a bit careless and forgot about the time, but that does not warrant a beating, particularly during a peaceful week decreed by the gods. The priest also touches on how important customs were, and says “Your wife was at fault, but even if you came into your obi and found her lover on top of her, you would still have committed a great evil to beat her.” (Achebe 30), further reinforcing the fact that Okonkwo should not have reacted so rashly to anger the gods. As a result of his actions, Okonkwo is told to offer “one she-goat, one hen, a length of cloth and a hundred cowries” at a shrine to appease Ani, the earth goddess. This relatively minor personal loss foreshadows the great losses he experiences later due to his actions. A little while later in the book, Okonkwo makes some terrible decisions when the Oracle announces that Ikemefuna, a boy he has raised for the past 3 years, shall be killed. Even though Ikemefuna’s death would mean a major change to Okonkwo’s life, Okonkwo still does not think his decision thorough. This time, it is not anger, but pride that rules his decision making. Not wanting to appear weak to his fellow clansmen, he insists on going on the trip of Ikemefuna’s execution against the advice of Ezeudu, the oldest man in the village. On the actual trip, Ikemefuna runs to his father before his death, crying for help; “My father, they have killed me!” (Achebe 30), clearly in distress. Okonkwo responds by cutting him down, not wishing to appear emotionally weak to the other warriors of the clan that were present. After this series of events, Okonkwo becomes depressed by his actions, as he did not wish to kill Ikemefuna and now regrets his actions to a certain extent. His daughter Ezinma comments, “You have not eaten for two days,” (Achebe 63), showing just how deeply the events have affected him. Okonkwo’s style of letting emotions rule his decision hurts not only him, but those around him, as Ikemefuna must’ve surely felt betrayed when his own father figure took his life. While a foster son is a tragic loss, Okonkwo received an even greater loss later on when he loses his biological son to his anger. Being an angry man who is set off very easily, Okonkwo has habitually beat his son Nwoye for not meeting his expectations. The metaphorical straw that broke the camel’s back came when Okonkwo discovered Nwoye worshipping with the christians. Instead of accepting the changes that his son went through, he let his anger take control, and he “seized a heavy stick that lay on the dwarf wall and hit him two or three savage blows.” (Achebe 153) Nwoye, unable to withstand this treatment from his…