Essay on the Downfall of Okonkwo

2 pages
549 words
Sewanee University of the South
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A key character in things fall apart by Chinua Achebe, Okonkwo is an influential clan leader in the land of Umuofia. His success has been attributed to the failure of his father who was lazy and could not sufficiently support the family. With the determination to be different from his father, Okonkwo tries very hard to do things differently through hard work which ultimately contributed to his dominant position in the clan. He also attains good wealth which is sufficient to feed his three wives and children. While he is seen as one of the individuals who surpassed all odds to become wealthy and influential from a low-income family, there are several instances where his actions and beliefs have caused his downfall and lose the influential status he has earned in the clan.

The cause of Okonkwos downfall is the fact that he never wanted to follow his fathers footsteps. Ideally, his father, Unoka was a lazy person who could not sustain his family. Hence he became a laughingstock of the whole village. Owing to that negative legacy, Okonkwo does what it takes to become successful. As a result, he behaves rashly to show that he is strong; this has contributed to a large amount of trouble and upon his family and himself. Owing to the fact he does not want to be weak, he does not show Ikemefuna any affection despite his hard work. To show the village that he is strong unlike his father, he participates in the death of Ikemefuna, which compels the clan members to make him go in exile and his house and other property burnt.

Secondly, Okonkwos does not show concern about other peoples opinion, a character which contributes to his failure despite making a legacy of becoming rich yet his father was an indigent person. He offends people of Igbo and its traditions as well as gods of the clan. He is advised not to contribute to the death of Ikefemuna, but he kills him since he is "afraid of being perceived as weak." On the same note, when the white man introduces Christianity to the Umuofia village, Okonkwo opposes it. He has a feeling that the changes are ending the culture of Igbo, alterations that call for accommodation and compromise -two qualities that he finds intolerable.

The last character which is also a major contributor to his downfall is his inability to change and the facts that he cannot learn from his mistakes. Even after killing Ikefumuna, and being warned and sent into exile, Okonkwo impulsively kills a messenger who came from British district office. When he realizes that none of his clansmen intended to support him and he cannot protect his village from the colonist, he commits suicide and dies just like his father. Ultimately, there is minimal difference between him and the father.

In conclusion, despite the success, Okonkwo had certain characters which ultimately contributed to his downfall. First, the fact he wanted to surpass all that his fathers did, he is determined to do everything so that he can be perceived as strong. This leads him to problems. Secondly, he does not care and listen to peoples pieces of advice and concerns. Lastly, Okonkwo does not change despite facing several challenges such as being sent to exile.


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