Chinua Achebe's novel of life in colonial-era Nigeria, "Things Fall Apart".

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Chinua Achebe's novel of life in colonial-era Nigeria, “Things Fall Apart”

By Jimmy Jackson

Chinua Achebe’s novel of life in colonial-era Nigeria, Things Fall Apart, contains the character Okonkwo as the protagonist.  Okonkwo represents the idea of a successful person; an admired hero even.  Characteristics such as bravery, strength, and a desire to succeed are what everyone admires about Okonkwo.  His fear of becoming like his father gave him this desire to succeed, and consistently motivated him to progress through life.  However, Okonkwo personifies the idea of not just a hero, but a tragic hero.

Fear is Okonkwo’s main motivation throughout the book.  Achebe says, “He was possessed by the fear of his father’s contemptible life and shameful death” (Things Fall Apart 18).  He was motivated to work hard and succeed by this fear. Even as a young boy, Okonkwo began to work hard at farming as an attempt to become successful and earn respectability. Okonkwo says, “I began to fend for myself at an age when most people still suck at their mothers’ breasts. If you give me some yam seeds I shall not fail you.” (Things Fall Apart 21).  Okonkwo’s strong successful tone gives readers the idea that he began to work and persist at an early age. His persistence is exemplified by the fact that the first year of cultivation was ruined by early coming of rains. “[Okonkwo] is one of the best men of his time and place; he strives mightily and is destroyed by events beyond his control,” says Dr. Diane Thompson (Thompson 25).  However, Okonkwo’s will allows him to survive the rains in his first year of cultivation and continue and succeed.  Okonkwo is a man possessed with the endless will to succeed. Achebe wrote, “‘Since I survived that year,’ he always said, ‘I shall survive anything.’ He put it down to his inflexible will.” (Things Fall Apart 24).  The determination, persistence, and labor paid off for Okonkwo in the end, as his rewards became a barn full of yams, three wives and many children.  All of Okonkwo’s actions begin in fear of his not being like his father.

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Okonkwo’s admirable and heroic qualities were not limited to only the strength of his will, but they also include the physical abilities and emotional strengths.  The physical strength of Okonkwo is a reason for his success. Okonkwo was the best wrestler in the nine villages and never was beaten. Amalinze the Cat who, until the time of Okonkwo’s victory, had never, in seven years, been beaten. “(Okonkwo) was tall and huge, and his bushy eyebrows and wide nose gave him a very severe look... When he walked, his heels hardly touched the ground and he seemed to walk on ...

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