Character Analysis of Okonkwo | Things Fall Apart

Okonkwo is the protagonist of the novel Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. He was a man of iron-will and moulded his fate with his own efforts and constant hard work. Okonkwo was a man of mixed traits: He was brave, hardworking, ambitious, but on the other hand, he also had traits like short-temperament, rashness, anger and zero tolerance. 

Physical appearance of Okonkwo:

As described by Chinua Achebe, Okonkwo is a tall and a stout man. His eyebrows are bushy. His wide nose on his face makes his more aggressive. He looks strict, severe, and harsh by body language and behavior. He walks on his toes, raising his heals. He is a short-tempered man and cannot control his anger. He makes no delay in taking any action that is against him. He speaks loudly and in anger; he uses his fist to beat his family members.

Achievements of Okonkwo as a man of action:

Okonkwo was hardworking and determined in his goals. He was famous among all nearby villages due to his achievements. He was a good wrestler who knew only how to win. He had won many titles that he won in inter-tribal wars. His fame was only because of his hard work and personal achievements. He was a bold person and never feared of bloodshed in wars. He was the first man in his family who brought a head of a man during a war and it was the fifth head brought in Umofia. Okonkwo was wealthy, brave, violent and firmly adhered to family traditions.

He was a good and hardworking farmer. He had two barns full of yams. Although his starting career as a farmer was very bad because that year turned to be the worst year for farmers due to excessive rains. One of the farmer of Umofia hanged himself due to despair but Okonkwo remained determined and said: “Since I survived that year, I shall survive anything”.  

Fears of failure hovering over Okonkwo

Okonkwo’s father Unoka was a lazy man who had no value in his tribe. Due to his laziness, he fell in the practice of taking debt from other people. He died with heavy debt. On the other hand, his son Okonkwo was a hardworking man who earned fame by his struggles. Now Okonkwo feared to lose his fame like his father if he followed footstep of his father. This was the reason that make him strict in family matters and do not like his children to be like his own father Unoka.

He was not cruel by heart but he was a responsible man of his family and he showed love also towards his children as in the case of Ezinma. He had a great influence of his daughter Ezinma on him. When Okonkwo returned after killing Ikemefuna, he did not eat for three days. It was only Ezinma, who can understand her father, and she prepared food for her father. Okonkwo loved Ezinma with a wish that she were a boy.

Tragic flaws of Okonkwo:

 Fear of weakness and failure is the main cause of Okonkwo’ tragic flaw. He killed Ikemefuna not for taking revenge from nearby village but because he only feared that if he did not participate in killing, people will think him coward like his father Unoka. Though he was happy to have Ikemefuna in his home but he could not love him openly because according to Okonkwo, loving openly a child is a sign of weakness and this fear made him short temper and rude towards his children.

A sad accident contributed in tragic fall of Okonkwo. During funeral of Ezeudu, Okonkwo’s gun exploded and killed 16-year-old son of Ezeudu. To kill a person was a crime against the goddess of earth. Consequently, Okonkwo was exiled for seven years and he spent those seven years in him mother village Mbanta.  

Okonkwo after exile of 7 years:

Okonkwo was hopeful that after exile of 7 years, he would gain same honor and status in Umofia. However, when Okonkwo returned Umofia, he found missionaries campaign at climax. He was the man who cannot bear change in custom, tradition religion and in all other social factors. He had to face the changes but he was not ready to accept it. Although people of Umofia were not willing to oppose changes and only one man was not able to preserve old Umofia. Because of fear of failure and weakness against white missionaries, he hanged himself at the end.

Okonkwo ended his life like a true tragic hero. He stood with his ancestral culture, custom, and traditions. He was a man of strong will. He fought many wars and made victories. Despite his many heroic qualities, he failed due to his short sightedness, rashness, anger and violence. He failed to change himself according to the changing environment in Umofia. This was the only reason that pushed him to his downfall.