Self Destruction In Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart

1528 Words 7 Pages
Steps on a Path of Self Destruction

Due to initially ingrained societal gender norms, men are often given the idea that masculinity is expressed through dominance, anger, violence, and the ability to provide, and that anything lying outside of that is unmasculine. This is especially relevant in Chinua Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart - set around 1900 - for the character of Okonkwo. Okonkwo’s infatuation with his understanding of what a perfect man of high status should be became the central cause of his self-inflicted demise.
Okonkwo’s obsession with masculinity has significant effects on his relationships with others, as well his attitude toward them. The first incident of these effects is Okonkwo’s feelings toward his father Unoka. Okonkwo
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His violent and hostile tendencies are especially obvious when on two occasions he beats his wives during the Week of Peace. The first beating occurs when Okonkwo asks Nwoye’s mother if Ojiugo, who was away, asked her to feed her children and Nwoye’s mother lies and says yes. Okonkwo knew she was being dishonest and beat Ojiugo upon her return. He did not stop even as his other wives tried to remind him that it was the Week of Peace. Ezeani, the priest of Ani the earth goddess, met with Okonkwo and warned him that his harsh act during the sacred Week of Peace were offensive to Ani and could bring misfortune to the whole clan, On the second occasion, Okonkwo beat and nearly shot his wife despite Ezeani’s warning because she “killed” a banana tree. In reality she had only cut a few leaves off in order to wrap food, and Okonkwo was merely seeking a reason to lash out. Okonkwo’s obsession rears its head darkly again when he kills his adopted son Ikemefuna whom he had very much favored, more so that his own son. Ezeudu informs Okonkwo that Umuofia had resolved to kill Ikemefuna. He advises Okonkwo, “That boy calls you father. Do not bear a hand in his death” (57). Okonkwo ignores this and when the time comes for Ikemefuna to be taken out of Umuofia and killed by the party of elders, he kills his son himself. Okonkwo had not originally …show more content…
He heard the blow. The pot fell and broke in the sand. He heard Ikemefuna cry, “My father, they have killed me!” as he ran towards him. Dazed with fear, Okonkwo drew his machete and cut him down. He was afraid of being thought weak (61).
Okonkwo thought fear or weakness to be disgraceful and they became his inner demons, causing him to make thoughtless and reckless decisions that never seemed to benefit him at all, and if anything, they hurt him. Furthermore, he had no patience for those who set foot outside his boundaries of proper masculinity, which is why he was so quick to give up on his own clan. Okonkwo’s ideas of masculinity had a hand in the way that his perception of his clan changed over the course of the novel. Before the coming of the white men and before the book itself, Okonkwo had deep pride in his clan for their ruthlessness and fearlessness. Achebe describes Okonkwo’s reminiscence as he lays in bed contemplating vengeance on the white men for mistreating him in judicial custody, “He thought about wars in the past. The noblest, he thought, was the war against Isike. In those days, Okudo was still alive. Okudo sang a war song in a that no other man could. He was not a fighter, but his voice turned every man into a lion”

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