Sympathy In Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart

Sympathy is feeling pity for someone else’s misfortune, but it’s not possible to feel for a despicable person. For example, it is possible to sympathize for a tragic hero because they unintentionally agonize people, but it is not possible to feel compassion for someone who purposefully harms people. This can be seen in Achebe’s Things Fall Apart where Okonkwo is powerfull man in Umuofia, a village in Nigeria in the 19th century. He is a self made man who prides himself on his achievements and affluence. Okonkwo has much success, however that doesn’t make him a good person. He beats his wives and children, he even kills his son, Ikemefuna. Okonkwo is afraid of appearing weak to the other men in the Ibo society. Okonkwo is not a true tragic …show more content…
When the clan decided it was time to kill Ikemefuna, they marched him to the woods. Okonkwo was “dazed with fear... drew his machete and cut him[Ikemefuna] down. He was afraid of being thought weak”(61). Okonkwo didn’t need to be the one to kill Ikemefuna. Instead of not going with the men to kill his “son”, he was the one to cut Ikemefuna with his machete. He was dazed with the fear of appearing weak. Okonkwo values his reputation over everything, even his son’s life. If he wasn’t the one to kill Ikemefuna Okonkwo believes the men would think he was weak. Okonkwo equates gentle emotions or fragility with being weak. He believes if he would have displayed any form of compassion or vulnerability he would lose respect. His fear of appearing weak also leads to his downfall when he kills the court messenger. When the court messengers interrupted the meeting of the men of Umuofia, Okonkwo “confronted the head messenger, trembling with hate, unable to utter a word”(204). He killed the messenger and “stood looking at the dead man”(204). Okonkwo is not capable of exhibiting emotions other than aggression. He was trembling with hate and it engenders him to lash out and kill the messenger. This consequently leads to his demise because he hangs himself. His final act of anger on the messenger would have had him hung by the …show more content…
Readers don’t feel sympathy toward Okonkwo because he commits domestic violence and is incapable of showing love toward his family. Okonkwo uses his wives as outlets for his aggression. Once his wife, Ojiugo, used banana peels to make him dinner and “he beat her heavily”(29) because he said she killed the tree. He had no reason to abuse his wife, he was just looking for someone to take his anger out on. Another time he “pressed the trigger” on his gun, aiming for his second wife and “there was a loud noise accompanied by the wail of his wives and children… there lay [his wife] very much shaken and frightened”(39). Okonkwo has now escalated from beating his wives to attempting to murder one. This may be acceptable in the Ibo culture, but nevertheless domestic violence is wrong in every situation. People cannot sympathize for those who abuse their family or anyone else. Okonkwo’s actions make him repulsive and criminal. In today’s society, domestic violence is abhorrent as well as not acceptable, making it impossible to feel compassion for someone who does it. Okonkwo is someone who is unable to display love toward his family.

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