Igbo Suicide

Superior Essays
Suicide is an unsettling aspect of human behavior. Almost all religions and cultures disapprove of suicides. In many Western civilizations suicide was considered a felony. The major religions of the world, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Hinduism, consider it immoral. Despite the widespread condemnation of suicide, it is the 15th leading cause of death in the world¹. The Igbo culture has such disdain for suicide that they will not touch the body nor give it a proper burial. Though Okonkwo prided himself on being a strong Igbo man, he ended up committing one of the most taboo acts - suicide. As explained by one of the Igbo men, “‘It is an abomination for a man to take his own life. It is an offense against the Earth, and a man who commits …show more content…
They believe that no obstacle is insurmountable, and that life will work itself out. Okonkwo, per contra, saw two hurdles that were too high for even him: the weakness of his chi and the weakness of his tribe. Okonkwo was deathly afraid of weakness, and as described, “...his whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and of weakness” (Achebe, 13) Due to his father Okonkwo cannot stand weakness, and he may have a chronic phobia of it. This is why it hurts him so much when his son leaves him to join the Christian missionaries. Okonkwo sees these white missionaries as the epitome of weakness, and anyone who joins them is weak as well. This is why it hits so close to home when Nwoye joins, as Okonkwo had always stressed strength from birth and he still chose to leave him and join them. Okonkwo does not understand why he would ever do this, and instead of thinking of the abuse Nwoye experienced he instead gets angry. As he is trying to harden up the rest of his children, he exclaims “‘You have all seen the great abomination of your brother. Now he is no longer my son or your brother. I will only have a son who is a man…’” (Achebe, 172) Though he is speaking to his family, this anger and resentment for weakness also translates to his tribe around him. Okonkwo believes that in not fighting against the white people and letting them come into their tribe and do as they wish that Umuofia has been engulfed in weakness. Okonkwo treats his village as his family, and when he states “I will only have a son who is a man”, he is not only referring to his immediate family but to the family of the clan. Okonkwo sees himself as the spiritual father of the clan, and he believes that they should all be strong and fight back. When they refuse, he knows that they are all weak and weakness has taken over his life despite his struggles. Though there are other options, Okonkwo

Related Documents

  • Improved Essays

    Okonkwo's Fear

    • 1002 Words
    • 5 Pages

    Throughout the writing we see the hatred Okonkwo has for his father, viewing him as a weak man Okonkwo has no patience for. Having a weak father is what drives Okonkwo as well as being his greatest fear. Okonkwo’s fear of being weak isn't to be judged for being weak, but to be seen as his father was. “He was a man of action, a man of war. Unlike his father, he could stand the look of blood.…

    • 1002 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    In “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe, Okonkwo is dominated by his fear of weakness and failure. In the tribe where Okonkwo and his family live, Umuofia, the amount of honor and respect depends on your strength. Since early childhood, Okonkwo’s embarrassment about his lazy, poor and neglectful father, Unoka, has led to his tragic flaw; being terrified of looking weak like his father. As a result, he behaves rashly, bringing a great deal of trouble and sorrow upon himself and his family. Okonkwo’s fear of weakness and failure, which stemmed from his father, leads to the horrid and unmerited treatment he gives to those around him and eventually prompted his downfall.…

    • 950 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Superior Essays

    Fall Of Okonkwo Quotes

    • 1582 Words
    • 7 Pages

    Okonkwo believes that these white men have caused their clan to fall apart. This shows how the pride of the Igbo people was so great that they were not able to see that the missionaries would be the cause of their tribe’s downfall. This quote means that the members of the clan cannot move Okonkwo’s body, because he has killed himself and that is an offense against the Earth. The men are telling the white men that they should move him because they are strangers to the clan. This shows how important customs are to the people of Umuofia, and that they must obey these rules even if the person is as respected as Okonkwo was.…

    • 1582 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Superior Essays
  • Superior Essays

    When Nwoye declares that Okonkwo “is not [his] father”(Achebe 144), it is seen by Okonkwo as a betrayal on a cultural and personal level. The separation of a father from son leads Okonkwo to lose control and become even more violent by lashing out at the missionaries. Okonkwo’s stability becomes wholly shattered when he realizes that the missionaries are replacing his beliefs, values and the traditional Igbo way of life and most of his clan are not challenging this…

    • 1271 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Superior Essays
  • Superior Essays

    Okonkwo's Transformation

    • 1229 Words
    • 5 Pages

    Okonkwo would still never give in and instead of accepting his defeat and converting, he hung himself. He could no longer survive with his changed village and was extremely disappointed that they did not fight like he expected them to. Ending his life was the only other way he could “win” against the whites and prevent converting. After Okonkwo’s suicide Obierika told the Commissioner, “That man was one of the greatest men in Umuofia. You drove him to kill himself,”(208).…

    • 1229 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Superior Essays
  • Superior Essays

    The more he achieves, the less he enjoys it because his fear of failure is always there, reminding him that he must continually prove himself to be better than his father. “And so Okonkwo [is] ruled by one passion - to hate everything that his father Unoka [loves]. One of those things [is] gentleness and another [is] idleness” (Achebe 13). Okonkwo beats his youngest wife, Ojiugo, for returning too late to make his dinner. The beating of his wife occurs during the Week of Peace, of which is unheard.…

    • 1185 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Superior Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Terrified of messing up and getting beaten, Nwoye is effortlessly kind and loving to everyone in the village. He was scared of being like his father, so he began to oppose violence and wanted to be more level- headed. Okonkwo, however, viewed Nwoye was “already causing [him] great anxiety for his incipient laziness,” (13), and was worried that Nwoye would turn out like Unoka. Just like the relationship between Unoka and Okonkwo, Nwoye is scared of being like his father, and is a foil to him (153). When Okonkwo was acting manly, Nwoye was listening to the stories of the women.…

    • 754 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    When Unoka died, he left the world without a title and without an inheritance to leave to his son. Due to these actions, Okonkwo had to start from scratch and work his way up to the top to become the man he is today. As a result, Okonkwo looks down upon a person who he thinks has not been a diligent worker. Because the man of the clan presented a contradiction towards him, Okonkwo calls the man a woman. He is reminded to be humble and apologizes, but he still believes his hard work makes him above the rest.…

    • 1002 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Great Essays

    Okonkwo And Nwoye Analysis

    • 1456 Words
    • 6 Pages
    • 1 Works Cited

    Nwoye had to leave his family to be a part of the new religion although he had plans to return to convert his mother and sisters. Okonkwo had given up on his son; he didn’t believe that Nwoye was worth fighting for. He had never thought of his son as masculine. Nwoye knew he disappointed his father, but he didn’t know what to do about it. “Nwoye knew that it was right to be masculine and to be violent, but somehow he still preferred the stories that his mother used to tell....(57).…

    • 1456 Words
    • 6 Pages
    • 1 Works Cited
    Great Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Okonkwo wanted to be completely different from his father. This brings great effort, motivation and anger, and eventually it leads to crisis and destruction within his culture. Okonkwo has a constant fear of being like his father, this acts as a great motivator but affects himself within the community both positively and negatively. Okonkwo, in Things Fall Apart, represents the worst part of tribal life according to what the tribe values. He does immoral things because he always remembers his father's slothfulness.…

    • 714 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Improved Essays