A Fallen Hero


A Fallen Hero Essay, Research Paper

The tragic hero demonstrates great dedication and sacrifice; as well as

standing as a symbol of goodness and justice. His acts of courage and

strength are however no match for his tragic flaw, which eventually lead to

his downfall. In Chinua Achebe?s novel Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo the

main character of the story plays the role of a tragic hero. Okonkwo?s

greatest fear of becoming a failure like his father, Unoka, is the fuel of his

success as well as the cause of his tragic downfall.

Okonkwo?s resentment towards his father motivates his great rise to

prosperity. For example, Okonkwo is so ashamed of his father as a young

boy that when he grows older, ?[He] [is] ruled by one passion- to hate

everything that his father, Unoka has loved. One of those things [is]

gentleness and the other [is] idleness? (pg. 13). Okonkwo detests Unoka for

allowing his weaknesses rule his life. He is so shamed of having such an

unavailing and indolent man as a father, that he vows to never become like

him. He is so driven by this determination to distance himself from any

possible similarities between him and his father, that he immediately strives

to be his extreme opposite. As a result, where Unoka lacks Okonkwo

thrives. In addition, when Okonkwo first begins to establish a life of his

own, ? …He [does] not have the start in which many young men [have]

[received from their fathers]. But inspire of these disadvantages…he

[begins]…to lay the foundations of a prosperous future, possessed by the fear

of his father?s contemptible life and shamed death? (pg. 18). Okonkwo

begins his difficult climb to success with nothing but the hope of a better

life than the one his father shows. He disciplines himself to be a hard

worker, never once showing any signs of failure. Furthermore, through

many years of struggle he becomes, ?…A wealthy [man]. To crown it all he

[has] taken two titles and although [he] [is] still young, he is already one of

the greatest men of his time? (pg. 8). Okonkwo strives to be the best in

order to escape the chance of repeating his father?s ignominious life and

eventually earns the revere of the clan. Okonkwo?s determination to rise

above his fathers less than reputable status eventually leads him to the

success he was in search for.

Okonkwo?s efforts to uphold his masculine decorum as a man of great

strength and little weaknesses result in hardship. For example, when

Okonkwo is upset with his youngest wife for being irresponsible,?…he beats

her heavily [and] in his anger he has forgotten the week of peace? (pg. 29).

Okonkwo is a very demanding person who believes that using physical

action is the only way a real man keeps order in his house hold. He is

easily enraged and because of his stubborn determination to lead a life free

of weakness, he is impossible to control. In Okonko?s fury to immediately

keep his wife in line, he absent-mindedly breaks the sacred honoring to the

gods and as a result receives punishment as well. In addition, when

Okonkwo discovered that Nwoye was among the men whom were

converting to Christianity, ?[He] seized a heavy stick that lay on the dwarf

wall and hit [Nwoye] two or three savage blows. [When Okonkwo finally]

left hold of [him] Nwoye…walked away and never returned? (pg., 152).

Okonkwo?s rigidity ultimately destroys his relationship with his son.

Instead of encouraging Nwoye against accepting the guidance of the

Christian leaders, Okonkwo pushes him further and further into his

newfound faith. Nwoye eagerly adopts his new way of life as means of

escape from his father?s dominance. Furthermore, when Ikemefuna ran

towards Okonkwo for protection as the men from the clan were attempting

to kill him, ? Okonkwo drew his machete and cut him down [because] he

was afraid of being thought weak? (pg. 61). Although Okonkwo never

outwardly displays his great affection for Ikemufuna, he undoubtedly feels

and treats him as if he is his son. Okonkwo admires Ikemefuna?s

willingness to work and ability to learn quickly, but despite his fondness for

him, Okonkwo finds it impossible to withdraw in assisting Ikemefuna?s

murder. He refuses to be thought of as a ?woman? by allowing his

emotions interfere with his responsibility to the clan. In Okonkwo?s strive

to prove his strength he distances himself from the ones he love.

Okonkwo?s overwhelming frustration in his himself as well as in his

clan lead him to his final days. For example, when Okonkwo joins the

gathering to hear Egonwanne speak out against the plan to fight the

missionaries, he tells Obeirika, ? I do not care what he does to you. I despise

all who listen to him. I shall fight alone…? (pg. 201). Okonkwo is

painfully disappointed in his clan for their feeble attempts to defeat the

white men without the obvious solution of using warfare. He is frustrated

with their ?womanly? decisions and refuses to give up with out a fight,

even though he will be single-handedly battling against a cause most believe

he has already lost. In addition, when Okonkwo kills the white man?s

messenger out of great rage, ? He knew Umufoia would not go to war. He

knew because they let the other messengers escape…[and] he had heard

voices asking: ?Why did he do it??? ( pg. 205). Okonkwo feels helpless and

alone in his now withering mission to uproot the missionaries from

Umuofia. He is confounded of how such a strongly unified and culturally

enriched clan could fall apart at the slightest persuasion of another culture.

He feels he lives among strangers who no longer see him as the highly

respected man he once was but as a crazed man blinded by his belief that

violence is the only answer to their problems. Furthermore, when the

Commissioner came to take Okonkwo away, he was already to late, ?

Okonkwo?s body was dangling [from the tree]…? (pg. 207). Okonkwo

commits suicide out of anguish of losing his lonely battle against the

missionaries. He is convinced that his life long struggle to avoid his father?s

likeness was all for nothing. Seeing his people slowly abandon their way of

life to adopt that of the ?white man?s? is a proof to him that he has failed in

his mission to do away with these deceiving foreigners.

There are many things that drive people to do well in life, but success

has always come with a heavy price tag. The burning force that may push

you to the top can very often be the same force that leaves you plunging to

the ground. To be able to use a negative aspect of your life as your

motivation in your search for success is a difficult thing to do. Many people

who are capable of doing so often become so engulfed with achieving their

goals out of a powerful fear of reliving that negative time in their life.

Ironically in many cases this fear is what eventually destroys them.

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