Okonkwo Essay, Research Paper

Strong, dominant, proud, competitive, successful, well respected, quick to pounce on anyone, impatient with unsuccessful men, afraid of being like his father: these words describe Okonkwo.

Okonkwo is presented as straight forward as possible. In Fact, his name is the first word you see in the book. It is quickly made very clear to the reader that he is the protagonist of the story, and is introduced as a hero. In the first paragraph the narrator says, “He is well known throughout the 9 villages and beyond, Fame rested on his solid personal achievements, He brought honor to his village at 18 by throwing Amalzine the Cat” (p. 1). He is a man revered by his village for his achievements. As a wealthy farmer with two barns full of yams, and three wives, Okonkwo already carries two titles. On page 8 Achebe writes, “As the elders said, if a child washed his hands he could eat with kings. Okonkwo had clearly washed his hands and so he ate with kings and elders.” Physically, Okonkwo is described as being very tall and huge with bushy eyebrows, and a wide nose that gives him a very “severe” look.

So, plainly one can see, Achebe uses an enormous amount of description in the first chapter that basically plasters the reader with ways to see and understand Okonkwo. Already he is the focus of the reader’s attention. By doing this, Achebe practically forces the reader to have a connection with Okonkwo. Even if the reader has nothing in common with the character and can draw no parallels between oneself and Okonkwo the intimacy you share with him is unavoidable.

Of course it is up to the reader to try to relate as much as possible to the main character in order to understand the focus and the heart of the story. We are all at the beginning stages of this. I am asked, how a reader might develop a connection to Okonkwo? And what kind of connection might that be? To be honest, I am not entirely sure of this. I imagine the best way to connect with Okonkwo would be the same way you connect with any real person. Try to understand him and his culture by paying attention to the things in the book, and approach them with an open mind.

For a reader such as myself, the closest connection I can draw to Okonkwo so far is one of understanding for his strength and pride. These are positive traits in many people. I would like to believe I possess these qualities, but not to the extent that Okonkwo does. For these are what drive people to success and I understand that will to succeed. Why else would I be at this University? Indeed we come from very different cultures and life circumstances but no matter how different, being human is enough to understand and relate. But a problem I see in Okonkwo is that he has too much pride and imposes his strength on others he is impatient with, he acts out of rashness and does not show affection. The driving force behind his success is fear of failure, and being compared to his father. With his ego, this could be dangerous.

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