Things Break Down- Achebe
An African Disaster In Chinua Achebe’s novel Things Break down, Okonkwo is an awful hero. Aristotle’s Poetics defines a Tragic Hero as an excellent male of high status who displays a terrible flaw (“hamartia”) and experiences a significant reversal (“peripeteia”), along with an extreme moment of acknowledgment (“anagnorisis”). Okonkwo is a leader and hardworking member of the Igbo community of Umuofia whose terrible flaw is his terrific worry of weakness and failure. Okonkwo’s fall from grace in the Igbo neighborhood and ultimate suicide, makes Okonkwo a tragic hero by Aristotle’s definition.
Okonkwo is “a male of action, a man of war” (7) and a member of high status in the Igbo village. He holds the popular position of town clansman due to the fact that he had “shown amazing prowess in 2 intertribal wars” (5 ). Okonkwo’s effort had made him a “wealthy farmer” (5) and a recognized private among the nine villages of Umuofia and beyond. Okonkwo’s tragic defect isn’t that he was afraid of work, however rather his fear of weakness and failure which comes from his daddy’s, Unoka, ineffective life and disgraceful death. Maybe down in his heart Okonkwo was not a terrible man. But his whole life was dominated by worry, the worry of failure and weak point … It was not external but lay deep within himself. It was the worry of himself, lest he ought to be found to resemble his dad.” Okonkwo’s father was a lazy, carefree man whom had a reputation of being “bad and his other half and kids had just barely adequate to consume … they swore never to provide him any more cash due to the fact that he never paid back. (5) Unoka had never taught Okonkwo what was best and incorrect, and as an outcome Okonkwo needed to translate how to be a “good man”. Okonkwo’s self-interpretation leads him to conclude that a “good guy” was somebody who was the exact opposite of his daddy and therefore anything that his father did was weak and unneeded. Okonkwo’s worry leads him to deal with members of his family harshly, in particular his son, Nwoye. Okonkwo often wonders how he, a male of excellent strength and work ethic, could have had a child who was “degenerate and effeminate” (133 ).
Okonkwo thought that, “No matter how prosperous a male was, if he was not able to rule his women and his children (and particularly his females) he was not truly a man” (45 ). Okonkwo battles with his fear that any sign of weak point will cause him to lose control of his household, position in the town, and even himself. Like many heroes of classical catastrophe, Okonkwo’s terrible flaw, worry, likewise makes him excessively prideful (“The earliest male present said sternly [to Okonkwo] that those whose palm-kernels were cracked for them by a kindhearted spirit need to not forget to be humble” [p. 8]. Okonkwo’s failure (or specifically death) is an outcome of the modifications produced by the coming of the British Colonists to Igbo. The introduction of the colonists into the unique causes Okonkwo’s tragic defect to be intensified. Okonkwo interprets change as weakness, and as an outcome of his analysis Okonkwo just understands how to respond to change through anger and strength. He derives terrific satisfaction, “hubris” or prideful conceit, from the fact that he is a traditional, self made male and thinks that to alter would mean submitting to an outside force (Christianity).
Following Okonkwo’s 7 year exile (due to Okonkwo’s unintentional killing of a member of the tribe at Ogbuefi’s funeral -the climax of the novel or Aristotle’s meaning of a dramatic turnaround), the town Okonkwo when knew has actually altered due to the impact of Christianity and the impact of the British. Okonkwo’s preliminary response is to arm the clan versus the colonists and drive the British out of Igbo. “Now he (the white guy) has won our siblings, and our clan can no longer imitate one.
He (the white guy) has actually put a knife on the things that held us together and we have actually broken down” (152 ). Okonkwo had actually always utilized his strength and courage to secure the community from destabilizing forces, and due to the fact that Okonkwo was a traditional guy the intro of Christianity posed a risk to all the worths, morals and beliefs he looked for to secure. Okonkwo resists modification at every action and rather turn to violence toward anything he perceived as a threat to his culture or values.
Okonkwo’s conceited pride makes him believe that the clan leaders would ultimately reunite the clan and drive the British colonists out of Umuofia (specifically following his imprisonment along with a couple of clansmen for burning a church as an outcome of the Enoch’s unmasking of an egwugwu in public). Hoping that the clan will follow his lead, Okonkwo beheads a messenger of the British who was sent to separate a village meeting concerning the possibility of fighting.
However, the clan rather of following Okonkwo’s symbolic action is shocked by Okonkwo’s cruelty. Okonkwo acknowledges (“anagnorisis”) “that Umuofia would not fight”, due to the fact that the clan “had gotten into tumult rather of action”. Okonkwo knows that he should now face his disgrace alone. The Igbo culture had actually made Okonkwo a hero, however the Igbo culture altered with the coming of the British colonists.
Okonkwo, a hero, would rather pass away than be humiliated his enemies and by committing suicide Okonkwo avoided the European colonizers from getting revenge. Aristotle’s declaration, “Male, when perfect, is the very best of animals, but, when separated from law and justice, he is the worst of all”, embodies the rise and fall of Okonkwo in Chinua Achebe’s book. Okonkwo, like many terrible heroes before him, possibly a hero but his terrible flaw prevents him from attaining real success as a human being.