Okonkwo as a tragic hero
Post on 30-Oct-2014
Okonkwo as a tragic hero Aristotle in his book Poetics defined in great detail that how a character of a tragedy must be. In his definition Aristotle said that a tragic hero must be good, consistent, aristocratic, he must have a tragic flaw and hamartia that lead to his downfall. The fate confronted by the tragic hero is often undeserved so, it arouses feelings of pity and fear and thus leads to catharsis. Now we will examine all of the elements of the tragic hero in the character of Okonkwo, the protagonist of Things Fall Apart by Chinva Achebe. Firstly we observed that Okonkwo had a good character and noble character. He was a strong man. All the people of Umuofia respected and loved him because of his great achievements. He was a very strong wrestler. When he was 18, he beat amalinze( cat) who had not been beaten by anyone since seven years. As a young man of eighteen he had brought honor to his village by throwing Amalinze the Cat. Since he won the wrestling match his fame grew up rapidly, Okonkwos fame had grown like a bush-fire in the harmattan. This was just the start of his fame, later on he did great hard work and rose to a high level, His fame rested on solid personal achievements. Okonkwo was also very hospitable. He offered koala nut to the ones who visited his house. His hospitability was also evident when he sheltered Ikemefuna and treated him like a father and cherished him with great love. As the narrator said that, Okonkwo himself became very fond of the boy. Okonkwo was also a great warrior. He was never afraid from fighting, unlike his father who shuddered at the sight of blood. He had taken part in the great wars fought by Umuofia and had shown incredible prowess in to two inter tribal wars. At a very young age he had brought five heads from the battlefield. His interest in the wars showed that he was a man of action, a man of war. The second characteristic of a tragic hero is that he must be aristocratic. We found that at the start Okonkwo was a common man. He started his career from a scratch because his father, Unoka, was a failure and a lazy man. Unoka was a poor man so Okonkwo didnt inherit a barn from his father. There was no barn to inherit. To start his career he went to Nwakibie, a wealthy man in his area, and asked him to lend him 400 yam seeds. Nwakibie behaved generously towards Okonkwo because he knew that Okonkwo was a hard working man so he would not waste the yam seeds. So he gave Okonkwo 800 yam seeds instead of 400 yam seeds. Okonkwo sow some of his seeds but fate behaved in a hostile way towards him and his yam seeds were lost. He didnt lose heart and worked hard and started paving his way to success . the narrator said that, he had risen suddenly from great poverty and misfortune to be one of the lords of the clan. Gradually he succeeded in his efforts and became an affluent man with a high social status. he was a wealthy farmer and had two barns full of yams to crown it all he had taken two titles. He had three wives and eight children. Thus we found that Okonkwo was not aristocratic from the very start of his life however he became aristocratic in the later period of his life.
Okonkwo was also consistent because he never changed his opinions. When Okonkwo was told about the pronouncement of the Oracle of the Hills and the Caves he made up his mind that he would sacrifice Ikemefuna. He remained consistent in his opinion despite of the fact that Okonkwo greatly loved Ikemefuna. Okonkwo also had a few bad qualities. He was hostile towards less successful men. Thats why he also hated his father because he was lazy and unsuccessful. He was impatient with less successful people. He was also a proud man as the narrator said, When he walked his heels hardly touch the ground and he see to walked on springs. Okonkwo was also harsh towards his wives and children. He used to grumble about his wives which was considered as a good thing in his culture. Okonkwo ruled his household with a heavy hand. Despite of all these bad qualities, the quality which welcomed his failure was his fear of weakness. His whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and of weakness. The Oracle of the Hills and the Caves pronounced that Ikemefuna should be killed. Okonkwo felt so sad but he obeyed the command of the Oracle because he feared that if he disobeyed the commandment then he will be considered as weak by his fellowmen. He himself took Ikemefuna out of the town and Ikemefuna was killed in front of his eyes. Okonkwo was so much disturbed by Ikemefunas death that he didnt sleep for three days. Soon after this incident Ezeudu died. Okonkwo went to his house on the funeral ceremony but he was so much agitated because Ezeudu had forbidden him to assist in the killing of Ikemefuna. The whole incident again came to his mind and in great mental disturbance his gun exploded by mistake. As the narrator said, Okonkwos gun had exploded and a piece of iron had pierced the boys heart. This was a crime done by Okonkwo against the goddess of earth, though unknowingly, so Okonkwo was banished from his land as a punishment. Okonkwo was ordered to go to his motherland for seven years. All of his achievement and success came to dust and his status was lost. His belongings were burnt after him. The hamartia of Okonkwo was his extreme rashness and anger. Right from the start of the novel we observed that Okonkwo had a flaw which was his anger, He pounce on people quite often. When he returned from his motherland, after seven years, things had changed a lot. The colonizers had taken hold of the land and the people were being suppressed by them. Okonkwo tried to bring back the honor of his tribe and he started convincing his people to fight against the Whites. Okonkwo was commencing one such gathering when the messengers of white people came to stop the gathering. Okonkwo was already full of hatred for them so he instantly became angry and flew on them, In a flash Okonkwo drew his machete Okonkwos machete descended twice and the mans head lay beside his uniformed body. His fellowmen let the other messengers go instead of killing them. This infuriated Okonkwo and he felt so dejected that he committed suicide by hanging himself with a tree. Okonkwo didnt have a clean burial and a funeral ceremony because it was the custom that a man who committed suicide was not buried by his own clansmen. Only strangers were allowed
to touch his body. Okonkwo, who was such a great leader was also devoid of a good funeral ceremony. Obierika commented on this situation , while addressing the white man that, That man was one of the greatest men in Umuofia . You drove him to kill himself and now he will be buried like a dog. Okonkwos fate was undeserved because he was a great man and great soldier who tried to freed his nation from the colonizers. But his nation didnt support him so he hanged himself. His plightful fate aroused feelings of pity and fear which led to catharsis. In a nutshell, Okonkwo was a true tragic hero as he had all the qualities of a tragic hero as prescribed by Aristotle. Okonkwo grew up as a leader of the clan but later on he faced a miserable fate and his struggle and fate can be described as, When a man fails alone (Critic.)