In ”Things Fall Apart” Chinua Achebe takes us to a Nigerian village at the time of the British colonization of Africa where substantial changes are affecting the inhabitants. Okonkwo is a proud African man who strives to succeed in the Igbo society. In his early days he created a name for himself by being a successful wrestler. He then put enormous effort into making his farm prosperous by working hard and creating a big family. That he appreciates hard work and discipline defines him as a father. When he realizes that his oldest son Nwoye is not of the quality he requires, he feels himself obligated to take action mostly with the use of violence thought he finds little pleasure in beating the children and views. It is rather a way to obtain respect and his way of parenting. To some extent this domestic aggression is accepted and is an acknowledged part of the Igbo culture. Apart from the elevated position he acquires other clansmen do not always agree with his impulsive nature as for the incident during the week of peace when he beat his wife.
At first sight Okonkwo is a confident man who has no fears. This is deeply rooted in the view of how a man should be in their culture where the ability to not show any emotions is highly redeemed. But actually, a lot of his actions can be traced back to fear and insecurity. This fear clearly has to do with Unoka, his work-shy father who left nothing over to his son but debt after his death. Eventually, these moral standards conflict Okonkwo when affection starts to grow for Ezinma, the daughter of his second wife, feelings which he experiences are difficult to handle. He also feels especially bad after he killed the adopted boy Igbomefuna, an act that puts Okonkwo in a depression that if nothing else demonstrates that something has changed in his character.
”Okonkwo was also feeling tired, and sleepy, for although nobody else knew it, he had not slept at all last night. He had felt very anxious but did not show it. When Ekwefi had followed the priestess, he had allowed what was regarded as reasonable and manly interval to pass and then gone with his machete to the shire”. (p 82)
One could wonder why he follows even though the priestess had requested to be alone with Ezinma during the sprititualic ritual. It is evident that breaking the rules of the ritualic traditions is not something he could let himself do easily. Not mainly would it be fright of the gods. Okonkwo tries to keep up a facede which involves obeying the traditions of his ancestors as for not showing emotions. And with a past as a warrior it is understandable why he is keen to not look weak.
Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe
Litterature Criticism And Theory – Andrew Bennet & Nicholas Royle (p.63-70)