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Things Fall Apart - by Chinua Achebe (diverse Cultures Essay)

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"Things Fall Apart" by Chinua Achebe

a) Describe in detail your impression of Okonkwo's character having read part one of the novel.

b) What is Okonkwo's response to the arrival of the white man, and how does he cope with the changes that come about under the influence of a different culture.

c) Describe your own reaction to Okonkwo's actions at the close of the novel.

a) Okonkwo is a senior member of the Ibo tribe in Nigeria at the end of the last century. He is an extremely complex character, and in my opinion has two very different sides to his personality.

On one hand, Okonkwo is seen as a powerful, respected man, who is well known throughout his home village of Umuofia and beyond. He is a brave fearless warrior, who as a young man had brought great honour to his village by beating Amalinze, and who for seven years had not been beaten "from Umuofia to Mbaino". He is not a man to shy away from conflict or confrontation. He is not a particularly intelligent man, but a man of action, who is more likely to settle an argument through violence than negotiation. He has an impulsive, explosive nature which can often land him in trouble. By nature, he is energetic and hardworking, and has no patience with men that are idle. He is a pillar of the community, and is looked up to by the majority of his clan members for his success and prosperity in life.

However, beyond this manly display of strength and fortitude lies a man whose life is dominated by fear, a fear of being considered a failure. The main contribution to this fear is his father Unoka. When talking about Okonkwo, it is hard for Unoka's name not to come up, as he has been such a great influence and contribution to his personality, and the way in which he chooses to live his life.

Throughout his life, Unoka had been a lazy, incompetent man, who was regarded as a failure by the majority of his fellow clan members. Unlike Okonkwo, he was a very peaceful, merry man who disliked war and violence. He was also a very emotional man, with a sensitive and reflective nature. When he died, he died having taken no title, and was heavily in debt. Therefore, Okonkwo strives to stamp out any character traits that he sees in himself that remind him of his father. In fact, he tries to be the complete opposite of his father in every single way. Also, due to his father's unsuccessfulness in life, Okonkwo was not born with the head start in life that so many other young men had. No one could possibly say that Okonkwo was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, as from an early age he was already fending for himself, and all the great things that he achieved were due to his own merit and perseverance.

In some ways this was a good thing, as it made Okonkwo into the independent, strong headed man that he is. Nevertheless, while Unoka was far from perfect, he also had some good points, such as his gentleness, and his kindness. However, Okonkwo saw every aspect of his father's character as undesirable, whatever it may have been.

This leads people to believe that he is a cruel, harsh man, but in reality Okonkwo has a very protective, loving side to his personality. However, this is the side he prefers to keep hidden, for fear that people may compare him to his dead father, and he may be considered a failure. This would be an enormous tragedy according to Okonkwo, as he cares a lot about what other people think of him, and in every situation he is faced with, he tries hard to react in a way that people would consider to be brave and manly.

Okonkwo treats his children in the same harsh manner that he treats everyone else, though it is apparent that he cares for them very much. However, because he so badly wants them to be successful and prosperous in life, he tends to take the wrong approach, and is very rude and aggressive towards them. He also has a tendency to blow things out of proportion, and overreact to the tiniest mistake or mishap. He is more critical of his sons than his daughter, as he is extremely sexist, and has very strong opinions as to how a man should behave. He expects them to all grow up to be brave fearless warriors, rather like himself. He also tends to compare himself to his sons too much, which is not entirely fair, as he lived in such different circumstances from them, and had to adapt to a much harder way of life. This results in his children not having a very good relationship with him. In fact, they are quite terrified of him, and it does not require much imagination to see why.

His relationships with his wives are not any better, as he has very sexist ideas as to how relationships between husband and wife should be. He believes them to be the inferiors of men, and acts in a very impatient and rude manner towards them, treating them with no respect whatsoever. Nevertheless, I am sure that he cares for them in his own way, but being Okonkwo, does not have a very good way of expressing it.

However, it is not entirely Okonkwo's fault that he thinks in this way, as the society in which he lives imposes such narrow minded views as to how a woman should behave towards and be treated like by her husband, so he sees the way in which he treats his wives as commonplace, and sees nothing wrong with it.

Regarding the laws and religions of his clan, Okonkwo tends to adopt the views of the majority, and has an inclination to follow them blindly, without much thought. He is completely against individuality and new ideas, and believes very strongly in the old way of going about things. He is not one to ponder upon things, and believes that to question the laws of his ancestors would be a great abomination. He accepts the laws and religion of the clan without question, and is completely happy to live his life in accordance to them.

In spite of this, due to his impetuosity, he can sometimes accidentally go against the law of the clan, or react in a way that sets him in a bad light in their eyes. Nevertheless, it is always a spur of the moment thing, and he always regrets it afterwards. However, by then it is sometimes too late to make amends, and he has to face up to the consequences of his actions.

b) Even before white men began to show up in Umuofia and its surrounding villages, Okonkwo has already heard rumours of men who were "as white as chalk, and had no toes". At the time this idea was semi legendary and they jokingly compared them to Adami a well known leper.

It was only when Okonkwo heard from his friend Obierika in his second year of exile that their neighbouring town, Abame had been totally



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