Okonkwo’s Fear-From Things Fall Apart Okonkwos fear Things Fall Apart, written by Chinua Achebe, is a story of a man whose life is dominated by his fears. There are many subtle themes throughout this book. One theme that cries out over the rest is Okonkwos, the main character, fear of weakness as seen through his childhood, his oldest son, and eventually his death. Since his childhood, Okonkwo was ashamed of his father, In his day he (Unoka) was lazy and improvident and was quite incapable of thinking about tomorrow(p.4). By the standard of his clan, Unoka was a coward and squanderer. When he was a child, a boy called Okonkwos father an agbala.
This word means woman as well as a man who has no title. His carelessness left numerous debts unpaid at his death. Ashamed of his father, Okonkwo worked hard and fought well to gain a reputation of high status and influence in his clan. He acquired three wives, one whom gave him his first son. Okonkwos first wife, whose name is never mentioned, gave birth to his first son, Nwoye.
Okonkwo saw Nwoye weak and lazy from an early age. For this, Nwoye was beaten constantly. Okonkwo was highly demanding of his family because of his obsession not to be like his father. He mistook this behavior as masculinity. He wished his son were a promising, manly son like his friend Obierikas son, Maduka, who was also a great fighter. One night the town of Umuofia was told that someone in Mbaino had killed one of their daughters.
The woman was Ugbeufi Udos wife. The blood price for the murder was a virgin and young man to Umuofia. The virgin was given to Ugbeufi Udo as his wife. They did not know what to do with the young boy, Ikemefuna. Okonkwo was asked on behalf of the clan to take care of the boy. Secretly, Okonkwo grew fond of Ikemefuna, Even Okonkwo himself became very fond of the boy-inwardly of course.
Okonkwo never showed any emotion openly, unless it be the emotion of anger(p.28). Ikemefuna lived with Okonkwo and his family for three years until the time came when the Oracle said that Ikemefuna had to be killed. Okonkwo was warned not to have any part in killing the boy who called him father. He ignored this and upon returning sank into a deep depression which kindled the affliction inside of him. Not only the death of Ikemefuna, but also the accidental killing of Ogbeufi Ezeudus son, which gets Okonkwo and his family exiled for seven years, aides in his depression. To atone for the killing of his clansmens son, Okonkwo and his family were cast out of Umuofia and were forced to go live with his mothers clan in Mbanta.
In their second year a group of six missionaries traveled to Mbanta and tried to persuade the people from their false gods of wood and stone to the one true God. They captured Nwoye and he later joined their congregation. When Okonkwo was informed of the news he strangled Nwoye in anger. He questioned how he could have fathered such a weak son. At the end of the seven-year exile, Okonkwo was able to return home.
However, the church had taken over Umuofia also. Nothing was the same. Okonkwo refused to integrate with the new visitors. He thought that the clans failure to remove them was womanly. Almost happy again, Okonkwo began to accept the new Umuofia.
Then the leaders of the clan, including Okonkwo, were taken for ransom by the church. Deeply angered by what was happening, Okonkwo killed one of the leaders at a meeting. The pacification of Okonkwos clan is what depressed him. He knew his clan would not go to war. This desire to act violently all goes back to his fathers lack of desire. In the end the violence settled on Okonkwo, when he hung himself. In conclusion, all these aspects: his childhood, his first son and Ikemefuna, and his death contribute in explaining Okonkwos fear of weakness.
Okonkwos life was controlled by his fears. He valued the success of his family and the community with his own success. If Nwoye was weak it was because he had failed as a father. The pacification of the town was a reflection of Okonkwos failures, he thought. Not being able to control those events, Okonkwo, out of desperation or either out of the pride in his manhood or perhaps both, killed himself.