In the book, Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe portrays the main character, Okonkwo, as a fearful and stubborn protagonist. But, when the Christians arrived Okonkwo is challenged because of the societal changes that took place. He was left behind on things that he thought he controlled and believed was still in style. Okonkwo is greatly affected by the presence of the Christians because he is forced to show a form of weakness and jealousy while previous to this he was a great leader and was never intimidated by anything or anyone.
Prior to the Christians coming to the Ibo society, Okonkwo was very much loved and well respected “Age was respected among his people, but achievement was revered” (Achebe, pg 8). He was a self-righteous man who was very stubborn and felt he had no one to answer to but himself. When he was eighteen years of age, Okonkwo gained honor to his village by throwing Amalizine the Cat, a great wrestler who was unbeaten for seven years, from Umofia to Mbaino (1). After this battle, Okonkwo always felt the need to prove his bravery. Okonkwo was exiled from his village because of a gun accident during a funeral service for a well-respected man of the Ibo community. When he returned from exile, he found Christians in his home spreading their religion and converting many of his people. He finds that his people, who at one time were very powerful and strong, are now too afraid to fight off the white Christian men, “he mourned for the warlike men of Umofia, who had so unaccountably become soft like women” (1).
Okonkwo became envious because all the respect he once received was now going to the Christians. The narrator states, “The times which had altered so unaccountably during his exile seemed to be coming round again. The clan which had turned false on him appeared to making amends” (192). When the Christians arrived, everyone flocked to them because of all of the great things they offered such as education, government, written out laws, churches, and hospitals.
This also lead to weakness because Okonkwo did not find the pleasure in work that he once found, and this eventually lead to him becoming lazy. He continued to encourage his people to oust the Christians, but they steadily refused. Because his people would not go to war with him against the Christians, Okonkwo hung himself. “Then they came to the tree from which Okonkwo’s body was dangling and they stopped dead” (207). He eventually gave up because dying at the hand of the enemy would have been worse than just killing himself.
It is the conflict existing between Okonkwo and his culture that eventually lead to his demise. The constant disagreement between Okonkwo and his people built up, making him feel more and more isolated from his villagers. The arrival of the Christians is the catalyst that triggered his downfall. His society was torn apart, and the lack of unity drove him over the edge. All men need to live and work together in a society where they feel accepted and welcomed. If a society does not feel accepted, they can face many challenges and eventually this could lead them to be destroyed.