Things Fall Apart: Okonkwo’s Death As a Tragic Hero In Things Fall Apart

Categories: Novel Things Fall Apart

In the book Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, Okonkwo, as a tragic hero and the main character lives in Africa, and transitions from childhood to manhood with no help from anyone. His father was not a working man and he owes tons of people money but never did anything about it and his mother could not be expected to work. Defying defeat, he had to build a farm from nothing on his own at a very young age, and he was successful when he grew up.

This is a personality trait In the book Things Fall Apart of Okonkwo and what makes him a tragic hero, but he has a flaw and that is never wanting to be seen as unmanly and he goes to extreme extents to let that never happen and that causes his downfall. He gets exiled for years, and unwanted occurrences happen when he is gone and he is not there to stop them and when he comes back he tries but it was already too late and so he kills himself in the end.

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That is just a basic summary of his life as a tragic hero. But the thing is a tragic hero is supposed to have an honorable death. Was his death honorable? Sucide is viewed as a cowards way out, but in Okonkwo situation he would have died either way. Even if he did go out fighting there could be a chance that it could affect people that were not involved. Okonkwo died an honorable death because he was not running away from life, he simply did not want to go out in his enemy’s hands.

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Okonkwo is an interesting character because he is not the tragic hero you would think of, he is stoic to a fault. The only emotion he does show is anger and that is towards the people closests to him. But Okonkwo does reject the idea of giving up he turned a bad situation into a good one though hardship alone. Okonkwo had started his farm and planted yams but he was extremely unlucky and “The earth burned like hot coals and roasted all the yams that had been sown”after that he had planted the rest of his yams but that season “it poured down in violent torrents, and washed away the yam heaps”, Okonkwo did despair but he pulled through it. All of this is important because it shows his personality and how he will always go to extreme extends to be successful and to be seen as manly. But when Okonkwo dies it seems as if that fire died and he had given up hope, but could it not have been out of pride? Okonkwo did not want to live the life that the missionaries wanted him to. Okonkwo also viewed his tribe as weak after they did not want to fight against the white man, so as a lone final act of defiance he killed himself to not live with the white man's terms. His last act could be considered manly as he always strived to be.

The church has been growing in strength over time and they subject villagers to their rules and judicial system. The church is very unforgiving and arrogant. Okonkwo could not believe that his fellow villagers had not driven the church out but it was too late for them to be driven out because the church had weakened the tribe because many people had gone over to the church’s side. The church would hang villagers that would have arguments against them “who was hanged by the government after he killed a man with whom he had a dispute.”. He had a dispute about the judicial systems ignoring customs. But any attempts to rid the church would result in those involved getting hanged and Okonkwo did not want to die like that because he had lived a life of always being manly and being killed in such a way is not manly but closer to being treated as rabid animal that the church needs to get rid of.

Now, sucide can be very easily viewed as the cowards way out, or as running away from hardships but in Okonkwo’s case it cannot be determined so easily, he started off with nothing and built himself up to power and was respected for that.. After his exile was over he was disappointed in his clanmates that they did not want to fight the white men and so you could say that he was losing any hope he had left, and so he decided that killing himself was better than living under the white man's rule. But you could also say that Okonkwo kills himself out of pride. Rules and traditions were important to Okonkwo, he would never want to live the life that the church wants him to live and kills himself instead of embracing the church’s policy on compassion and tolerance of people, which goes against his idea of always being manly. He died an honorable death he was always committed to his cause and he never ran away.

Altogether, Okonkwo lived a proud life that stemmed from hardship and him overcomming it. He wanted to resemble the image of a strong man and when he could not get his tribe to act against the church he acted on his own and was being hunted for it. He chose to kill himself rather than to be taken to be slaughtered by the white man his last act was out of defiance of the church and everything the white men stand for. Okonkwo died an honorable death because he was not running away from life, he simply did not want to go out in his enemy’s hands.

Updated: Feb 21, 2024
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Things Fall Apart: Okonkwo’s Death As a Tragic Hero In Things Fall Apart. (2024, Feb 21). Retrieved from

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