Things Fall Apart Okonkwo's Tragic Hero Through The Novel

Categories: Things Fall Apart

A “tragic hero”, according to Greek philosopher, Aristotle, is “a man who is neither a paragon of virtue and justice nor undergoes the change to misfortune through any real badness or wickedness but because of some mistake.” In the novel Things Fall Apart, written by Chinua Achebe, the tragic hero is the main character, Okonkwo. Okonkwo’s father was a failure, he owed many debts and was looked at by the village as a parasite and nuisance to their society and culture.

Due to his father’s mistakes and downfalls, Okonkwo’s greatest fear was becoming anything similar to his dad. Okonkwo stayed true to himself and reversed the shame his father brought him, he became a skilled farmer and had many wives. Okonkwo was practically famous in his village for the fight he won against the black cat, where he proved himself worthy. This was one of the most detrimental events in Okonkwo’s early life because he was deemed mighty and strong however, the fear he had locked up inside was stronger than any physical strength he had.

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He was doomed from the start.

The death of Ikemefuna, Okonkwo’s weakness, led Okonkwo down a spiraling tunnel of drunkenness and bottled up emotions. This series of spiraling downhill and bad things happening eventually ended up with Okonkwo believing his life had no worth and he took his own life after being banished from the village. According to Aristotle’s characterization of a tragic hero, Okonkwo is the definition. Okonkwo is a character that the reader has to decide if he is the protagonist or the antagonist, for he has done evil things however, he has been traumatized and emotionally afflicted by the perils of his past including his father and life growing up.

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Tragic heroes typically have a fall from grace, Okonkwo’s fall from grace was a continuous yet oblivious fall; he did not purposefully do the things he did out of ill motive or an evil mindset. Okonkwo’s story could be seen as a coming of age story, he only wanted to be the best he could be and prove himself better than his father.

Okonkwo’s major conflict and flaw was always an internal conflict, a question of self-worth and meaning. He is also a consistent character through the novel, thus providing all the characteristics of making him the tragic hero in the story. Okonkwo is also a very much a dynamic character, he was loyal to his family, but he also killed Ikemefuna due to his fear of appearing weak to the other people in the village. Okonkwo’s life is an oxymoron in that he feels one way but often acts another way. Okonkwo as the tragic hero of the story out of all the rest of the characters makes the most sense because he is the only one who meets all of Aristotle’s criteria for the tragic hero. He was well respected in the village but respected himself the least. He often realized the consequences of his actions after he had already committed them. He is neither a saint nor an intentional sinner.

Things Fall Apart Okonkwos tragic hero story shows line is his death and his reasoning for it. Suicide has a negative reaction in almost every culture, however in Okonkwo’s village, it was very disgraceful and weak. Okonkwo committed suicide because he had been overrun by the European Christians who took over his village and changed their traditions. Okonkwo lost all hope in the end and decided that death was the best option for him. This was very sad but also very tragically heroic of him.

Updated: Feb 02, 2024
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Things Fall Apart Okonkwo's Tragic Hero Through The Novel. (2024, Feb 12). Retrieved from

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