“When he walked, his heels hardly touched in the ground and he seemed the walk on springs, as if he was going to pounce on somebody. And he did pounce on people quite often ..”Things Fall Apart
The protagonist of the novel, Okonkwo was a physically intimidating brave man who was well respected in the village. He was the son of lazy and failure as a man, Unoka, who was not provided with titles because of his coward nature. However his son Okonkwo was a man who was well valued in held several titles in a village of Umuofia. As described by the author, Okonkwo is a tall and stout man. His wide nose contributes to make his face more aggressive. He does not let his heels touch the ground as he often walks on his toes. By behaviour, Okonkwo is a short tempered man who looks aggressive by his looks and body language. Okonkwo didn’t follow his father’s foot steps and managed to make his own identity among his clans men. He was a determined young boy who was also a good wrestler. He had won every fight he took part in, including the fight against Amalinze, the Cat. Amalinze was a great wrestler unbeaten for 7 years until being defeated by Okonkwo.
Okonkwo was also successful in his farming. He had grown two barns full of yams. Although the starting year of his farming career was the worst year for farmers due to excessive rains, Okonkwo managed to survive it. “Since I survived that year I shall survive anything,” he said. Okonkwo greatly feared of losing his position and status in the society. He believed that if he followed the footsteps of his father he would end up like him. Therefore Okonkwo acted strictly with his wives and children and never openly showed them his affection and love. All the he was strict he was not cruel. He did genuinely care for his children as in the case of his daughter, Ezinma. After killing Ikemefuna, Okonkwo didn’t touch food for three days. His daughter Ezinma was the only one who could understand her father and she prepared food for him. Okonkwo too loved his daughter the most and often valued her.
Okonkwo is a tragic character. He had caused a great deal of mistakes in his life which led to his own downfall. He killed Ikemefuna because he believed that if he didn’t do so he would be taunted as being a coward like his father. Even though Okonkwo was happy to keep Ikemefuna in his house and considered him as one of his sons, he could not show his love openly because according to him loving a child openly is a sign of weakness. During a funeral, Okonkwo’s gun accidentally exploded killing a 16 year old. As a result of his crime Okonkwo was ordered 7 years in exile. His wealth and property was destroyed by the villagers. He spent these seven years in his mother’s village Mbanta. Okonkwo had a firm believe that he could regain his wealth after seven years of exile. However the Christian missionaries had started to influence the Ibo people with their religious ideologies.
Okonkwo was greatly against the missionaries who were converting people of the village into Christians. He couldn’t bear the change in customs and traditions of their tribe. He tried to oppose the white men but couldn’t stand for long. In a fear of failure against the white man, Okonkwo hangs himself from a tree.
Okonkwo ended his life like a true tragic hero. He fought for his traditions and cultural values but couldn’t sustain for long. He had many heroic qualities. Although he showed his strength by beating his wives, Okonkwo tried to help his family in need. Despite these qualities, Okonkwo suffered at tragic fate because of his short sightedness, anger and violence. It was his inability to adapt to the changing environment that led to his tragic downfall.