Things Fall Apart, a historical fiction novel written by Chinua Achebe, is the title that foreshadows tragic events. A tragic character is one who is great and of high standing but suffers from hamartia. This is a tragic flaw which leads to their downfall. The tragic hero experiences peripeteia. This is a sudden change in fortune that leads to catastrophe. Anagnorisis is when the character admits that they are in a difficult situation.
Things Fall Apart’s main character Okonkwo is the tragic hero. He goes from Umuofia’s respected leader to Okonkwo’s strong warrior, and then he commits an act of hamartia that causes catastrophe. Okonkwo caused suffering for others as well. Okonkwo’s indecent actions caused anguish for others, which contributed to Okonkwo being viewed as a tragic hero. A tragic hero must be a high-ranking character. Achebe states that Okonkwo was well-known in all nine villages, and beyond. His fame rested on solid personal achievements”(3).Okonkwo started from scratch, with no inheritance from his father, Okonkwo managed to work strenuously to become a strong warrior and a wealthy, respected man. Okonkwo was able to earn many titles through his hard work and determination. Unoka borrowed a lot of money from his neighbours to purchase the titles he wanted. Unoka was well-known for his debts. Okonkwo was afraid he would be like his father and decided to hate all his father’s love. Okonkwo was a hard worker and was able to build a large compound for his three wives and their many children. Okonkwo is also known for his large collection of yams. These yams are highly prized in Ibo Beliefs. Okonkwo was also respected when he won the battle against Amalinze (a 7 year-old undefeated wrestling champion) at age 18.
Okonkwo is an Egwugwu and is well-respected in the community. He is therefore presumed to be an ancestor’s spirit. A representative of his village, Okonkwo is available to speak with Mbaino regarding the death of Umuofia. In spite of his humble beginnings, Okonkwo is a distinguished man. Okonkwo is like many tragic heroes. His hamartia is a fatal flaw. Okonkwo, the son of a failed father, is afraid of failure and weakness. These attributes drove Okonkwo to fame, success, and many achievements. However, they also led him into conflict. Okonkwo is impulsive and violent towards others because he fears failure and weakness. His family members are also affected by his violent tendencies. He does this to avoid being perceived as weak. Okonkwo’s extreme use of violence and strength to avoid being seen as weak ultimately led to his downfall. Okonkwo is known for breaking clan laws and beating his youngest wife during the week. His second wife is also threatened by Okonkwo. Okonkwo is close to shooting his second wife, Nwoye’s friend from 15 years ago. This was in revenge for Umuofia killing one of Umuofia’s women.
Okonkwo was the name of Ikemefuna. He lived with Okonkwo for three years before Okonkwo ordered him to die. Okonkwo refuses to accept Ikemefuna as a sacrifice, because he is Ikemefuna’s father. Okonkwo fears being seen weak and reacts violently to the warning. Okonkwo asks Ikemefuna for his help as he is afraid of being seen weak. (43). Okonkwo has weakened his relationships with Nwoye as well as his wives by trying too hard to be powerful. Okonkwo’s violent, impulsive tendencies also lead to him mentally hurting himself. He then kills a British court messenger at the clan meeting. Soon after Okonkwo discovers his tragic fate. Anagnorisis is the final requirement to be a tragic heroine. Okonkwo experiences some anagnosis when he comes home to Umuofia in the wake of his seven-year exile. Okonkwo is shocked to discover that Umuofia has changed a lot since his exile. His arrival does not attract the attention he expected, and he is forced to leave the Egwugwu. He discovers that white men have moved into the village to try to convert the Ibo to Christianity. He believes that Christians are attacking Igbo faith and customs. Okonkwo was not happy about this. His temper led him to persuade his clan to use violence in order to drive out the white men from the village.
Conflicts between Ibo people and Christians include the unmasking Egwugwu. The church was also burned. Okonkwo was then deceived by the white men and captured and humiliated. Okonkwo kills one British court member, and then he realizes his tragic fate. Okonkwo sees that no one from his clan pursues the white men escaping and beheads him. He realizes that Umuofia is not going to let him fight his clan. He realizes his defeat and is unable to save his village. Okonkwo hangs himself. This contributes to the Igbo culture’s definition of an abomination. Okonkwo is Aristotle’s tragic hero. Okonkwo is the respected and successful leader Umuofia. His tragic flaw is his fear of failure, weakness, and death. He eventually discovers the tragic consequences of his temper and is forced to kill the British court messenger. Okonkwo’s suffering, a tragic hero in the novel, would have made Okonkwo’s tragic hero vision incomplete.
Begam, R. (1997). Achebe’s Sense of an Ending. History, Tragedy and the Story of “Things fall Apart”. Studies in the Novel published an article in its 29th volume, 3rd issue, exploring topics related to the novel and its place in literature, with a focus on the 396th to 411th page. (https://www.jstor.org/stable/29533223)
Whittaker, D., & Msiska, M. H. (2007). The things that fell apart for Chinua Achebe: A Routledge study manual. Routledge. (https://www.taylorfrancis.com/books/mono/10.4324/9780203496404/chinua-achebe-things-fall-apart-david-whittaker-mpalive-hangson-msiska)
Korang, K. L. (2011). Making a post-Eurocentric Humanity: Tragic, Realistic, and Things Fall Apart. Research on African literatures was presented in the journal Research in African Literatures, Volume 42, Issue 2, and included an article spanning 1-29 pages. (https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Making-a-Post-Eurocentric-Humanity%3A-Tragedy%2C-and-Korang/979aaa1dda5fa2eacdf01b32d15507e5bd22f7d4)
Campu, A. (2014). Irony, tragedy and a lot of humor in Chinua Achebe’s Things are falling apart and not at ease. Bulletin of the Transilvania University of Braşov, Series IV: Philology & Cultural Studies (1), 43-50. (https://www.ceeol.com/search/article-detail?id=27357)
Ukwueze, O., & Okey-Agbo, J. N. (2020). In Achebe’s Things fall apart, tragedy and failed reintegration are all part of return migration. Crossings: Journal of Migration & Culture published an issue in 11(2) that featured articles exploring the topic of migration and culture, ranging from 251 to 266. (https://intellectdiscover.com/content/journals/10.1386/cjmc_00028_1?crawler=true)