Okonkwo as a Tragic Hero


A tragic hero is a character in a story who takes brave courses of actions unknowingly making errors at the same time. In Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” Okonkwo is brought out as a tragic hero who takes courageous actions for the interest of his community. In the course of taking these actions, he unknowingly makes mistakes that ultimately bring him down. He is a tragic hero because he also makes selfless sacrifices to protect his community’s image. At the beginning of the story, Okonkwo is wealthy and this is what gives him the courage to take the daring actions. For instance, he decides to fight the invasion by the white man into his community, he successfully wrestles for his community by bringing down Amalinze the Cat, and decides to participate in the killing of Ikemefuna.

This essay explicates the heroism portrayed by Okonkwo and his tragic ending.

Okonkwo is a tragic hero in the manner he takes on the white men‘s invasion in his community. The white men invaded Okwonkwo’s village with a view to spread Christianity and their culture. Whittaker, David, & Msiska (2007) assert that several villagers including his own son Nwoye were converted into Christianity. This did not impress him. He decided to disown his only son and started thinking of ways to eliminate the white man. Other elders also decided to fight the white men. The elders organized a meeting and planned to burn down the church as a way of fighting the white men. White men’s messengers warned them, but they did not stop. This resulted in their arrest and imprisonment. After serving their sentence, they gave up the fight. Okonkwo did not give up; he was determined to fight the white men to the end. He dedicated all his efforts to fighting the white men in order to protect the values of his culture. Every other person had given up with the fight making Okonkwo to fight single-handed. He killed one of the white messengers, who had come to warn them about the meeting they held. This is the action that brought him out as a societal hero. This was a brave action, which no other person had ever attempted. All the other villagers branded him a hero for impressively facing the white messenger. The other villagers still feared to face the white men considering the elders had been imprisoned initially. Discovering that the other villagers would not fight on, he became discouraged. According to Whittaker, David, & Msiska, (2007) he was badly devastated that he decides to commit suicide by hanging himself. His heroism in the fight against white men’s invasion had tragically ended thus portraying him as a tragic hero.

He decided to adopt Ikemefuna, whose parents had passed on. Okonkwo had a feeling that his only son Nwoye had let him down through his perceived feminine behavior. Later Okonkwo adopts Ikemefuma as suggested by the elders due to his high self-esteem. Initially, Ikemefuma’s father had killed an Umuofian woman making him being adopted to settle scores. He was to stay with Okonkwo until a final decision on what was to be done to him was reached. Ikemefuna lived with Okonkwo for three years. Whittaker, David, & Msiska(2007) assert that during his stay, he greatly respected and looked upon Okonkwo. Furthermore, he referred to him as his father making Okonkwo cherish him. In addition, he was hardworking and courageous. Okonkwo really admired and valued him compared to his son Nwoye whom he believed had feminine character. After the three years of stay, the elders decided that Ikemefuna should be killed as a sign of preserving the community’s culture. Okonkwo had been warned against participating in murder of the Ikemefuna by an old man, as it will be like killing his own son. According to Okonkwo, the failure to participate would depict a feminine character. He did not want to seen as weak by the other men. On the day of Ikemefuna’s murder, it is Okonkwo himself who executed the final blow even as Ikemefuna cried for his help. This was a courageous but wrong decision for Okonkwo. After the death of Ikemefuna, Okonkwo started having trouble in his life and family. For instance, he accidentally killed a boy leading to him and his family being expelled from the society. This was done for the ancestor’s appeasement, and was to last for seven years. His influence in the society did not help him to get away with the accidental murder. This was a tragic end to his influence in the society as a leader.

Okonkwo was depicted a mighty warrior always positioned and determined to fight for his community. Whittaker, David, & Msiska (2007) assert that, as a warrior, he was courageous and focused on protecting the entire community together with other warriors; they participated in the inter-community annual wrestling contest. He was always determined to face anyone in the fights. According to the people of Umuofia, Okonkwo was the best wrestler among the community wrestlers. The annual wrestling event was organized, and Okonkwo was assigned another great warrior called Amalinze the Cat, whom many feared. Okonkwo was well determined and bravely fought against Amalinze, the undefeated hero. He successfully brought him down emerging victorious. After this, Okonkwo was praised by everyone in the society. He had success by redeeming his culture’s image of success in the annual wrestling competition. Therefore, everyone in the society respected him for emerging victorious. Okonkwo was indeed a great warrior who defended his society’s culture. According to Whittaker, David, & Msiska (2007) tragedy befell him during a funeral when he accidentally shot a boy. The society did not care about his heroism. Instead, everyone suggested that he and his family be expelled from the community in order to appease the ancestors. His heroism in the society tragically ended because of this experience as he was expelled for seven years from the community. The society did not care whether he had fought to defend his own culture initially. He was mercilessly expelled and made to stay away from the society for a period of seven years.

In conclusion, Okonkwo was a great hero in Umofia, but his heroism always ended tragically. He resolved to defend his culture against the influence of the white men. He was determined to bar the white men from spreading their religion and culture in Umofia. Despite the fact that other elders retreated from the war against Christianity, Okonkwo was determined and even killed a white men’s messenger. This tragically ended when he was deserted by the other elders thus committing suicide. He also adopted Ikemefuna whose father had killed an Umuofian woman. He lived with him well and even treated him better than his own son. After three years, the elders decided that Ikemefuna should be killed. This was to be done by the village men. An old had initially warned him from participating. His urge to show that he was a hero made him participate and even throw the last blow that killed Ikemefuna. Okonkwo took part in the annual wrestling competition where he successfully brought down Amalinze the Cat. He emerged as a hero who had defended the society’s winning culture. Despite all this display of heroism to defend society culture, he was expelled from the community when he accidentally killed a boy during a ritual burial ceremony. Indeed Okonkwo was a tragic hero.

Order now

Related essays