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Compare and contrast Okonkwo and his father in Things Fall Apart.

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coplin234 | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 2, 2009 at 10:12 AM via web

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Compare and contrast Okonkwo and his father in Things Fall Apart.

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dymatsuoka | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 2, 2009 at 12:34 PM (Answer #1)

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Okonkwo and his father Unoka have very little in common.  Although both are tall men, Unoka walks with a stoop, burdened by the scorn of his tribe.  The Igbo people value power and ferocity in their men, and Unoka is not like that.  Sensitive by nature, he appreciates music, children, and the beauty of nature.  Unoka is happiest when he is playing his flute and drinking palm wine, enjoying the company of his neighbors.  He abhors warfare and is sickened by violence, and is totally lacking in ambition.  Preferring to spend his days fellowshipping and making music, he neglects his crops and must borrow to feed his family.  Unoka is considered weak by his tribe, and is scorned for his lack of perceived "manly" qualities.

Okonkwo is the opposite of his father.  His very appearance communicates a sense of ferocity and barely contained fury.  He is tightly wound and has a fiery temper, and rules his family with an iron hand.  Okonkwo has distinguished himself on the field of battle, and is considered by his tribe to be the "greatest warrior alive".  An extremely proud man, he constantly strives to demonstrate his power and manhood, both in tests of strength among his own people and against his enemies in combat.

Ironically, despite his dominant demeanor, Okonkwo is more emotionaly fragile than his father.  The younger man lives in perpetual fear that he has somewhere within himself the traits he so hates in his progenitor, and his lust for manly achievement reflects his inner terror that he might, in reality, have inherited his father's weaknesses.  Thus, Okonkwo overcompensates to the point that he becomes less than complete.  Hating idleness and sensitivity of any sort, he never allows himself to show love or compassion towards anyone, not even to those family members closest to him, and he cannot tolerate these traits in others either.

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