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In Things Fall Apart by Achebe, what ways did Okonkwo represent the best part of the...

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cdeeneedham | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted April 3, 2013 at 3:27 AM via web

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In Things Fall Apart by Achebe, what ways did Okonkwo represent the best part of the tribal life and what the tribe valued? In what ways did he represent the worst part of the tribal life and what the tribe valued?

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lsumner | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted April 20, 2013 at 3:17 AM (Answer #1)

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In Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo represents the best part of the tribal values in various ways. At the same time, he represents the worst part of tribal life according to what the tribe values. Truly, Okonkwo has qualities that prove he is a respected leader in his tribe. Again, he has negative qualities that bring trouble into his life. Nevertheless, Okonkwo works hard and trains his family members to work hard. Okonkwo is successful in many ways. However, he also has qualities that are not so favorable. Even though some of these favorable qualities are greatly supported by some tribe members, Okonkwo has a fiery temper that causes him to experience a troubled life.

In the beginning of the novel, Okonkwo is recognized as a great wrestler. He has achieved much fame and glory.

Okonkwo is a man of great personal achievements. After he threw the great wrestler Amalinze the Cat, at the age of 18, his fame spread.

Because of Okonkwo's excellence in wrestling, the beauty of the village named Ekwefi falls for Okonkwo while he is wrestling. Ultimately, Okonkwo wins her heart and she becomes one of his three wives. Having many wives and many children is an honor in Okonkwo's village. This achievement is recognized as a great achievement by the leaders in Okonkwo's village.  

Next, Okonkwo has been successful in his farming. He has many barns filled with yams. This represents his wealth. His tribal leaders greatly respect Okonkwo in his efforts to provide for his family. In Okonkwo's tribe, it is a respectable trait to work hard and produce many barns filled with yams. 

Okonkwo is also a great warrior. He has many human skulls to prove his bravery. His skill as a warrior is esteemed by his tribal leaders. Because Okonkwo has so much skill in warfare, he has achieved honors and titles. Okonkwo is fierce in battle and his tribe depends on him to keep his village safe from enemy tribes. 

One of Okonkwo's negative characteristics is his fiery temper. He loses patience with his wives and children. He has been known to beat his wives and children when he is angry. Some of the leaders in Oknokwo's tribe view Okonkwo as a strong, masculine man because he keeps his family in line. Although he is quite abusive, some of Okonkwo's fellow tribal leaders respect Okonkwo because he has a heavy fist. While beating his wives and children is not a natural, positive quality, in Okonkwo's village it is respectable to discipline one's family through heavy measures. 

Of course, there are times of the year that Okonkwo is to create a peaceful environment. During the Week of Peace, Okonkwo beats one of his wives and this angers the gods. Okonkwo suffers the consequences. Okonkwo's tribe is very religious. During the Week of Peace, Okmokwo is to rest and relax. Okonkwo cannot do this. He is too afraid of appearing lazy as his father Unoka. Okonkwo cannot keep the tradition of peace, rest, and relaxation. This is not an admirable disposition. 

When the Christian white men comes into Okonkwo's village, Okonkwo tries to get rid of them. Because his fellow clansmen will not support him in his fight, Okonkwo hangs himself. This is an abomination against Okonkwo's tribal beliefs. Sadly enough, all of Okonkwo's great achievements are not enough to save him. He dies without honor. He has no honorable burial rites. Although Okonkwo had achieved greatness in his village, he had fearful, negative  qualities that overshadowed his greatness.

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