Can you please describe/comment upon/explain the relationship between Okonkwo and his son in 'Things Fall Apart?'

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MaudlinStreet eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Suffice to say, Okonkwo & Nwoye's relationship was not a loving one. Okonkwo considers Nwoye feminine and weak, & he routinely abuses him because of this. Before Ikemefuna's arrival, Nwoye often incurred the wrath of Okonkwo. He considered his son weak and feminine, often treating Enzinma (his daughter) better than Nwoye (his son). Okonkwo saw too much of Unoka in Nwoye, and was terrified he would end up like his grandfather. Thus, Nwoye was physically beaten and mentally berated by his father. But when Ikemefuna arrived, Nwoye transformed. He became the son Okonkwo wanted, eager to hunt, grow yams, and scoff at stories as "children's stuff".

Yet after Ikemefuna's death, the gap between father & son grows ever wider. The ultimate severance comes when Nwoye becomes a member of the white church. Nwoye joins the church because he feels isolated, alone, never understood. With Ikemefuna, he was more open, more willing to express his personality. Ikemefuna's presence seemed to offset Okonkwo's overbearing and violent nature. His death came just as Nwoye was becoming aware of his role within the culture, and it shocked his beliefs in the tribe's traditions. However, Ikemefuna's death was not the only source of Nwoye's disillusionment with the tribe. After his friend's killing. Nwoye feels something snap inside him. He feels this same snap when he hears twins crying the woods, and knows they have been left to die according to the village's laws. So he and Okonkwo are diferent in that respect too: Okonkwo lives his life by teh rules of the tribe, while Nwoye seeks something  different.

Although the conflict between Okonkwo and Nwoye informs many themes in the book, it is interesting to note that they are both alike in one way: They are both eventually alienated from traditions and beliefs of the tribe. While Okonkwo does so in a violent and almost savage way, Nwoye does so by turning to the church. So while they move in two very different directions, their mutual separation from the tribe links them in their alienation.

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Things Fall Apart

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