Do the characteristics of tragedy apply to Okonwo in Things Fall Apart?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The characteristics Renaissance Shakespearean tragedy specify a hero who is moral and has elevated beliefs and aspirations that form the motivation of his actions and decisions. The Shakespearean tragic hero is not a common man as was prevalent in Romantic period English literature. Okonkwon in Things Fall Apart fits this characteristic of a tragic hero. He adheres to the Ibo's spiritual and moral laws and strives hard to improve his situation by hard work and advancement in realms of responsibility in the tribe.

Another characteristic of the Shakespearean tragic hero is that he has a tragic inner flaw to his character traits or makes a tragic error in judgement. His flaw or his error in judgement leads to circumstances so terrible that the only possible outcome to the situation is his death. Okonkwo fits this characteristic of a tragic hero because his is born with an inner "god force" called chi that is merely mediocre.This is his tragic flaw.

It is because of flaw that he has an imbalanced between female and male forces, which results in all the wrong actions he takes, such as displaying violence toward his wives, and the egregious accident that occurs as display of the accumulation of all his wrong actions, specifically the explosion of his rifle that kills a clansman. This act against the Earth goddess requires he be banished for seven years, which means he is absent from Umuofia when most needed to resist (if possible) the incursion of the British, and it is this that indirectly leads to his inescapable tragic death.

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Things Fall Apart

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