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Things Fall Apart

by Chinua Achebe
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In Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart, what are the similarities between Onkonkwo and his father, Unoka? 

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This is an interesting question in part because Okonkwo despises his father Unoka and strives to be the exact opposite of him in every meaningful way. However, despite Okonkwo's best efforts, Okonkwo and Unoka are similar in one key way: both men's actions negatively affect their children's lives. Throughout Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo laments how his father's laziness put him at a disadvantage. Unoka's unwillingness to be a hard worker placed him at the lowest rung in Umuofia's society, and this had an adverse effect on Okonkwo's ability to obtain titles, wives, and property:

"With a father like Unoka, Oknonkwo did not have the start in life which many young men had. He neither inherited a barn nor a title, nor even a young wife. But in spite of these disadvantages, he had begun even in his father's lifetime to lay the foundations of a prosperous future. It was slow and painful. But he threw himself into it like one possessed. And indeed he was possessed by the fear of his father's contemptible life and shameful death" (18).

Despite his desire to be the successful, masculine individual his father could never be, Okonkwo places his family in a difficult position when he is cast into exile. His family goes into exile and they wait seven years before they return. When they return to Umuofai, the entire region has changed, and Okonkwo's family is unable to recover socially:

"It was the wrong year too. If Okonkwo had immediately initiated his two sons into the ozo society as he had planned he would have caused a stir. But the initiation rite was performed once in three years in Umuofia, and he had to wait for nearly two years for nearly two years for the next round of ceremonies" (183).

Unoka and Okonkwo are more alike than Okonkwo would like to admit, and this is largely because the two men's actions have detrimental effects on their families.

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