In Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo changes from being a strong, confident warrior to a hopeless man who feels his tribe will not support his decision to make war against the white missionaries.
In the beginning, Okonkwo is known as a man with a fiery temper. He looks fierce and is ready to pounce on anyone who gets in his way. He rules his family with an iron fist. He beats his wives and children when he feels they get out of line. He is ferocious in his warrior attitude. He is a hard working man who cannot rest during times of festivities.
Okonkwo is driven by a fear of being like his lazy father Unoka. Okonkwo is determined to not resemble his lazy father in any way. He is determined to be a strong man who has no fear at the sight of war:
Okonkwo, the protagonist, is a talented but inflexible Igbo who struggles to achieve success in the traditional world.
Okonkwo works hard to overpower any signs of weakness. He is afraid of failure. He has difficulty balancing his feminine energy with his masculine energy:
Okonkwo often suppresses his feminine side as he pursues his goals and angers the Earth goddess Ani. His rage, inflexibility, and fear of appearing weak like his lazy father, the musician Unoka, consistently overshadow his respect for his community.
Okonkwo accidentally shoots a boy. He is banished to his mother's homeland for seven long years. When he returns, he is upset that the white missionaries have gained so much control over his village. He urges his clansmen to go to war against the white missionaries, but his clansmen refuse. Feeling helpless, Okonkwo gives in to a moment of weakness and hangs himself:
The men lead the commissioner into a small bush behind Okonkwo’s compound. They come to the tree from which Okonkwo’s body is hanging. Obierika explains that perhaps the commissioner’s men could take Okonkwo down and bury him.
Okonkwo is a very strong masculine figure in the beginning of the story, and rejects the weakness and laziness of his father. He builds a life for himself and gains financial success. But towards the end, his family breaks apart and his son considers converting to Christianity. His tragic flaw—the equation of manliness with rashness, anger, and violence—brings about his own destruction because he is unwilling to adapt to the changes around him.Okonkwo's strength leaves him and at the end of the book he is a broken man.