Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

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How did Okonkwo change in the novel Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe?

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jennyrocks eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Okonkwo doesn't truly change during the novel. He is rigid in his ways and unaccepting of new ways of life in his village with the introduction of imperialism. As others in the village drift toward the church during his banishment, he is in his mother's land working to get back to where and how he was. His absence feeds into the inability to accept change because for him, it was not gradual, but instead it was a slap in the face of his life and culture. If he had been there the whole time, maybe he would have had an easier time accepting change, but he was a character that was rigid in his ways due to the lackadaisical life of his father and his vow to never be like him.

One can make the case that he did change upon the birth of Ezinma. He valued her, especially over Nwoye, in that he was morbidly concerned when she was sick - this was a drastic change from him killing Ikemefuna who was the son he never had. He seemingly softened when it came to Ezinma, but probably not enough to really claim that he had actually changed.

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ms-mcgregor eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The problem for Okonkwo is that he is unable to change and that is what brings on his destruction. Okonkwo grew up being embarrassed by his father who was not considered a successful man in Igbo society. He was more interested in playing music than being a successful farmer and he had earned no titles. Okonkwo is ashamed of his father and spends his entire life trying to live up to the image of a successful man in his society. Even when he is forced to go to Mbanta to learn more "feminine" virtues, he clings to his image of what a "real" man should be. When he returns to his home and the culture has changed as a result of the coming of the white man. Okonkwo is unable to change his image of manhood in order to survive in the new society. Eventually, he is driven to murder and then suicide because he cannot change.

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