How does fear affect Okonkwo's actions and relationship with others?

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lynnebh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Okonkwo's fear of turning out like his father is the major motive of his life, and also his downfall. Because he does not want his tribe to think he is weak, he becomes the most famous and feared wrestler in the clan. Because he does not want to be unable to support his family, like his father, he works incredibly hard to make a success of his yam farming operation. Because he does not want to appear weak in front of the other men, he beats his wives and acts impulsively, resulting in his accidentally killing people. This causes him to be exiled from his clan for many years. Because he fears that his son will turn out like his grandfather, a weakling, he is cruel to the boy and ruins his relationship with him. Because he fears appearing weak before the men in the hunting party, he participates in the killing of his adopted son Ikemefuna, in spite of being warned by the village elders not to participate. This winds up angering the gods. Okonkwo's fears are what cause things to fall apart in his life.

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gmuss25 | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Okonkwo fears becoming like his father, Unoka, who he considered effeminate for living in debt and loving music. Okonkwo is ashamed of his father's life and does everything in his power to be successful. Okonkwo is obsessed with his masculine reputation and preserves it by becoming a fierce warrior and holding titles in his tribe. However, Okonkwo's callous, aggressive attitude negatively affects his relationship with others. He offends members of his tribe by degrading them for not having titles and disagrees with his tribe's decision to maintain a peaceful relationship with the white men. Okonkwo's fear of being viewed as feminine drives him to kill Ikemefuna. He also does not develop a loving relationship with his son, Nwoye, because he believes Nwoye is too sensitive. Okonkwo does not even express his love for his daughter, Ezinma, and instead chastises her for minor offenses. Okonkwo's fear of becoming like his lazy, effeminate father drives him to develop a tough exterior where brash actions seem acceptable and communication is not necessary. Okonkwo's abrasive personality not only offends his tribe but ruins his relationship with his children.

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