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Things Fall Apart

by Chinua Achebe
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How is or isn't Okonkwo a worse failure than his father?

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Okonkwo always feared being like his lazy father. His father didn't work, and he owed money to everyone. Each day he sat around drinking palm wine and playing his flute. Okonkwo grew up with a fear that he would turn out like his father. For this reason, he worked every minute. He couldn't relax at all. He was a fierce warrior and he had two barns filled with yams. He beat his family to keep them in line. 

Okonkwo lived in fear. He never had peace. He was always troubled. In many ways, he was worse than his father. He caused his family to live in fear of him. When the white man came in the village, Okonkwo felt threatened. He tried to fight the white man but his clan would not go to war with him. Without the support of his clan, Okonkwo hung himself. In this way, he turned out to be a failure and he dies without an honorable burial. He died just like his father did. No one presented him as an honorable man at his death. Any man who took his own life was disgraced. As hard as Okonkwo tried to avoid being like his father, he dies with shame, just as his father did. In so doing, Okonkwo's greatest fear came true. He died without rites and was considered a disgrace for hanging himself. The clansman could not even take Okonkwo's body down. They ask the white District Commissioner to take down his body. The white Commissioner asks why they can't take the body down:

They explain it is against Igbo custom because it is an abomination for a man to take his own life. Suicide is an offense against the Earth, and any man who commits suicide cannot be buried by his clansmen because his body is evil. Only strangers can bury him. Then the Igbo will make sacrifices to cleanse the desecrated land.

Obierika, Okonkwo's best friend, makes one last comment about his Okonkow's body:

As Obierika gazes at his friend’s dangling body, he bitterly says that Okonkwo was one of the greatest men in Umuofia. The white man drove him to kill himself, and now he will be buried like a dog.

Okonkwo became a failure just like his father. 

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