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Things Fall Apart

by Chinua Achebe
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How does Okonkwo's individuality contrast with the local community?

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Okonkwo 's fierce pride and individuality contrasts greatly with the Igbo clan of Umuofia. His strong personality and emphasis on individuality often puts him at odds with the elders. They respect his strength and abilities, but question his harsh attitude toward those he deems weak or else below him. For...

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Okonkwo's fierce pride and individuality contrasts greatly with the Igbo clan of Umuofia. His strong personality and emphasis on individuality often puts him at odds with the elders. They respect his strength and abilities, but question his harsh attitude toward those he deems weak or else below him. For example, early in the novel, an elder reflects on Okonkwo's blunt, calloused response to a fellow villager:

"He was struck, as most people were, by Okonkwo's brusqueness in dealing with less successful men. Only a few weeks ago a man had contradicted him at a kindred meeting which they held to discuss the next ancestral feast. Without looking at the man Okonkwo had said: 'This meeting is for men.' The man who had contradicted him had no titles.... Okonkwo knew how to kill a man's spirit"(26).

Okonkwo is abrasive and belittles a man who is at a lower rung within the clan. This clashes with the elder's belief that Okonkwo should be more respectful to men without titles.

Another scene in Things Fall Apart that illustrates how Okonkwo's individuality creates friction with his community comes toward the end of the novel, after Okonkwo comes back from exile. Okonkwo resents how his community has changed and does not emphasize masculine, bellicose values in the same way that it used to. Achebe writes:

"If Umuofia decided on war, all would be well. But if they chose to be cowards he would go out and avenge himself"(199).

This shows how Okonkwo is willing to go against the will of the rest of Umuofia. His individuality often puts him at odds with Umuofian society, and renders him a tragic figure by the end of the novel.

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