How does Okonkwo's relationship with his daughter Ezinma compare to his relationship with Nwoye?

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dashing-danny-dillinger eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo clearly demonstrates favoritism toward Ezinma compared to his strained relationship with his oldest son Nwoye. He feels that Ezinma is one of the few people who understand him, and his attitude toward his daughter contrasts greatly with the way that he attempts to impart his brutal masculine values upon Nwoye.

His bond with Ezinma is strengthened during his time in exile in Mbanta. He views her as the favorite among his children:

“Okonkwo was very luck in his daughters. He never stopped regretting that Ezinma was a girl. Of all his children she alone understood his every mood. A bond of sympathy had grown between them as the years had passed” (172).

Okonkwo wishes that Ezinma was born a boy because she exhibits many of the traits that he wishes Nwoye had.

Nwoye, on the other hand, experiences the majority of his father’s abusive behaviors. Okonkwo sees Nwoye as weak, much like his own ill-fated father Unoka, and he aspires to beat these qualities out of him. Okonkwo pushes Nwoye too far, however, and the young man becomes affiliated with the Christian church. When he joins the church, Nwoye rebukes his relationship with his father:

“Mr. Kiaga’s joy was very great. ‘Blessed is he who forsakes his father and his mother for my sake,’ he intoned. ‘Those that hear my words are my father and my mother.’ Nwoye did not fully understand. But he was happy to leave his father” (153).

Thus, Okonkwo’s bond with Ezinma is entirely different from his toxic relationship with Nwoye.

zobuzzy | Student

“Like father, like daughter” can be said to be true about Okonkwo and Ezinma’s relationship. One just has to consider both personalities to realize that their personalities are very similar. Like her father, Ezinma displays confidence, brazenness that is unlike other girls and also has a temper similar to that of her father. She is bolder than the typical Umuofia woman. Although Okonkwo time and time again adheres strongly, and sometimes harshly, to traditional norms, he is pleased by the way his daughter acts. This is due to the fact that his daughter displays masculine qualities such as confidence and boldness, which to him, are the very essence of a man. He wishes she had been born a man as this would have resulted in an heir that could follow closely in his footsteps unlike his son Nwoye.  

On the other hand, his son Nwoye seems to be the complete opposite. Unlike a traditional man, he is timid and does not conform to his father’s traditional values. Nwoye is especially empathetic, even to the point of being more so than a woman. For this, his father constantly criticizes and demeans him. Unlike Ezinma who is a man save for her physical makeup, Nwoye is the complete opposite, and in Okonkwo’s eyes, a failure. The sad reality about Nwoye and Okonkwo’s relationship is their failure to see eye to eye, or at the very least, to try and see where the other is coming from. They are always at loggerheads, failing to understand each other and this breakdown in communication, trust and understanding, results in Nwoye getting back at his father for killing his adoptive brother by becoming a Christian, something he knew would hurt his father.

In conclusion, Okonkwo loves his daughter Ezinma and feels she epitomizes everything he would have loved in a son. Nwoye, on the other hand, does not and is rather viewed as very feminine. This is a problem because Okonkwo believes men should be bold and fearless. As such, he gravitates towards Ezinma and alienates himself from Nwoye.

Read the study guide:
Things Fall Apart

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