How does the relationship between Okonkwo and Nwoye change throughout the book Things Fall Apart?
In Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, Achebe focuses special attention on the strained, often toxic relationship between Okonkwo and his oldest son Nwoye. Okonkwo is heavy-handed and dictatorial in how he heads his household. His wives and children fear Okonkwo’s violence and brutality, and Nwoye is often the recipient of Okonkwo’s fury:
“Okonkwo's first son, Nwoye, was then twelve years old but was already causing his father great anxiety for his incipient laziness. At any rate, that was how it looked to his father, and he sought to correct him by constant nagging and beating. And so Nwoye was developing into a sad-faced youth” (13-14).
Okonkwo is abusive toward Nwoye in an effort to instill his own restrictive, masculine values into his son. However, Okonkwo’s forceful, authoritarian parenting style drives Nwoye away from his father. He comes to resent Okonkwo, and later in the novel, he joins the Christian church and directly 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.... Nwoye did not fully understand. But he was happy to leave his father” (152).
After Nwoye joins the Christian faith, he is dead to Okonkwo. Okonkwo resents Nwoye’s perceived weaknesses, and questions how he could produce such a child. Thus, their relationship progresses from strained to toxic, and they eventually separate forever.