Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

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How would you describe Unoka from Things Fall Apart?  

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In Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo's father Unoka is described as the polar opposite of the hyper-masculine, bellicose Okonkwo. Indeed, Unoka serves as a potent contrast to his warrior son. Unoka is a peaceful, gentle man who would rather drink and play music than put forth effort into work. He gives very little thought to building a future for his son, instead focusing on living in the moment:

"In his day he was lazy and improvident and was quite incapable of thinking about tomorrow. If any money came his way, and it seldom did, he immediately bought gourds of palm-wine, called round his neighbors and made merry" (4).

Unoka struggles with debt and poverty as a direct result of his laziness, and his son Okonkwo suffers from his father's immaturity when he is unable to inherit anything from his debt-riddled father. Moreover, Unoka never took any titles in the Igbo clan. He is considered agbala, which has an interesting connotation: it not only means that Unoka has no titles, but also is another name for a woman (13). Unoka's equation with femininity is further reinforced by his death:

"He died of the swelling which was an abomination to the earth goddess. When a man was afflicted with swelling in the stomach and the limbs he was not allowed to die in the house" (18).

   The "swelling" of Unoka's stomach is reminiscent of a pregnant belly. This fact taken in conjunction with Unoka's pacifism and his role as agbala cause Okonkwo to label him as "feminine," and base his own life on being the antithesis of his father: "Okonkwo was ruled by one passion-- to hate everything that his father Unoka had love" (13). Therefore, Okonkwo sets himself as the exact opposite of his father, and embraces a violent form of masculinity.

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