What is the importance of personal achievements in the society in Things Fall Apart?

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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

We can see the importance of personal achievements in Igbo society from Okwonko's life. Ashamed of what he considers his own father's lack of manliness, integrity and initiative, Okwonko strives to maintain his own identity apart from his father's legacy.

Although he is excessively demanding and controlling with his wives and children, Okwonko's tribal warrior feats, wrestling victories, and wealth cause his fellow villagers to greatly esteem him. He is also a physically imposing man with no patience for weakness or what he considers effeminate behavior.

Age was respected among his people, but achievement was revered.

With all his accomplishments, Okwonko becomes the man chosen to house Ikemefuna, the young man exchanged by the neighboring village of Mbaino for the death of an Umuofian woman. He is also the "proud and imperious emissary of war" the people of Umuofia choose to represent their village in the war negotiations with Mbaino. The Mbaino negotiators treat him with respect and honor because of his grand accomplishments and his place in Umuofian society.

Personal achievements are so much revered in Igbo society that not even the gods will tolerate laziness and lack of initiative. When Unoka, Okwonko's father, complains to the priestess of the Oracle that ill-luck has plagued him all his life, the priestess refuses to help him. Instead, she berates him for his sloth and lack of ambition and tells him to "go home and work like a man." In a society where survival is dependent on work, indolence is rarely tolerated. Personal achievements are respected because the resourcefulness and accomplishments of each member of society contribute to the prosperity and reputation of whole villages.

Hope this helps!

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Things Fall Apart

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