In Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, how does Unoka influence Okonkwo?

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dashing-danny-dillinger eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo's father Unoka has a tremendous impact on the trajectory of Okonkwo's life. Unoka never obtains titles or any level of success within the clan. Indeed, Unoka's laziness and inability to provide for his family leaves Okonkwo determined to surpass his father's embarrassing legacy. Achebe acknowledges the influence that Unoka has on driving Okonkwo toward the brutal masculinity that marks his reputation:

"Even as a little boy he had resented his father's failure and weakness.... And so Okonkwo was ruled by one passion-- to hate everything that his father Unoka had loved. One of those things was gentleness and another was idleness" (13).

Okonkwo becomes the exact opposite of his father. Unoka was afraid of war and violence, so Okonkwo becomes the fiercest warrior in Umuofia. Okonkwo confines himself to a narrow definition of brutal masculinity, and this stems directly from his strained relationship with his father:

"When Unoka died he had taken no title at all and he was heavily in debt. Any wonder then that his son Okonkwo was so ashamed of him? Fortunately, among these people a man was judged according to his worth and not according to the worth of his father" (8).

Thus, despite his marginal status in the novel, Unoka has a major influence on Okonkwo.

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As was mentioned in the previous post, Okonkwo was driven to become successful out of fear that he would die without attaining any titles, just as Unoka died. Unoka was a lazy man who never paid people back for their financial assistance. He also enjoyed playing music and was not a competitive individual. Unoka was not physically intimidating, nor was he respected throughout his tribe. In Okonkwo's mind, Unoka was associated with being unsuccessful and feminine. Okonkwo grew up wanting to become everything his father was not. Okonkwo was afraid to become like Unoka and willed himself to succeed in life. In Okonkwo's effort to disassociate himself from his father, he became a callous, competitive individual. However, Okonkwo earned titles and respect throughout his tribe until he made several devastating life decisions that led to his downfall.

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Things Fall Apart

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