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Things Fall Apart

by Chinua Achebe
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In Things Fall Apart, what is Okonkwo's tragic flaw?

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In Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo has a tragic flaw. His tragic flaw is his fear of becoming like his father. Unoka, Oknokwo's father, is lazy and loves a life of leisure. Okonkwo deals with his fear on a daily basis. He becomes obsessed with hard work in his determination to never be called weak or woman, as did the children call Okonkow's father.

Okonkwo is driven by his passion to excel and become a leader in the community. He allows his masculine desires to overtake him. He becomes abusive to his family, insisting they work as hard as he does.

Ultimately, Okonkwo allows his fear to totally consume him. He is so afraid that he will lose his title until he takes his own life. In the end, he dies without a proper burial, just as his father died without a proper burial. Okonkwo allowed his fear to take contol of him. His life ends in tragey.

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Okonkwo's tragic flaw is his fear of being perceived as weak or effeminate like his father, Unoka. Okonkwo grew up ashamed of his father, who was a debtor and alcoholic. Unoka was not a violent man and preferred to drink palm wine all day rather than work to pay back his debts. Unoka died a titleless man and his body was thrown into the Evil Forest because it was considered an abomination to the earth goddess. In order to avoid the same reputation and fate of his father, Okonkwo developed into a determined, aggressive man, who earned titles and was known for his ferocity in battle. Tragically, Okonkwo's fear of being viewed as weak or feminine influences him to become a callous, violent man. Okonkwo's hypermasculinity leads to his demise as he harms his friends, family, and self. Okonkwo's tragic flaw influences him to murder Ikemefuna, which ruins his relationship with Nwoye. His violent nature also disrupts the Week of Peace and leads to the death of an innocent young man, which results in his exile. Okonkwo's fear of being perceived as weak also influences him to murder a colonial messenger at the end of the novel. Overall, Okonkwo's tragic flaw is his fear of being perceived as weak and effeminate, which makes him a violent, callous man and leads to his demise.

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Okonkwo's tragic flaw, is, as in classical literature, hubris or pride.  He fears being viewed as weak or feminine (as his father was viewed), and this fear causes him to act rashly.  His rash actions cause his banishment and alienation from his son, who eventually abandons him to join the Christian missonaries.  Interestingly, Achebe compares Okonkwo's pride in the first half of the novel to the western colonizers' pride in the second half of the novel. 

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