What are the main features of Okonkwo's view of masculinity, and how does his view relate to that of other important characters in the novel?

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lsumner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Okonkwo views hard work as a masculine trait. He works hard and insists that all those around him have the same work ethic. In fact, he beats his wives and children to keep them in line. His oldest son Nwoye seems to have traits like his grandfather, Unoka. Unoka, Okonkwo's father, was lazy. He did not work. He sat around playing his flute and drinking palm wine. He borrowed money and owed money to many different tribesmen.

Okonkwo detested his father. He despised his laziness. Okonkwo became so hard because of his father's laziness. Okonkwo feared that he would be useless as his father:

While Okonkwo's appearance portrays a man people fear, it belies the terror Okonkwo hides within himself. For his entire life, Okonkwo has had to deal with having a father who is considered weak and lazy—"agabala" in the tribe's terms.

That is why he works so hard. Working hard and beating his wives and children makes Okonkwo feel masculine. He rarely rested. He disliked the Week of Peace because it was against tradition to work that week. Not working made Okonkwo uncomfortable.

Okonkwo was a brave warrior as well. He had five skulls hanging from his belt. This act caused Okonkwo to feel masculine. He drank palm wine out of a human skull from someone he killed in war. Also, Okonkwo was considered a great leader. He participated in governmental affairs. This is another masculine trait of which Okonkwo was proud.

Okonkwo is tough. He is masculine in his rough exterior. He despises gentleness and idleness:

Thus, he despises gentleness, idleness, and demonstrations of sensitivity. He will not allow himself to show love, to enjoy the fruits of hard work, or to demonstrate concern for others, nor can he tolerate these in other men. He rules his family unit with an iron fist and expects everyone to act on his commands.

Sadly, Okonkwo could not get his clan to go to war against the white man who had come into the village. For this reason he hung himself. Although Okonkwo considered himself masculine, he died without honor. He had all the masculine traits, but he died without a proper burial because he hung himself. After achieving great things in his life, he died without a honorable burial. All of his masculine traits could not help him in death.

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Things Fall Apart

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