What are Okonkwo's manly qualities and what are his warrior qualities?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

What usually captures interest in Okonkwo's character is the contrast between his weak qualities and his strong qualities:

Weak Qualities

  • fiery temper
  • domestic violence
  • cruel behavior
  • dominating fears
  • fear of failure and of weakness
  • fear of resembling his father's weak life and lonely death

Strong Qualities

  • prowess in war
  • great wrestler
  • two barns full of yams
  • three wives
  • two titles
  • tall and huge stature

But it also interesting to compare the two kinds of strong qualities he has: manly qualities and warrior qualities.

Manly Qualities

Okonkwo's manly qualities include a dedication from his youth to rising up above the disadvantages he inherited--the only thing he did inherit was disadvantage--from his father.

He distinguished himself personally by becoming the champion wrestler through his defeat of Amalinze the Cat, providing the fiercest fight "since the founder of [Umuofia] engaged a spirit of the wild for seven days and seven nights."

He attained fame through his dedication, wrestling, war prowess and through his success in farming, expanding his family and receiving two village titles of honor, each requiring an expensive religious ceremony to permit them to be bestowed.

Okonkwo is not dominated by his feminine nature, the root of his father's failures. He is dominated by his masculine nature (which will be the root of Okonkwo's failures).

Warrior Qualities

Okonkwo is not afraid of war. He is not afraid of the "look of blood" as his father was. He has captured five human heads in wars and uses his first one in village ceremonies to drink wine from, marking himself as a mighty warrior.

Since he has no fear, Okonkwo can express readiness for war and a "thirst for blood" in war. He is honored and respected as a powerful war emissary: "Okonkwo of Umuofia arrived at Mbaino as the proud and imperious emissary of war."