Many critics argue that this novel is a perfect example of a modern-day Greek tragedy. It certainly has may of the various plot elements that we see in ancient tragedies. Okonkwo is a great example of the tragic hero, with plenty of hamartia or faults that bring his tragedy upon him. Some of his key traits are pride and impulsiveness, and it can be seen how these traits get him into trouble again and again, such as when he kills his kinsman in a fit of rage. His downfall is a direct result of his actions.
The way that this story is recast is of course due to the way that Achebe plants Okonkwo in a pre-colonial setting when white man is just about to arrive on the scene. He has worked so hard to gain status and power in his tribal setting, having started out with very little. Now, with the new order that is being ushered in, he stands to lose everything, and this is something that he cannot accept. What leads to Okonkwo's downfall ultimately is his fear that others will detect weakness within him, as it leads him to make various decisions cause him great sadness and regret in his life. Achebe therefore uses the elements of traditional Greek tragedy but gives them a modern-day spin by focusing on the way in which it can be applied to colonialism in Africa.