What are some of Okonkwo's virtues and flaws?

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MaudlinStreet's profile pic

MaudlinStreet | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

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Okonkwo embodies the Ibo ideal of masculinity. He is physically powerful, and commands respect as a member of the tribe and an egwugwu, a manifestation of an ancestral spirit that acts as a judge. He was a great wrestler when he was young, which not only earned him the praise of the tribe, but also won him his second wife. Okonkwo also upholds the village's laws as sacred, and he will defend those beliefs in any situation. finally, Okonkwo is very successful. He has three wives, plentiful yam harvests, and he holds many titles in the village. Overall, he seems the perfect representation of manhood in the Ibo society.

However, Okonkwo has great flaws. He is a brutal tyrant with his family, especially his son, whom he perceives as weak & womanish. He is physically abusive, almost killing one of his wives & willingly breaking the Week of Peace. He is also stubborn, and this resistance to change leads to his exile and ultimately death. Okonkwo is extremely proud, & he spends his whole life trying to overcome the shame of his father's existence. He is haunted by the disgraceful way his father lived and died, & this secret shame pushes him to cruelty and harshness.

gmuss25's profile pic

gmuss25 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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As was mentioned in the previous post, Okonkwo is a talented wrestler who is famous throughout the nine villages for his achievements. He is also a fearless warrior who mercilessly slaughters his enemies on the battlefield. Despite having an unsuccessful father, Okonkwo becomes wealthy through hard work and dedication. As a young man, Okonkwo marries several wives and produces two barns full of yams, which is a respected achievement throughout his village. Okonkwo rises through the ranks of Umuofia, and he is given the opportunity to discuss matters concerning the tribe with the elders of the community.

Despite all of Okonkwo's achievements, he struggles to communicate his feelings and emotions. He is afraid to show sympathy towards others out of fear that he will be viewed as weak. Okonkwo also struggles to control his anger. He makes several rash decisions that negatively affect his life. Okonkwo is also inflexible and rejects change throughout the novel.

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