Characters and Culture
The chief protagonist is Okonkwo, whose flawed but fascinating nature displayed against the backdrop of the encounter of the Igbo with the white man and his religion, has brought comparisons to Greek tragic heroes. Although his father has been poor — the Earth Goddess had never given him decent crops — Okonkwo is respected by the community in spite of that because of his character and his prowess at wrestling. Ironically then, it is his own psychological problem with his father's poverty, not some arbitrary limitation dictated by the gods, that leads to many of his other shortcomings, not the least of which is his constant desire to prove his virility. His narrow definition of what is masculine causes him to despise stories (and consequently the wisdom imparted in them) and words as the domain of women. He has a tender side, but squelches most tender impulses. Thus he is fond of his hostage "son" Ikemefuna, yet participates in his killing even after he is exonerated from having to do so. He maltreats his own son as too womanish, yet dotes on his daughter, the only surviving child of his second wife.
Okonkwo spends much of his early manhood building up wealth and position only to be banished when he accidentally shoots a boy at a funeral. Forced to flee to his mother's kinsmen in Mbanta, he is unable to consolidate his gains, although his friend Obierika brings him money and keeps him informed. In his absence, the Christian church makes inroads in Umuofia, and the nearby people of Abame have been slaughtered in retaliation for their killing of one white man. Soon the Christians find their way to Mbanta, where Okonkwo dismisses them as a joke, ironically just when his own son is being drawn to the faith. The exile period foreshadows tensions that will erupt into conflict once Okonkwo returns to Umuofia. In Mbanta, a Christian convert kills the sacred python, but as the perpetrator dies in his sleep, retaliation against the Christians is deemed unnecessary.
Upon returning to Umuofia after seven years banishment, Okonkwo discovers that many have converted to Christianity and that a more direct form of colonial rule has taken root, completely uprooting tribal justice and destroying families by imprisoning young men for long periods. When the good Anglican priest, Mr. Brown, tries to pay a visit, Okonkwo...
(The entire section is 946 words.)