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Things Fall Apart

by Chinua Achebe

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Compare and contrast Okonkwo and his father in Things Fall Apart.

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A similarity between Okonkwo and his father in Things Fall Apart is that both men are tall and largely fail as parents. Differences include that Okonkwo's father was lazy, poor, and cowardly while Okonkwo is successful, wealthy, and a great fighter.

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Unoka and his son Okonkwo appear to be polar opposites. Unoka was an ineffectual, dreamy man who achieved little. He loved music and drinking, was poor and lazy, took no titles, and died heavily in debt. His character was feckless and improvident, and his small family seldom had enough to eat. Most disgracefully, he was a coward with no aptitude or appetite for fighting.

Okonkwo has no patience with failure or idleness and consequently despises his father. Even while still young, he has achieved fame as a wrestler and as a great warrior in the inter-tribal conflicts. He is also a wealthy man with two barns full of yams and three wives. He has achieved all this by himself through hard work since his father left him nothing. He has taken two titles and is universally respected.

Okonkwo is so ashamed of his father that he even detests the positive or harmless aspects of his character, disdaining music because Unoka loved it. However, he may resemble his father more than he would like to imagine, since he is constantly motivated by fear and shame, finally committing suicide, an exigency to which Unoka was never driven.

He is also no more successful as a parent than his father was. Indeed, by relentlessly pushing his son, Nwoye, to be as much like himself as possible, Okonkwo seems unwittingly to have created another Unoka.

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Unoka, Okonkwo's father who died ten years before the action in the novel takes place, was widely regarded as a failure, unlike the materially successful Okonkwo. Unoka was known for spending whatever money he had on gourds of palm wine that he shared with his neighbors. His basic idea in life was to make merry before he died, and he often was in debt to his neighbors. He was poor, and his family frequently went hungry. His happiest times were spent playing the flute, and he was known as a coward who abhorred violence. 

Okonkwo is ashamed of his father and tries to be everything his father was not. He is a wrestler who has acquired fame for his fighting prowess, and he is a highly successful farmer with two barns full of yams and three wives. He has also fought in two inter-tribal wars and is always willing to resort to using his fists. He is respected by elders and kings, and he considers himself their equal. While Unoka was a dream, Okonkwo is a man of action and worldly success.

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Okonkwo and his father Unoka have opposite personalities that contrast greatly throughout the novel. Unoka is considered a weak, poor man who is unable to pay people back for the money he has borrowed. Unoka also has a terrible work ethic and possesses no titles. Unlike Okonkwo, Unoka hates violence and prefers playing his flute. Okonkwo resents his lazy father and is determined to become one of the greatest men in Umuofia. Okonkwo is an athletic, violent, and determined individual who earns titles and marries multiple wives. Okonkwo even earns enough status to become an egwugwu and judges various cases throughout his tribe. He is also a successful, hard-working farmer and is considered one of Umuofia's best warriors. However, Okonkwo's fear of becoming weak and in debt like his father makes him a callous man. Okonkwo does not possess sympathy or the ability to effectively communicate with others. His cold heart, excessive masculinity, and propensity for violence leads to his demise.

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Okonkwo and his father Unoka have very little in common.  Although both are tall men, Unoka walks with a stoop, burdened by the scorn of his tribe.  The Igbo people value power and ferocity in their men, and Unoka is not like that.  Sensitive by nature, he appreciates music, children, and the beauty of nature.  Unoka is happiest when he is playing his flute and drinking palm wine, enjoying the company of his neighbors.  He abhors warfare and is sickened by violence, and is totally lacking in ambition.  Preferring to spend his days fellowshipping and making music, he neglects his crops and must borrow to feed his family.  Unoka is considered weak by his tribe, and is scorned for his lack of perceived "manly" qualities.

Okonkwo is the opposite of his father.  His very appearance communicates a sense of ferocity and barely contained fury.  He is tightly wound and has a fiery temper, and rules his family with an iron hand.  Okonkwo has distinguished himself on the field of battle, and is considered by his tribe to be the "greatest warrior alive".  An extremely proud man, he constantly strives to demonstrate his power and manhood, both in tests of strength among his own people and against his enemies in combat.

Ironically, despite his dominant demeanor, Okonkwo is more emotionaly fragile than his father.  The younger man lives in perpetual fear that he has somewhere within himself the traits he so hates in his progenitor, and his lust for manly achievement reflects his inner terror that he might, in reality, have inherited his father's weaknesses.  Thus, Okonkwo overcompensates to the point that he becomes less than complete.  Hating idleness and sensitivity of any sort, he never allows himself to show love or compassion towards anyone, not even to those family members closest to him, and he cannot tolerate these traits in others either.

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Compare and contrast Okonkwo with his father, Unoka. Give special attention to the reasons why Okonkwo disdains his father and strives to succeed.

Okonkwo's father, Unoka, was a debtor and alcoholic, who spent the majority of his days playing his flute, borrowing money, and drinking palm wine. Unoka was not respected by his community members, never earned any titles, and was considered an effeminate man for shying away from war. Okonkwo is embarrassed by his father and goes to great lengths to distance himself from Unoka. Okonkwo resents his father for his failures and terrible reputation. As a young man, Okonkwo is determined to make a name for himself in Umuofia. He develops into a renowned wrestler, a successful farmer, and a respected community member. Unlike his father, Okonkwo is aggressive, masculine, and revered. Okonkwo is not only an accomplished warrior but also earns titles and is viewed as a leader of Umuofia.

Despite Okonkwo's success and numerous accomplishments, his inherent character flaw leads to his tragic death. Similar to Unoka, Okonkwo also has negative qualities and is deeply flawed. Okonkwo's tragic flaw is his fear of being viewed as weak and feminine, which influences him to make violent, brash decisions. Okonkwo and his father are also denied burial rights and thrown into the Evil Forest when they die.

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Compare and contrast Okonkwo with his father, Unoka. Give special attention to the reasons why Okonkwo disdains his father and strives to succeed.

Okonkwo is tall and strong. He has a short temper and is easily angered. He is impatient and ambitious. His ambition is shown in multiple places in the text; for example, when he wins the wrestling tournament as a young man and when he builds his wealth on his own by starting out as a yam sharecropper.

Okonkwo's father, Unoka, is lazy, poor, and gluttonous. He continuously borrows money from his friends and never pays them back. He is persuasive and is able to continue to convince people to loan him money, even though he already owes them money from borrowing previously. He is a skilled musician.

Okonkwo disdains his father because his father does not represent the values of the Igbu people. Okonkwo overcompensates for his father's failings by being the complete opposite of his father. Okonkwo does not want to owe anyone money. He is a powerful warrior. He shows his wealth and place in society through his land, his houses, his many wives, his children, his yams, and his cowries.

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In Things Fall Apart, how is Ikemefuna similar to Okonkwo and his son similar to his father?

I'm not sure I understand your question. I'm not clear to whom "his son" and "his father" refer. however, I'll help you out as much as I can.

Okonkwo and Ikemefuna both represent virility and male gender roles among the Ibo. Generally, this means exhibiting physical strength. Ikemefuna earns Okonkwo's love and respect through his personality, which is always outgoing and upbeat, and his talents, which include identifying birds, trapping rodents, and making flutes. He knows which trees make the best bows and tells delightful folk stories. While Okonkwo doesn't approve of all these (anything having to do with music or stories he derides as "womanly"), he appreciates Ikemefuna for the change he has wrought in Nwoye.

Before Ikemefuna's arrival, Nwoye often incurred the wrath of Okonkwo. He considered his son weak and feminine, often treating Enzinma (his daughter) better than Nwoye (his son). Okonkwo saw too much of Unoka in Nwoye, and was terrified he would end up like his grandfather. Thus, Nwoye was physically beaten and mentally berated by his father. But when Ikemefuna arrived, Nwoye transformed. He became the son Okonkwo wanted, eager to hunt, grow yams, and scoff at stories as "children's stuff".

Although the conflict between Okonkwo and Nwoye informs many themes in the book, it is interesting to note that they are both alike in one way. They both stand apart from traditions and beliefs of the tribe. while Okonkwo does so in a violent and almost savage way, Nwoye does so by turning to the church. So while they move in two very different directions, their mutual separation from the tribe links them in their alienation.

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Discuss the nature of Okonkwo’s relationship with his father, son, and wives in Things Fall Apart.

Okonkwo is depicted as a domineering, aggressive man, who refuses to appear weak or sentimental. Okonkwo is also a violent, masculine individual, who is not afraid of conflict and ruthlessly wields his authority. Okonkwo had a terrible relationship with his father, Unoka. Unoka was a lazy debtor and Okonkwo desperately feared becoming like him. Okonkwo resented the fact that Unoka was a titleless man and worked extremely hard to shed his father's bad reputation. He also believed that Unoka was effeminate and purposely developed a tough, hostile attitude to overcompensate for his father's unmanly persona.

Okonkwo also experiences conflict with his three wives and son, Nwoye. During the Week of Peace, Okonkwo violently beats his youngest wife Ojiugo for neglecting to make him dinner and tries to shoot Ekwefi during the New Yam Festival. Despite Okonkwo's seemingly routine violent outbursts, he supports Ekwefi by refusing to leave her side when Chielo the priestess takes Ezinma to the shrine of Agbala. Okonkwo also has a conflicting relationship with Nwoye, who reminds him of his lazy father. Okonkwo does not believe Nwoye is masculine or hardworking and also murders Ikemefuna, which completely ruins his relationship with his son. Nwoye ends up converting to Christianity, and Okonkwo immediately disowns him. Overall, Okonkwo has conflict and strife in all of his relationships, which stem from his hatred of Unoka and his desire to maintain a callous, aggressive demeanor at all times.

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