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Things Fall Apart

by Chinua Achebe

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How does Okonkwo's hatred for everything his father loved manifest in his life in Things Fall Apart?

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It is clear from the very beginning of Things Fall Apart that Okonkwo is the polar opposite of his father. Even before Unoka is introduced, Achebe says that Okonkwo's fame "rested on solid personal achievements," which turn out to be based on his ambition, acumen, industry and capacity for violence; all those qualities are the opposite of his father's.

Okonkwo establishes his fame first as a wrestler, a fighter of unusual tenacity and ferocity. He is hot-tempered and violent, and has "no patience with unsuccessful men" such as his father. Throughout his childhood, Okonkwo learned to associate Unoka's gentleness and idleness with with poverty and dishonor. No one respects Unoka, and Achebe says that it is not surprising that Okonkwo grew up to be ashamed of him.

By the time the story begins, Okonkwo has become everything his father was not. He is rich and honored within the tribe, having taken two titles. He has two barns full of yams and three wives. He is a champion wrestler, and a warrior with a fearsome reputation. He is harsh and dictatorial towards his family. Even in small matters, such as his dislike of music, he strives to be the exact opposite of everything for which his father stood. Okonkwo's hatred for his father and the actions to which it drives him give rise to various ironies. One is that he is even more dominated by fear than Unoka was, since he is terrified of weakness and failure. Another is that his harshness leads his son, Nwoye, to become very simlilar to Unoka, and to hate Okonkwo just as much as Okonkwo hated Unoka.

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