ENG4U - Self Analysis (Things Fall Apart)



Character development in the novel is the aspect that caught my most attention. Okonkwo's death was sad but not unexpected. He has lived his entire life trying to live up to his culture's ideals of masculinity. His father had been such a failure at living up to traditional Ibo values, that Okonkwo's entire life's focus has been to be someone that his father could not be. This focus has made him totally inflexible because all he can see is a goal that he has allowed society to set for him. When that society begins to change, Okonkwo cannot change with it. He grasps on to the old values and his rigidity causes things in life "to fall apart". If he had examined who was setting the goals for his life and decided upon his own goals instead of someone else's traditional notions, he probably could have adjusted and survived. But since his entire life revolved around living up to someone's else's idea of who was a man, he was bound to fail when those ideas began to change. In Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo makes a choice early in life to overcome his father's legacy. As a result, Okonkwo gains the tribe's respect through his constant hard work. The tribe rewards him by recognizing his achievements and honoring him as a great warrior. The tribe believes that Okonkwo's personal god, or chi, is good (fate has blessed him). Nevertheless, they realize that Okonkwo has worked hard to achieve all that he has (if a man says yes, his chi says yes). When he breaks the Week of Peace, however, the tribe believes that Okonkwo has begun to feel too self-important and has challenged his chi. They fear the consequences his actions may bring. The tribe decides to kill Ikemefuna. Even though Ezeudu warns Okonkwo not to be a part of the plan, Okonkwo himself kills Ikemefuna. Okonkwo chooses to kill the boy rather than appear weak. When Okonkwo is in exile, he ponders the tribe's view of his chi. He thinks that maybe they have been wrong—that his chi was not made for great things. Okonkwo blames his exile on his chi. He refuses to accept that his actions have led him to this point. He sees no connections among his breaking the Week of Peace, his killing Ikemefuna, and his shooting Ezeudu's son. In Okonkwo's eyes, his troubles result from ill fate and chance. The lack of similar experience was the reason that prevented me from gaining a deep understanding of the customs that Igbo people had which affected my perspective throughout part one; however, in part two, I managed to reach a better understanding of the situation which made the entire story more digestible for my brain. The most important thing that I learned from the story, is about the tension about whether change should be privileged over tradition often involves questions of personal status. Okonkwo, for example, resists the new political and religious orders because he feels that they are not manly and that he himself will not be manly if he consents to join or even tolerate them. To some extent, Okonkwo’s resistance of cultural change is also due to his fear of losing societal status. His sense of self-worth is dependent upon the traditional standards by which society judges him. This system of evaluating the self inspires many of the clan’s outcasts to embrace Christianity. Long scorned, these outcasts find in the Christian value system a refuge from the Igbo cultural values that place them below everyone else. In their new community, these converts enjoy a more elevated status.

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