Okonkwo in Things Fall Apart

Character: Okonkwo

Book: Things fall Apart(1958)

Author: Chinua Achebe


To understand where we are, it is most important that we understand where we have been and in the character of Okonkwo, we see this relevance. Okonkwo is a Janus-faced character in the book. Why do I say Janus-faced? I mean a character who holds up the future for us while looking backwards too.

In Okonkwo, we see a people (most certainly, the Ibos); a culture and a universe. Okonkwo is a famous wrestler, who loves his land and his properties and “who ruled his household with a heavy hand” (11). He lived his life in the fear that he might be seen as a failure like his father; Unoka. The fear of living in Unoka’s shadow is not removed from the reason he beat his third wife during the holy week and again, why he killed Ikemfuna.

Okonkwo is the man but he can easily be any other African male. He is a man who knows fear but would never admit it. For instance, when Ezinma his favourite daughter is carried by Chielo to get treated, Ekwefi her mother follows immediately but it was when she thought that she had been waylaid by an evil-doer that we understand that Okonkwo had been following suit all along (86-87).

The culture in which he thrived and fell is one that we can relate to as Africans especially if our interest is on the social stratum where the male is Lord and therefore dominant. To understand this, we look at Okonkwo’s life in exile among his mother’s people at Mbanta. Although no longer a youth, he works so hard that he becomes quite wealthy. He was persistent at maintaining his ‘supremacy’ just as he did when he nearly disowned his weak son ‘Nwoye’ for been accepting of Christianity which he was really against as it threatened his culture. He couldn’t accept his son or anyone blighting his authority or beliefs.

In understanding Okonkwo therefore, a people, a culture and a world come alive every day and this inarguably makes him my Favourite Nigerian Character in a Book.

13 thoughts on “Okonkwo in Things Fall Apart” by adaobiokwy (@adaobiokwy)

  1. I love Okonkwo….I love Things Fall Apart.

    I just heard (some minutes ago in real time) that Chinau Achebe turned down 1 million dollars from 50cent for the rights to this classic story. This is the quote:

    “The novel (Things Fall Apart) was first produced in 1958 (17 years before 50cent was born), listed as the most widely read book in modern African literature, and will not be sold for One Billion Dollars” – Chinua Achebe to 50 cent’s offer of $1m to buy rights to use ‘Things Fall Apart’.

    Imagine that.

  2. I read that too…

    Okonkwo is iconic in Nigerian Literature…

  3. Undoubtedly, Achebe is perfect in characterization, not just with Okonkwo. I will never stop reading Things Fall Apart. He made it such a masterpiece that I found it hard to let go.

    Ada, I quite agree with you here. Achebe painted a complete picture of Okonkwo in such a way that I can spot him anywhere. I love that completeness without a tincture of obliqueness or obscurity.

    1. true talk about Okonkwo…I see him everyday and everywhere…i guess we never change.

  4. @Seun-Odukoya that typifies the almost blind obstinacy in the African male to exert his authority and have his way.

    Cue @Adaobiokwy the Things Fall Apart novel is one of the greatest no doubt and the main character himself only reflects the one major weakness of a race of men that could have been at the vanguard of everything stellar in human race. We started off well, but lost our way somewhere on the road. Whether we will find our way back or not remains to be seen.

    The African male’s near pigheadedness, even in the face of sure defeat is laudable but sometimes totally laughable. It is evident all throughout history (the rise and fall of early civilization in Ethiopia and Egypt, the slave trade – Jaja of Opobo story comes to mind, colonialism and neo-colonialism etc).

    Albeit, the moral is to look at the events in the story and learn how to grasp what is important and meet our adversaries (real and imagined) one step ahead of the game.

    1. agreed Shai
      u finally got around to it…like-y!

  5. Things Fall Apart is classic and Okonkwo as a character is classic too.. definitely. I think the lesson from Okonkwo’s life is to be yourself. I’ve realized that so many men and guys and small boys always want to demonstrate, to show you how manly they are… but meanwhile they’re terrified that someone is going to call them weak and why….just bcos they don’t fight back or bcos someone insulted them and they didn’t reply

    The way to be a man, I think, is to be brave. To stand up for what is right and what is true, to speak up when others are quiet because of fear, to defend people who are too weak to defend themselves. Masculinity is not bravado or ‘macho-ness’…Somebody should have told Okonkwo that..

    1. …somebody really should have told Okonkwo that. funny thing though, he was(many times, is) the typical African Alpha Male.

  6. words are too few to describe my fondness of Okonkwo and the book as a whole

  7. Okonkwo’s my guy anyday anytime…

    Goodluck at the polls….

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