To what extent do you feel that Achebe intends the reader to be sympathetic towards Okonkwo? ‘Things Fall Apart’ is written in the postcolonial period, but is set before and during the process of colonization. Achebe therefore wants to educate the reader about the civilization that was destroyed. Hence Okonkwo to a great extent represents that civilization; it would be reasonable to suppose that, ultimately, Achebe wants us to sympathise with Okonkwo. I believe that Achebe is trying to give an explanation of what it is like to live in an African society. The story is about a man named Okonkwo who is a member of the Ibo tribe.
Achebe is telling the story of Okonkwo from his childhood till his death. Before I read this book I did not have a very good idea of how people lived in Africa, and the ideas I did have about life in traditional African societies turned out to be untrue. Achebe did a very good job of illustrating a traditional African society, and by reading this book I now have a much better idea of what life is like in a non-western society. I think that this was Achebe’s goal in writing this book, to educate people about some of the struggles people have and life in traditional African societies.
The title ‘Things Fall Apart’ is a good choice of title for this book because the book presents the destruction of the main protagonist, and of his culture. Throughout the novel Achebe manipulates our sympathies for Okonkwo. The book is chronologically organized, and even though Achebe is writing about his roots, I feel that he and the book remain unbiased. From the first chapter of the novel Achebe is very keen for his readers to develop an understanding of the main character Okonkwo. Achebe informs the reader of Okonkwo’s background and in particular the role his Father has played in his life.
Okonkwo, did not like the way his father lived. Unoka is depicted as a alcoholic and a complete failure by his fellow villagers: “Unoka the grown-up was a failure – people laughed at him because he was a loafer, and they swore never to lend him any more money” Achebe shows the role a Father plays particularly in the upbringing of his son’s as very important culturally. The father takes the responsibility for instilling into his son what is required by Ibo society traditions, to become a man of high standing in the village.
The fact that Okonkwo has had to teach himself the skills and values that make a good Ibo man will lead the reader have respect at the achievements Okonkwo makes, and at the same time gain a sense of sympathy at his plight as a child in having no role model. He thought that a man should be strong and do typical male tasks. But Okonkwo’s father, Unoka, did not fit that particular mould according to Okonkwo. He was ashamed of his father, and would tell himself that he would make a better life for himself and his family than his father ever did.
Okonkwo’s desire for success becomes an obsession that causes him to act often without regard to the consequences. The development of Okonkwo’s obsessive nature is disturbing and is an indication from Achebe that his personality will cause tragedy later in the novel. This is the first time Achebe present Okonkwo in such a way, that we feel any sort of feeling towards him. I feel that Achebe intends us to note Okonkwo’s obvious fear of failure and that he is afraid of being seen of as inferior and weak. “He had no patience with unsuccessful men. He had no patience with his father”
Okonkwo was the complete opposite to his father, he was a successful wrestler when he was young, and was famous for his honour and achievements. Even as a boy he resented his father’s failure. “His fame rested on his personal achievements”. He was very successful within the Ibo tribe and had gained a very high standing within the tribe. It was a goal of his to become an elder in the tribe, and it looked as though he was going to achieve it. Achebe presents Okonkwo to us as a man who dreamed as a child of being well known and respected throughout his village and neighboring villages.