The character of Okonkwo

Who is the protagonist of the tragic novel “Things fall Apart”? Or, Sketch the character of Okonkwo. 

Introduction: “Things Fall Apart” is regarded as a tragic novel in which Okonkwo is the protagonist. The Aristotelian conception of a tragic hero is a man of extraordinary stature, noble and magnificent, far above the ordinary, but he has a flaw that leads to his downfall. Okonkwo does not seem to belong to that category of the protagonist. Though he has some remarkable physical qualities, he contains several faults, including his impetuosity and error in judgment which ultimately brings about his defeat and death. Achebe does not make Okonkwo all good and noble without flaws, and he cares that the hero should be fully believable. 

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Physical qualities  

The author first gives a vivid description of Okonkwo’s physical qualities. He is tall and has bushy and wide eyebrows that do not give him a very severe look. He breathes heavily. It is said that when he sleeps, his wives and children in their outhouses can hear his breathing. When he walks, his heels hardly touch the ground, and he seems to walk on springs as if he is going to pounce on somebody. Whenever he becomes angry, he cannot get his words out quickly enough, but he can use his fists. 


Because of his extraordinary bodily strength, Okonkwo was well Known throughout the nine villages and even beyond. His fame rested on solid personal achievements. As a young man of eighteen, he had brought honor to his village by throwing Amalinze in wrestling. His wrestling with Amalinze was one of the fiercest fights since the foundation of their town. 


Okonkwo is a hardworking man. He starts his life from a zero, but within a short time, he becomes a wealthy farmer. He has two barns full barns yams and married his third wife. Though he is young, he is already one of the greatest men of his time. One who knows his terrible struggle against poverty and misfortune cannot say that he is lucky. The Ibo people have a proverb that when a man says yes to his chi, a personal god says yes also. Okonkwo said yes very strongly, so his chi agreed. 

Weak point 

On the side of moral and mental qualities, Okonkwo is noticed to possess some qualities and weaknesses. His motivation or driving force was his fear of being regarded as a weak man and failure in society, as his father Unoka was. Okonkwo was ruled by one passion-to hate everything his father Unoka had loved. One of those things was gentles, and another was idleness.

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Soft hearted man 

He has some gentler side of his mind also. He has human emotions and affections. He becomes fond of Ikemefuna, so he is very much distressed and upset for several days after his murder. He loves his daughter Ezinma as a very affectionate father should. He loves Ekwefi, his second wife, more than his other wives. 


Okonkwo has several faults in his character as well. He is impulsive and acts before he thinks. He offends the Igbo people, their traditions, and the gods of his clan. He is advised not to participate in the murder of Ikemefuna, but he does not follow the advice. He kills Ikemefuna because he is afraid that people will think him weak. When the white man brings Christianity to Umuofia, he opposes the new ways. He feels that the changes are destroying the Igbo culture. For this, he stands firmly against the changes. But he is not tactful enough to fight against the encroaching powers of the Christians. For his rash judgment and thoughtless nature, he is detached from other members of his clan. He sees things fall apart. He kills a messenger of the white people. He commits suicide to avoid being humiliated at the hands of his enemies. 

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Okonkwo’s life is over. All the factors of his character led to his tragic end. 

Mottaleb Hossain
Mottaleb Hossain

This is Motaleb Hossain, working on studying, a researcher on English literature and Theology.

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