Things Fall Apart A Tragedy Essay, Research Paper
Outline for essay over Things Fall Apart
Thesis: Achebe defines Things Falls Apart as a tragedy through Okonkwo, who is a tragic hero, and by the pity and fear aroused in the reader.
A. Author s last name and Book title
B. Aristotle s definition of tragedy
C. Function of a tragedy, according to Aristotle
II. Okonkwo as tragic hero
A. Okonkwo is high-ranking — part of the egwugwus (87-94)
B. Okonkwo is dignified – Wrestled and won The Cat (3)
C. Courageous – went many times into battle and earned his first head (54)
1. By Tragic Flaw – inadaptability
2. By uncontrollable events
3. Wisdom gained – realized he must adapt, but cannot–so he hangs himself
III. The pity aroused by Achebe
A. The people do not like Okonkwo for his treatment of less successful men (26).
B. Death of Ikemefuna (87)
C. Okonkwo beats Nwoye, due to his attraction to the Christian faith.(148-153)
IV. The fear aroused by Achebe
A. When Okonkwo learns that Ikemefuna must die, the reader fears that he will die, and how he will end up dying. (87)
B. When the priestess says that Agbala wishes to speak to Enzima, we wonder (also due to Ekwefi s fear)
C. Fear is aroused when the conflict develops between Okonkwo and Nwoye over the argument of Nwoye s desire to be a Christian
A. Restatement of Thesis
B. Concluding Remarks
Things Fall Apart: A Tragedy
Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe, is book about a man named Okonkwo, who is part of the Ibo culture of the mid-first millennium of AD. Aristotle defines a tragedy as a work that provides catharsis by the use of a tragic hero who is within a tragic setting or environment. Achebe reveals Things Falls Apart as a tragedy through his tragic hero, Okonkwo, and by the pity and fear aroused in the reader.
Okonkwo is a tragic hero, in every since of the definition. Aristotle defines a tragedy as a work that is meant to provide catharsis, or arouse pity and fear in the audience so that we may be purged, or cleansed, of … unsettling emotions (Aristotle 796). This is done with serious, important events, in which the main character comes to an unhappy end (796). This character’s downfall results from a tragic flaw, a character weakness, or events beyond the character s control (796). To conclude Aristotle’s definition of a tragedy, it states that the tragic hero usually gains some self-knowledge or wisdom in spite of defeat (796). Achebe tells the reader that some of the women of the tribe noticed that the second egwugwu had the “springy” walk of Okonkwo (89), revealing his high rank in society. It goes on to say that he was not among the “titled” men (90), further proving his high rank, in that he was the second egwugwu. As a dignified character he “brought honor to the clan” by throwing ‘Amalinze the Cat” (3). When Okonkwo was younger, he courageously went into battles and “stalked his victim”, eventually killing him to obtain his “first human head” (54). Okonkwo’s tragic flaw was his inability to adapt to the changes of his culture, stubbornly seeking to stick to the old ways he once new. When a messenger came to stop one of the tribe’s meetings, Okonkwo rose up and killed him, because of his hate, his pride, and his inability to adapt, which proved to be his downfall (204). His downfall was also due to the uncontrollable events of the missionaries who came to Umofia. Lastly, Obierka states that the missionaries “drove him [Okonkwo] to kill himself” (208). This quote shows how he realized he could not adapt or survive in his culture. With that in mind, he felt he could not live any longer. The reader likely feels pity when Achebe tells the reader of this through the eyes and mouth of Obierka.
Achebe aroused pity, one of things Aristotle says must be in a tragedy, in his readers through the events he placed in his book. In the very beginning chapter four, an “old man” who “bore no ill will” toward Okonkwo, and “respected” him for his good fortune was “struck” by the “brusqueness” Okonkwo had when dealing with “less successful men” (26). In the previous week, an unsuccessful man had “contradicted” him at a “kindred” meeting, held to discuss important matters (27). “Without looking” at whoever this man was, Okonkwo called out to him: “This meeting is for men” because the man “had no titles” (26), reveling Okonkwo’s harsh behavior. Okonkwo “knew how to kill a man’s spirit”, which was, perhaps, foreshadowing of how he killed Ikemefuna (61). This was another deeply pitying event, on behalf of not only Ikemefuna, because he dies, of course, but also on behalf of Okonkwo, whose pride causes him to kill his own son arousing pity for the man. Further inflicting pity is the fact that not only did Okonkwo commit the act of killing his adopted son, but also that it was done because Okonkwo has so much prideful fear of looking week. Near the middle of chapter seventeen Okonkwo learns that Nwoye, his son, is attracted to Christianity. This angers Okonkwo, causing him to “strike…savage blows” (151-152), arousing even more pity in the reader.
The “savage blows”, as well as other things, aroused fear in Achebe’s readers. One of these other things was the fact that the reader learns through Okonkwo’s ears that the elders of Umofia have declared that Ikemefuna must die (57). The old man who tells him this talks to him with a foreshadowing statement of “Do not bear a hand in his death” (57). This statement arouses fear in the reader, who wonders how, and if Ikemefuna will die, and whether or not Okonkwo will be the one to kill him. When Agbala “wishes to see” Enzima, the priestess Chielo comes and calls for her. Fear is then provoked in the reader as to if Enzima will ever be seen again, alive! Between page 100-109, Ekwefi and Okonkwo go on an adventure to protect Enzima from almost certain death. Luckily, Chielo quenches all fears when she brings Enzima back, alive and well (111). The last aroused fear is of what Okonkwo’s treatment to Nwoye will be when he finds out Nwoye has been with the missionaries (151).
In conclusion, Achebe has thoroughly revealed Things Falls Apart as a tragedy with his tragic hero, Okonkwo, and by the pity and fear aroused in the reader; therefore, Achebe successfully and accurately fulfills Aristotle’s definition of a tragedy.
Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. New York: Anchor Books, 1959.
Aristotle. Focusing on Background–Aristotle s View of Tragedy and the Tragic Hero.
Elements of Literature: Fourth Course. Austin: Holt, Rinehert, 1993. 796.