Okonkwo In Things Fall Apart Essay, Research Paper
When a hammer meets a selection of fine china, the fine china breaks and shatters. However, if the fine china is replaced with Play-Doh (that wonderful substance that reeks of “non-toxic” chemicals), the Play-Doh molds and conforms to the hammer; it changes. This may sound utterly fruitless; however, the Play-Doh is still recognizable as Play-Do, while the china exists as a collection of glass. The china’s refusal to change causes it to break. The Play-Doh accepts change and lets the force mold it into something new, yet something that still resembles Play-Doh. Okonkwo of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, like the selection of china, refuses to change. This refusal causes a “loss of self” comparable to the china’s loss of form, and, due to this refusal, he breaks, or, as shown in the novel, kills himself. Evidence of this negation to change can be found in points in the novel when change is forced upon Okonkwo.
It may be pertinent to define what Okonkwo’s self is. He had an extreme disgust for his father. “He had no patience with unsuccessful men, he had no patience for his father” (2). Therefore, he tried not to become his father. He did this by surrounding himself with the work of supporting his family, something his father did not do. This routine became his self. He was in fear of losing this routine because he would then become his father. This can be inferred by Okonkwo’s experience in exile. He did not enjoy rebuilding his farm, “and when there was no work to do he sat in a silent half-sleep” (113). His father was described as “a loafer” (3) and a loafer is a person who does no work. Hence, his self is his routine, and to change this routine would endanger his self. This proves that he feared change.
The subtle edge of his resistance to the wave of change lies in the everyday aspects of Okonkwo’s life. His tribal people celebrated “The New Yam Festival”. However, he “could never become enthusiastic about feasts as most people” (32). “He was always felt uncomfortable sitting around for days waiting for a feast or getting over it. He would be very much happier working on his farm” (32). In essence, he didn’t enjoy the change in his every day life that the feast brought for he was a man addicted to and comforted by routine.
But the previous is only like a scratch on the china plate. With more force applied, the china shatters. In Okonkwo’s case, when there is a notable mutation in his daily routine, he loses himself. A significant alteration of his lifestyle can be observed when his tribe is faced with Christianity: “Now he (Christianity) has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one” (152). Christianity swept up his son, Nwoye. Okonkwo, of course, did not like this upheaval of normality. He violently attacked his son. He convinced himself that “Nwoye was not worth fighting for” (133), “he is no longer my son” (148). He even pondered the idea that his wife had cheated on him, and that Nwoye was not of his own (133). This shows his inability to accept Nwoye’s spiritual development.
Along the same lines, Okonkwo does not like the new religion’s effects on his people. Therefore he felt it was his duty to stop the influx of transition: “I will fight alone if I choose” (173). When he takes matters into his own hands he displays the apogee of his inability to change: his denial. He believes he must set things right, based on the fact that he alone disagrees with the way things are.
Okonkwo’s stubbornness, his inability to comprehend the surrounding, changing world swells in him. It swells to a point where he breaks inside. It breaks and he hangs from a tree limb. What broke was the routine of his life, created to guide him off his father’s path. When the surrounding environment changed his routine, he lost his self.