Things Fall Apart Okonkwo Essay Research Paper

Things Fall Apart: Okonkwo Essay, Research Paper

Things Fall Apart: Okonkwo

Okonkwo, the main character of Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe. And

Charles Foster Kane of Orson Welles Citizen Kane, both have value systems that

are incongruous with their cultures. Thus allowing them to be defeated by

society. These are two men with a great need for recognition. Their need for

something that was extinguished long ago. Okonkwos struggle to prove his

greatness in the face of those who knew his father. Charles Foster Kane’s void

that must be filled. The relentless pursuit of respect, power. Okonkwo must

conquer the image of weakness inside him and his fear of powerlessness. Both

characters feel that their material possessions can earn them the respect they

“deserve”. Charles Foster Kane is in search for something more simple than

respect, he seeks his life. The path that should have been followed was

dramatically altered, and his life took a completely new direction. ” I could

have been a great man” he explains, if he only had the chance. The pride of

these men who have no faults in their own minds, but struggle to erase the

faults they know others can find. This essay will convey the value systems of

each character in their culture and the cinematic and literary techniques used

to magnify their presence in the works.

Charles foster Kane was a child that was very fond of his mother, as seen

in the first scene of the young characters life. Charles’ father did not seem to

have any attachment to his son. Appearing quite ignorant, we can detect the lack

of a father figure in Charles’ life. This first scene is recounted in the

journal of Mr. Thatcher. The man that took the young boy away, and sent him to

live in schools around the world. For the rest of his academic life. In this

scene the protagonist receives a gift from Mr. Thatcher wishing him a merry

Christmas. And cuts directly to a happy new year, some ten years later.

Suggesting conveniently, the lack of a meaningful childhood. This editing

technique carries the viewer quickly through time, to the beginning of Charles’

idealism. The films plot is separated into flashbacks of the important people in

Kane’s life. Each flashback is in sequence with the events of his life. The

nature of each flashback is consistent with the narrators opinion. The first

flashback is that of Mr. Thatcher’s. He was the only person involved in Charles’

pre-adult life. Although not greatly involved, his presence is purely in the

area of financial aspects. Bernstein’s flashback focuses on a very positive and

successful part of Kane’s life. Which is concordant to Bernstein’s idolization

of Charles. Jed Leiland’s flashback is centered on Kane’s downfall, and so on.

Throughout these recollections we slowly gather evidence with which to judge

Kane. This evidence along with the cinematic techniques used, create a perfectly

clear perception of the character’s inner conflicts. The first occurrence

Charles’ selfish pride is depicted in a group of cuts with his new wife Emily.

The first shot is of Emily being complimented by the charming young Kane. The

lighting in the seen is focused on her and she looks quite beautiful. In the

shots that follow, we observe as their marriage slowly dissolves. In the last

shot of the scene, they are sitting at opposite sides of the table, Emily

reading the chronicle in very casual attire. This scene is the beginning of

Charles’ eventual failure. His reactions are so vague we begin to wonder is it

his egotism or does he really not care. He then decides to run for governor of

the state. He tries to be as big as the man in the picture behind him, he

struggles to be what he fears he cannot. Kane is then blackmailed by his

opponent, and given two options. Once again Kane displays his pride and self-

centeredness by choosing to stay with his mistress. He embarrasses himself, his

wife and child, and Susan Alexander. Kane’s decision is one which is seen as

very unusual according to the culture in the film. However he feels that he can

use Susan the “singer” to relinquish his public appearance. Charles has a great

need to fulfill a void in his life. There are many more occurrences in the film

that support our judgments of Charles Foster Kane. He forces Susan to become a

singer, even though she does not want to be, or has not enough talent to be. To

the point of her attempted suicide. He even goes as far as physically assaulting

her. This is Charles Foster Kane, the man who cannot love, even himself.

Therefore he seeks the love of others. As the film proceeds Kane image is

portrayed in darker and darker scenes. Till finally he is reduced to a old man

living alone, “in the greatest monument a man ever built to himself “: Xanadu.

Kane is a man who believes in many things but cannot retain any of his beliefs.

He “fights for the working man”, for a week perhaps. He stated his “principles”

but forgot them almost immediately. He found love but lost it soon after.

Charles Kane only believed in himself

Okonkwo is a man of great strength and wealth. His values revolve around

his need for esteem from the members of the clan. He displays animosity and

disdain towards his father, and actively seeks to create a new set of values t

live his own life by. Like Kane his childhood passes quickly. He makes several

references to what he was able to do “at that age”, as if he were a working

independent adult at birth. Okonkwo considers his son Nwoye lazy, and a

“women” and makes no attempt to develop a relationship between them. He loves

his daughter Ezinma, but still wishes she were a boy, instead of accepting her

as she is. When he follows her mother through the forest with the priestess, he

reveals his dedication to his family, but he continues to keep them at arms

length, because to show love in a sentimental way is to display weakness. The

clan is evidently a peaceful community, and on the surface Okonkwo’s family unit

is seen as flourishing. The most overt example of Okonkwo’s inexcusable

brutality is the abuse of his wife during peace-week. When to hurt anyone would

be reprehensible to any member of the clan during this holy period, Okonkwo does

not think twice. When he realizes that what he has done is wrong, he continues

and takes out his gun as well.

To members of his community he always shows respect, because he wants to

further his position in society. Yet within his family unit, he respects only

himself. His second display of animosity is when he participates in the killing

of Ikemefuna. He knows that he loves the boy and that is why he feels that he

must participate in the killing to show his courage. It does not impress the

members of the clan, especially because he was told not to take part. Because of

this we know that he is really quite insecure. It is evident that he is judged

by the rest of his clan because his best friend Obierika tells him his opinion.

Obierika is Okonkwo’s only guidance. Although Okonkwo’s father was lazy and in

debt, he was very well liked and had many friends. Okonkwo is not the leader he

would like to be. Like Kane he wishes he was, but only by his methods. Okonkwo’s

extremism led him to his death, but it could have saved his tribe from their

eventual extinction. He wanted to fight, but he was to weak to do it on his own.

Both works of art described their characters in great detail, by use of

cinematic and literary techniques. The film and the book, allowed us to judge

the characters according to their cultures, and not our own. Both Kane and

Okonkwo were very strong and determined men. They wanted something very badly

and spent most of their lives trying to obtain it. In the end they both give up.

Kane realizes what he missed and he knows what led him to this lifestyle. He

fails and will never regain what it is he lost. “Rosebud” and the house in the

snow. A symbol of the life he had, the one taken away from him. Kane stated

early in the film: “I always choked on that silver spoon”. The only love he had

he lost. Okonkwo’s life deteriorated completely. Whether some aspects were out

of his control, he blames it on his Chi. What must be understood is that your

Chi is you, it is your conscience and your inner self. Okonkwo gave up his

battle because he knew that no one would follow him. Each character paved the

way to their misfortune, and suffered greatly because of their beliefs. In both

works things fall apart.


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