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A tragic hero is defined someone who possesses heroic traits, but also have a tragic flaw that eventually leads to their own downfall. In the novel, Things Fall Apart, Achebe portrays his own characterization of this tragic flaw through Okonkwo, the main character. Like any typical character with a tragic flaw in other written works, he suffers a tragic death at the end. Regardless of his honorable and respectable role in the tribe, Okonkwo’s tragic flaw, fear of failure, weakness, and his uncontrollable anger eventually leads to his own doom.
Okonkwo’s first leading flaw is his fear of failure, which is kindled by his father, Unoka, who was a “lazy and improvident and was quite incapable of thinking about tomorrow” (pg.4). He had a reputation of being poor and in debt to other members of Umuofia, which triggered Okonkwo’s “whole life [to be] dominated by fear, the fear of failure and of weakness” (pg.13). Ashamed of his father, he wanted to be different and the opposite of his father.”Okonkwo was ruled by one passion- to hate everything that his father Unoka had loved” (pg.13). Because of his fear being seen as weak like his father, he killed his own “son”, Ikemefuma:”Okonkwo drew his machete and cut him down. He was afraid of being thought weak” (pg.61). Okonkwo killed Ikemefuna demonstrates his fear of being seen as weak and that his reputation is more valuable than the life of his adopted son.
Another tragic flaw is Okonkwo’s impulsive anger that prevents him from achieving his goals, which ultimately caused his own death. His inability to control his fury caused him to exhibit it through his violent and irrational behavior. This particular behavior is manifested when Okonkwo killed a messenger from the missionaries. “Okonkwo’s matchet descended twice and the man’s head lay beside his uniformed body” (pg.204). When the villagers backed away in fear and questioned each other, “Why did he do it?”, he realizes that none of them support him and that he can’t save his village from the missionaries (pg.205). This flaw of overconfidence leads him to commit suicide, a disgraceful death like his father’s, as a result of the defeat.
In conclusion, Okonkwo’s suicide at the end of the novel is the result of the life of a tragic hero. His fear of failure, weakness, and his anger leads him to his own destruction that cannot be reversed. Despite his high status in the village, he fails to correct his tragic flaw and eventually suffers a tragic fate.
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