How is Okonkwo a Sympathetic Character

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 668 |

Page: 1|

4 min read

Published: Mar 19, 2024

Words: 668|Page: 1|4 min read

Published: Mar 19, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Introduction:
  2. Okonkwo's Determination and Ambition:
  3. Okonkwo's Fear of Failure:
  4. Okonkwo's Complex Relationships:
  5. Okonkwo's Tragic Flaws:
  6. Okonkwo's Sense of Honor and Duty:
  7. Okonkwo's Tragic Heroism:
  8. Conclusion:


Chinua Achebe's novel "Things Fall Apart" portrays the life of Okonkwo, a prominent figure in the Igbo society of Nigeria. Okonkwo's character is a fascinating study in conflicting emotions and motivations, making him a sympathetic character despite his flaws. This essay aims to explore the multifaceted nature of Okonkwo's personality and actions, highlighting his tragic heroism and the circumstances that shape his character. Through a close analysis of his struggles, failures, and ultimately his downfall, we will gain a deeper understanding of Okonkwo's complexity and the universal themes he represents.

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Okonkwo's Determination and Ambition:

One of the key reasons Okonkwo evokes sympathy is his unwavering determination and ambition. Born into a humble background, Okonkwo rises to prominence through sheer hard work and perseverance. He rejects the laziness he associates with his father, Unoka, and strives to achieve greatness. Okonkwo's relentless pursuit of success is relatable to readers who admire the capacity for self-improvement and self-reliance.

Okonkwo's Fear of Failure:

However, Okonkwo's determination is driven by a deep-rooted fear of failure. This fear stems from his childhood experiences and the shame he associates with his father's idleness and lack of ambition. Consequently, Okonkwo becomes obsessed with avoiding any sign of weakness or vulnerability. This fear of failure, while understandable, also elicits sympathy as it reveals the internal struggle Okonkwo faces in maintaining his reputation and societal standing.

Okonkwo's Complex Relationships:

Another aspect that makes Okonkwo a sympathetic character is his complex relationships with others. Despite his stern and seemingly unyielding nature, Okonkwo's interactions with his family and community showcase moments of tenderness and vulnerability. His genuine love for his daughter Ezinma, as well as his deep respect for his friend Obierika, reveal a softer side to Okonkwo's personality. These moments of warmth amidst his harsh exterior remind us that Okonkwo is more than just a strict disciplinarian; he is a product of his environment, struggling to reconcile his own desires with societal expectations.

Okonkwo's Tragic Flaws:

While Okonkwo's strengths and sympathetic qualities are apparent, his tragic flaws contribute significantly to his downfall. One of his most prominent flaws is his excessive pride, which blinds him to the changing world around him. Okonkwo's rigid adherence to tradition and resistance to change ultimately lead to his alienation from his community and the tragic consequences that follow. His inability to adapt to the arrival of the white missionaries and their influence on Igbo society demonstrates the tragic flaw of hubris, adding a layer of complexity to Okonkwo's character.

Okonkwo's Sense of Honor and Duty:

Despite his flaws, Okonkwo's sense of honor and duty also engenders sympathy. He upholds the values of his culture with unwavering loyalty, even when they clash with his own desires. Okonkwo's commitment to fulfilling his responsibilities as a warrior, father, and leader is commendable, showcasing his deep sense of duty. His internal struggle between his personal desires and his obligations to his community reflects the universal human dilemma of balancing individual aspirations with societal expectations.

Okonkwo's Tragic Heroism:

Ultimately, Okonkwo's tragic heroism lies in his internal conflicts and the forces that shape his character. He embodies the tension between tradition and change, strength and vulnerability, ambition and fear. Okonkwo's journey serves as a cautionary tale, reminding us of the complexity of human nature and the consequences of an unchecked pursuit of power and success. His downfall evokes a sense of empathy and compassion, as we witness the tragic consequences of a man torn apart by conflicting desires and societal pressures.

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In conclusion, Okonkwo's character in "Things Fall Apart" is a prime example of a sympathetic character due to his determination, fear of failure, complex relationships, tragic flaws, and sense of honor and duty. Through his struggles, Achebe provides readers with a profound exploration of the human condition and the complexities of our desires and motivations. Okonkwo's story reminds us of the inherent contradictions within ourselves and the importance of empathy in understanding the struggles of others. By delving into Okonkwo's character, we gain a deeper understanding of the universal themes of identity, cultural collision, and the tragic consequences of unchecked ambition.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

How Is Okonkwo A Sympathetic Character. (2024, March 19). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 18, 2024, from
“How Is Okonkwo A Sympathetic Character.” GradesFixer, 19 Mar. 2024,
How Is Okonkwo A Sympathetic Character. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 18 Jul. 2024].
How Is Okonkwo A Sympathetic Character [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Mar 19 [cited 2024 Jul 18]. Available from:
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