Okonkwo: a Tragic Hero in Achebe's "Things Fall Apart"

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About this sample


Words: 589 |

Page: 1|

3 min read

Published: Jun 13, 2024

Words: 589|Page: 1|3 min read

Published: Jun 13, 2024


Chinua Achebe’s seminal novel, Things Fall Apart, presents a vivid portrayal of pre-colonial African society and the ensuing cultural clash brought about by European colonization. Central to this narrative is the character of Okonkwo, a complex and multifaceted individual whose life encapsulates the tensions and transformations of his community. Through an in-depth character analysis, we can explore how Okonkwo embodies the traits of a tragic hero, marked by his strengths, flaws, and ultimate downfall. This essay examines Okonkwo’s character, his motivations, and his tragic trajectory, offering insights into how Achebe uses him to represent broader themes within the novel.

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Body Paragraph 1: Okonkwo's Strengths

Okonkwo is initially presented as a symbol of strength and resilience. He rises from humble beginnings to become one of the most respected leaders in the Umuofia clan. His achievements are largely driven by his determination to differentiate himself from his father, Unoka, who was perceived as weak and unsuccessful. Okonkwo’s physical prowess, demonstrated through his wrestling victories, and his hard work in farming, exemplify his personal and societal values of masculinity and ambition. His success is not merely personal but also communal; he contributes significantly to the well-being and stability of his village. Therefore, Okonkwo is a character who embodies the admirable qualities of determination, strength, and leadership within his traditional society.

Body Paragraph 2: Okonkwo's Flaws

Despite his strengths, Okonkwo is deeply flawed, which contributes to his tragic fate. His fear of being perceived as weak or effeminate leads him to make harsh and often impulsive decisions. This fear is rooted in his disdain for his father's failures and societal ridicule. Consequently, Okonkwo’s actions are frequently driven by an overcompensation for what he deems feminine qualities. For instance, his participation in the killing of Ikemefuna, a boy who considers him a father figure, is a testament to his rigid adherence to traditional masculinity, even at the cost of personal and emotional connections. This act of violence not only isolates him emotionally but also sows the seeds of his eventual downfall. Okonkwo's inability to adapt or show flexibility, coupled with his explosive temper, alienates him from those around him, including his family and fellow villagers.

Body Paragraph 3: Okonkwo's Downfall

Okonkwo’s downfall is intricately linked to the larger societal changes brought about by colonialism. As the novel progresses, the arrival of European missionaries and colonial administrators introduces new religious and political structures that challenge the traditional ways of the Igbo people. Okonkwo’s rigid adherence to tradition and his refusal to adapt to the changing circumstances place him at odds with the evolving society. His eventual act of defiance, killing a colonial messenger, is an act of desperation that underscores his inability to reconcile the new order with his ingrained values. This act leads to his ultimate demise, as he chooses to end his life rather than live in a world that he no longer recognizes or respects. Okonkwo’s suicide is a poignant culmination of his tragic journey, reflecting both his personal failings and the broader disintegration of his culture.


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Okonkwo’s character in Things Fall Apart serves as a powerful vehicle through which Achebe explores themes of tradition, change, and the complexities of human nature. Okonkwo’s strengths make him a revered figure in his community, yet his flaws and inability to adapt to change lead to his tragic downfall. Through Okonkwo, Achebe illustrates the inevitable conflicts that arise when rigid traditional values confront the forces of change. Ultimately, Okonkwo’s character is a tragic hero whose life and death provide profound insights into the human condition and the devastating impact of cultural disintegration.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Okonkwo: A Tragic Hero in Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”. (2024, Jun 13). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from
“Okonkwo: A Tragic Hero in Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”.” GradesFixer, 13 Jun. 2024,
Okonkwo: A Tragic Hero in Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 15 Jul. 2024].
Okonkwo: A Tragic Hero in Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Jun 13 [cited 2024 Jul 15]. Available from:
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