Conflicts within the Main Character in Achebe’s Things Fall Apart

To be submitted as Final Paper of Prose II Lecturer: Dr. Novita Dewi, M.S., M.A.

A Paper

Fransiskus Atita Nahur (081214125)

SANATA DHARMA UNIVERSITY Yogyakarta, December 2010


His reputation was admitted by the people since he defeated Amalinze the Cat. was an ambitious man. defensive. However. He was lucky to have a big body. Okonkwo is the one who became the delegator to Mbaino to negotiate the best way before they declare to war the village. The Characteristics of the Main Character Okonkwo was a son of Unoka. though he fell in the same end-line just as his father whom he hated and underestimated along his life. Okonkwo became well known and respected in the entire nine other villages around Umuofia (chapter 1). Unoka.Conflicts within the Main Character in Achebe’s Things Fall Apart By: Franky A. These aspects are like a sum of history and documentary of Nigerian tribe before the colonialism and new religion came. local wisdom as well as culture. Garret Wallace (1994) comment that was the same line where the honour and disgrace met. though he himself was a failure like his father. Nahur. The main character in Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. indeed. Those are like unstable situations and conditions which were very tendentious. He had plenty of yams in his barn. Okonkwo. ambitious people try their best to success. He judged his father as a failed man. He was respected also by the elders in the village. He was strong and brave. This paper discusses more the main character’s characteristics in terms of how the conflicts happened along the character’s life. sometimes these two contradictive ways meet in same line whether it is sadness or happiness. gender and politic especially the impact of colonialism of white man in Africa in 1890s. Those unstable situation and condition created the conflicts in that novel. All Okonkwo believed in was that he was able to determine and change his fate. In the beginning of his life Okonkwo tried his best to achieve his dreams to be a honour man in Umuofia. ambition. Amalize had been the single winner in wrestling contest during seven years. Many people fight their unfortunate fate to get success. The higher they get success they higher they want. 2 . At once. This tragedy leads us to come up with a simple question: why did Achebe portray this plot of life of a respectful man? The novel has many things to be explored. Sanata Dharma University Introduction It is natural that human beings are never satisfied. In order to avoid them. Some other surrender at ease and live in grief and meaningless. He denied being like his father. The novel is a story of pride. He had three wives and eleven children.

He was brave but he had fears and anxiety. Because of this way. Another incident. his father. We may ask how come those things happened. Achebe certainly portrayed this from reality. Unfortunately. However. He was a warrior who liked war and fight. Okonkwo adored his manliness. Unoka. Women were identified with weakness. For him. was his bad example which must be not followed. This case unconsciously led him to deep grief where he found himself like women. He cursed his father for being lazy and debtor during his life. The first external conflict happened between Okonkwo with his father. for he beat his youngest wife on the day before planting season (chapter 4). Avoiding these considerations. 1. This conflict implicitly described trough Okonkwo’s feeling to Unoka. Unfortunately. his first son Nwoye seemed to be the same with Unoka: meek and lazy. Okonkwo became a harsh man. At least there are six points of conflict happened to Okonkwo. He and his family must be exiled out of the village for seven years. Things came to change his life uncontrollably. He ended his own life by hanging himself behind his house. a boy who became the guarantee of Mbaino village to end warfare with Umuofia. In this case he was quite stubborn with the goddess rule. new structure pattern. his life was complicated. He went to a place where he had no right to be respected. meek. too. This threat his role and image as a respect man in his village. However. and spoiled. Okonkwo had good interest on Ikemefuna. All of them are the reflection of the major themes Achebe is proposing. He judged his father as a failure.As a strong man. The case of Ikemefuna’s death was the turning point of his anxieties during his life. Okonkwo ended the boy’s life. He was impatient even with the goddess. He confronted with the new comers by killing one a messenger of District Commissioner. whatever he was afraid about happened to him instead. Irony and Conflicts What we can see in the life of Okonkwo is full of ironies which portray the conflicts within the main character. made Okonkwo commit a murder of a boy on the day of Ogbuefi Ezeudu’s death. Okonkwo was sick of him and beat him many times (chapter 3). The boy lived in Okonkwo’s house during three years and called him father. a man must never be spoiled like women. But. External Conflicts a. He totally disagreed with 3 . new rule and government to his village. He mentally seemed to be not stable. During the time. for the sake of his manliness. He beat his youngest wife and treat his wives and children harshly. Even though he was a brave and harsh man. white men brought new religion. he was considered as an abomination that must be buried by strangers inappropriately.

Okonkwo was surprised when he found himself was in deep ad long grief after the death of Ikemefuna. In this case. p. Okonkwo and other spiritual leaders disagreed with the new comers (chapter 21. you. Even he considered women are weak. However he did not explicitly show any confrontation to his father. The boy was the second type of his father to whom he should confront (chapter 1 and 2). In fact. his culture had clear distinction between women and men in terms of roles in household and planting. He then realised: “When did you become a shivering old woman. 23 and 24). Somehow Okonkwo became quite stubborn to this goddess. b.” (chapter 8. an ordinary woman but had role as Agbala’s priestess. He received the reality. This must be a self conflict for him. though he had deep struggle into it. Uchende. His ambition to be a respected man was not 4 . His dislike to his father manner can be seen when he tread his oldest son. Okonkwo faced Chielo. Okonkwo’s adoration of his manliness made him neglect women’s power. it did not mean that women had no important part. c. c. He broke the law of the Week of peace (chapter 4). Nwoye. When he had to be exiled out of the village. The last internal conflict that was experienced by the main character happened between his ambition and his despair. But. 65) b. The white men came and threatened the society as if they had no worth and wisdom. Their presence was really threatening the elder’s role in the society. they brought new religion and teaching that frontally neglected their tradition and religion. His big ambition taken him out from that reality. He experienced it but then he denied it again as if it was not the part of his personality. you have become a woman indeed. Besides. When Ezinma was taken away to the cave by Chielo (when she was entranced by Agbala’s spirit).The third external conflict was happening with the white men. Internal Conflicts a. who are known in all the nine villages for your valour in war? How can a man who has killed five men in battle fall to pieces because he has added a boy to their number? Okonkwo. He was lucky that he had a wise uncle. he found it was difficult since he had to go to a place in which he has no right to be respected as a great man. Okonkwo was loyal to the rule of the society and the tradition of their ancestor. unconsciously he had been fighting for days. who receive him with compassion. However.his lazy father. 2. He cursed himself as woman. Okonkwo challenge her (chapter 11).

Achebe is portraying the tradition of Igbo for “western”. you can do it. When he and family were exiled. this was reaffirmed again to Okonkwo: "It is true that a child belongs to his father. On one hand. He just did what he was afraid about. he has to be obedient to goddess and the power of women in owing children in the family. Moreover. She is buried there. Your mother is there to protect you. In fact. But when the father beats his child. it seeks sympathy in its mother's hut. On the other hand. He totally did not want to be considered having womanliness in his personality. they had to go back to his mother’s family/clan. The issue of gender in this novel is one of the ironies for Okonkwo. he was portrayed as a good example of modern principle that when you believe you can do something.lasting long anymore because of guilty feeling and despair.134) In the case of questioning for whom this novel was addressed. It was never taught by their ancestors. It means that he broke the rule once more. And that is why we say that mother is supreme. This novel is also a protest to “Western” countries that 5 . Achebe is an author who always sets out cultural conflict. Okonkwo was obedient to the tradition. it’s only men who made decision in consensus." (chapter 14. After killing the messenger of District Commissioner. Manliness and iron fist are finally not the guarantee for stabilizing and maintaining power or status. he finds refuge in his motherland. He broke it again at the time he had to maintain it. Okonkwo and the tragedy of his life were the impact of the colonialism. he realised that he had killed their brother. It was true that the belief had been existing since before the colonialism. but his boastful and harsh manner even challenge it. “If a man say yes to his chi. A man belongs to his fatherland when things are good and life is sweet. why did Achebe portray this plot of miserable life of a respectful man? We may not think Okonkwo a respectful anymore because of his greedy in the beginning and disgrace at the end of his life. p. we may consider that he was fragile. But when there is sorrow and bitterness. his chi will say yes. Achebe wanted to show that Igbo’s society had the philosophy of life even before the England colonial came.” This saying represents the belief that someone is the controller of his/her own destiny. that they had already had what so-called democracy. He was failure Implications Returning to the previous question. After recognizing his anxieties. Achebe meant to show the colonialist countries that the colonialized countries had their own system of society. This grief made him end his life by hanging himself. Through the voice of Uchende. like his other literary works. However. but it did not mean to neglect the tradition and the role of their goddess.

Without despair it can be done well.underestimate African people as weak or wild. while others of his people had joined the new religion. p. 2009.html He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart. “Living Uncontrollable Destiny” in IB English (January 29th 2009). traditional and local wisdom of Igbo. Achebe is trying to remind both western people and African people to realize the existence of traditions and change. About Things Fall Apart. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. 2009. Now he has won our brothers. from http://www. 1994. Conclusion The conflicts within Okonkwo were the way through which Achebe described the system. …. 176) The leaders of the society were in dilemma whether to receive the new religion or to maintain their own religion. Biodun.scribd. from: http://www. (Chapter 20. the change to be A change is quite hard to be done. the underestimate of western people with their colonialism was hurting. Retrieved December 18th 2010. Okonkwo and his mother: 'Things Fall Apart' and issues of gender in the constitution of African postcolonial discourse. from: http://www. Retrieved December 18th 2010. It was really a big disturbance for the leaders who really need respects of their people. Chinua. The colonialism had made the element of the genuine society fall apart. In this novel. Tradition to be 6 . He came quietly and peaceably with his religion.accessmylibrary. Garret. no frustration.The white man is very clever. from: http://www. Retrieved December 18th 2010. and our clan can no longer act like one.html Wallace. REFERENCE but somehow it should be as it should Okonkwo was frustrated and killed himself. 1993.gradesaver. Things Fall Jeiyfo. Why the Book is Entitled Things Fall Apart. the tradition should be respected.directessays. But the conflicts tense culminated when the colonialism came. Retrieved December 18th 2010. Anchor Books: New York Directessays. For African. He chose the worst step in the end of his life. For western.

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