A fierce warrior, the greatest wrestler of all villages and a wealthy farmer, Okonkwo is an esteemed and accomplished member of the Umuofia. His obsession with work and personal achievement stems from the fear of ending up like his lazy father whose only accumulation is debt. It is this same fear that makes him expect the same industriousness from his family.
Any emotion other than anger is softness, and in moments where patience and gentleness are required, he acts impulsively and irrationally because he cannot appear anything but the fierce hero he’s known as. This, we see with the way he’s quick to resolve problems with violence, because to him violence is a display of not being weak – like his father. Although an admired and respected figure in Umuofia and other villages, his fear of becoming weak like his father and of failure are what lead to his downfall.
Unlike some of his people who soon begin to adapt to the new Christian and European ways, he remains unbending. Without displaying it on the outside we see how deep down he longs and mourns for the way things used to be before the Europeans arrived. He is profoundly affected by the deterioration of his Igbo culture and traditions.
Had majority of the villages been as resistant and ready to go to war, would they have saved themselves from colonization? Probably not, considering that they already had members of their society who were marginalised and were the easiest to persuade to join the Europeans. The lack of complete unity, and a steady and strong form of leadership also made it possible for the colonisers to insert themselves into those cracks. So, a thousand Okonkwo’s wouldn’t have done much help, if anything, most people who were not like him would have been killed or cast away, making easier for the other side to recruit them.
2 thoughts on “Okonkwo: The Tragic Hero of Umuofia”
Colonialism came with the promise of modernity, a better way far above the “primitive” and “backward” Umuofia’s Igbo culture and traditions. This book honestly can’t be read as fiction. Many Okonkwo’s out in Africa and all other nations that fell under the blade while their countrymen obliviously got swayed under the guise of moving with the times and appreciating a new way of thought, as though times needed to be moved.
Love your review, spot on!
Absolutely. It truly can’t be ready as fiction, it’s history as it happened. Thank you for this.