Things Fall Apart Okonkwos Tragic Flaw English Literature Essay

Things Fall Apart is a tragic story about a man who comes into conflict against himself to prove himself worthy of his tribe. A tragic hero is the main character in a tragedy that normally makes a mistake and ends up defeated. The four main criteria for a story to have a tragic hero would be that the main character has a flaw but has some goodness, he is the protagonist of the story, he is noble or exhibits wisdom, and he suffers a reversal of fortune in the end because of his tragic flaw. A tragic flaw of a character is the flaw of the main character that will eventually bring him down. The main character, Okonkwo, meets each of the four criteria to be a tragic hero. His flaw would be that he is violent but he does have some good. He cares for his family; he wants his son Nwoye, to be tough and hardworking like him. Moreover, he wanted his daughter, Ezinma, to be safe. He is a protagonist of the story because he is the main character, he is a hero, and in addition, he is tough. Okonkwo also exhibits wisdom because he is a leader. He is a great warrior and everyone looks up to him to keep them safe. In the end, Okonkwo’s flaw of violence and overconfidence got out of control. He became too violent when the church took over. The people of his tribe turned to the church instead of following him so he decided to take action and kill a messenger. The commissioner of the church came after him but he had already hanged himself. Therefore, Okonkwo, meeting every rule, is a tragic hero (

Okonkwo is an impatient, violent person. When things do not go the way he wants them to go, he cannot just talk it out with someone, “he turned to violence whenever he was angry and could not get his words out quickly enough, and he would use his fists. He had no patience with unsuccessful men” (Achebe 8). He is arrogant and attributes excessive pride; he feels that everyone should listen to him and that he rules his whole clan and even his family. He also beat his wife during the Week of Peace, “when she returned he beat her heavily. In his anger he had forgotten that it was the Week of Peace” (Achebe 31). Okonkwo also had some goodness in him. Ezinma became very ill and shivered in the night, Okonkwo makes a medicine for her and she gets better. He cares for his family even though he does not want to show it. He hopes for his son to grow tough and strong and not end up like his lazy father. Ikemefuna was a boy from Mbaino who was sent to Umuofia because his father had killed a woman from Umuofia. He was to stay with Okonkwo for three years then was to be killed. Okonkwo treated him like he was his own son, they respected each other and Ikemefuna was a hard worker. Okonkwo liked this about him; he was not like his father or his own son Nwoye.

The second main rule to be a tragic character would be that he is the protagonist of the story. A protagonist is the main character in a literary work who is a champion of a cause or course of action. Okonkwo is the protagonist of the story because he is the main character and he is the hero of the story. In the first chapter of Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe describes Okonkwo as a great and fierce warrior. He was a great, famous wrestler and his fame had grown a lot over the years. There was another great, undefeated wrestler called Amalinze the Cat that Okonkwo “threw in a fight, which was one of the fiercest since the founder of their town” (Achebe 7). Okonkwo was a tough, young man and was afraid to show any weakness. “Okonkwo drew his machete and cut him down. He was afraid of being caught weak” (Achebe 59). Okonkwo killed Ikemefuna before the other man could because he was taking too long and he wanted his people to think he was fearless for being the first to kill him.

The tragic hero of a story must exhibit wisdom or be noble at birth. Unoka, Okonkwo’s father, was “lazy and improvident and was quite incapable of thinking about tomorrow” (Achebe 8). He resented his father’s failure and weakness; resented means that Okonkwo was angry and embarrassed of his father’s laziness. Ever since he was young, he wanted to be the opposite of his father. “Okonkwo was ruled by one passion- to hate everything that his father Unoka had loved” (Achebe 17). Okonkwo is a great leader of his tribe. Many people looked up to him because he is so intimidating to others. While exiled into his motherland, the church and their religion began to take control over all of the tribes. Okonkwo’s own son, Nwoye, turned to the church. He became fascinated with the poetry. Okonkwo declared a war against them but most of the people in his clan turned to the church. He finally leads the rest of his clan to go burn down the church. This example shows he is a great leader and sticks to his own beliefs, therefore he is a tragic hero (

The last rule of a tragic hero is that the main character suffers a reversal of fortune because of their flaw. Okonkwo, with his flaw of anger and violence, got out of control one day; he decided to take control, with or without his clan, and kill one of the three church messengers. The villagers, all in shocked and speechless let the other two messengers go. The district commissioner goes to Okonkwo’s obi so he can take him to jail, but Okonkwo had already hanged himself because he wanted everyone to see how dedicated he was to his clan and know how much the church had separated them all. This flaw of overconfidence of getting his clan back to the way it was reversed his fortune and now he cannot do anything more to help them.

In conclusion, a tragic hero would be one who involves the notion that such a hero would make an error in their actions that leads to his or her downfall. This tragic hero must be a character with flaws but with some goodness, which brings them down in the end. They are typically hubris, which is one’s own self-confidence and excessive pride. They are the protagonist of the story and they are noble at birth. The final rule for being a tragic hero suffers a reversal of fortune because of their tragic flaw (

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