A tragic hero is a character who has a tragic flaw. All tragic heroes also have very high morals. Which will eventually make them figure out their own fate. In the book Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe, Okonkwo fits the definition of a tragic hero by the actions he portrays throughout the entire book. The first Characteristic of a tragic hero, is a character who has very high morals.
One person who fits this is Okonkwo, “Okonkwo was well known throughout the nine villages and even beyond. His fame rested on solid personal achievements” (Achebe 3). Okonkwo starts off as a cropper inheriting absolutely nothing from his lazy father. Okonkwo works his way to the top, claiming multiple titles, being a wealthy man, and most importantly most respected man in Umuofia. His notable hard work, got him 3 wives and many children, this got him a large stock of yams. Through many of his achievements Okonkwo earns the respect of not only people of his own clan, but also people of the surrounding clans. One of his biggest achievements came when he was just a young adult of 18 years old.
“Okonkwo was well known throughout the nine villages and even beyond. His fame rested on solid personal achievements. As a young man of eighteen he had brought honor to his village by throwing Amalinze the Cat. Amalinze was the great wrestler who for seven years was unbeaten, from Umuofia to Mbaino”(Achebe 1). In addition to this, he was one of 9 Egwugwu, a very respected judge throughout all the villages. Okonkwo was also given the responsibility to be the village representative, when negotiating with other villages about problems.
Okonkwo shows many characteristics of a tragic hero, high morals is definitely one of his strongest characteristics. The main characteristic of a tragic hero is the tragic flaw he or she has. Okonkwo’s tragic flaw is his hatred for men acting womanly like, and defeat. This fear is Okonkwo’s motivation, it helps him work hard and achieve the titles he is named too. Also, this tragic flaw brings many problems upon Okonkwo. Okonkwo, because of this tragic flaw, leads him to act impulsively towards his family. Okonkwo shows that he does not want to be seen as feminine when he said “He had a slight stammer and whenever he got angry and could not get his words out quickly enough, he would use his fists” (Achebe 4). The only way Okonkwo knows how to deal with his problems is through violence.
This brings many problems within the family, thus ultimately leading to his downfall. Also, Okonkwo kills Ikemefuna accidentally . He asks for Okonkwo’s advice because “He was afraid of being thought weak” (Achebe, 43). Through the action so far of Okonkwo, you see the relationship between him and his family slowly dying.
His tragic flaw ultimately leads him to kill a court messenger. Which shows how much control he does not have over his inner self. Another, characteristic of being a tragic hero is that one must figure out his fate. In Things Fall Apart people are given a chi, which is a personal god who controls the fate of the person. No matter what you do, your fate never changes and you will always end up going in the direction your chi points you. Okonkwo’s starts to realize when he returns back to Umuofia after he was exiled for seven years. Importantly, Okonkwo finds out that the white men have begun to take over his entire village, and neighboring villages. They began to create churches and convert people into Christians.
They also began building schools, this made Okonkwo very unhappy. Okonkwo told his people to use any type of force to get the white men out of his village. “And so the neighboring clans who naturally knew of these things feared Umuofia, and would not go to war against it without first trying a peaceful settlement” (2). The clan did not agree with Okonkwo, because some of the clan members were on the side of the white men. Despite the conflicts between the Igbo people and the white men, there is no war going on between the two groups. When Okonkwo’s fate takes over, he was not thinking clearly and killed one of the messengers.
While men start to escape, Okonkwo notices that his clan members are not going after them. “He knew that Umuofia would not go to war” (Achebe, 144). This shows that Okonkwo will never be able to get the white men out of Umuofia. There is nothing Okonkwo can do. Okonkwo makes an impulsive decision and hung himself from a tree.
Throughout the book Okonkwo shows us how he is a tragic hero. Being born in a not so fortunate family, Okonkwo grew up to be an successful leader of Umuofia. His masculinity, caused him to have the tragic flaw of failure, which ultimately leads him to his death. Eventually, he notices his tragic fate when he murdered a British court messenger.
Although Okonkwo begins his life a respected man around the village of Umuofia, but because of his impulsiveness and violence characteristics even the most respected and powerful people can still fall because there fate takes over their life.