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The expectations and qualities of an Ibo hero
There were some outstanding attributes for which the Igbo people expected their hero to have. One of them being, a strong leader. Okonkwo however in the beginning of the novel seems like a weak individual. Reason being he seemed to battle with the fear of failure (Achebe 16).
As a child growing up, he did not quite have a father who to say the least he could look up to. However, this was no excuse for him not to move forward. Instead, he should have sought for help from the village counselor so he could be able to let the past be the past. In addition to this, towards the end of the novel, he commits suicide due to the fact that he has no followers when it comes to dealing with the missionaries.
To the Ibos, a hero’s prominence was highly up held in accordance to what he had achieved as an individual (Achebe 3). This therefore multiplied Okwonkwo’s thirst of getting more and more involved in the activities within the community. It did not matter whether what he did was good or bad. For instance, he got involved in the killing of Ikemefuna even after being warned not to. On the other hand, most of the clan elders were proud of him for doing so. This was basically because he was upholding the ancestral traditions.
The community expected their leader to always live up to what he says. This is probably the reason why Okwonkwo, never changed his mind over certain issues even when it was clear that he was going to lose the battle. A good example being, to fight against the missionaries.
Comparison of an Igbo hero and Okwonkwo’s imagination of one
Okwonkwo’s perception of a hero was a selfish one. This is evident when he went out of his way to grab as many titles as he possibly could no matter whom he had to hurt along the way. Just like Achebe puts it, “Okwonkwo’s fame rested on solid personal achievement” (3).
Ever since his father brought dishonor to the family, his most important desire was to prove to the whole community that he was much better than his father. He would moderate his drinking habits more so; he would do his best to bring up his son in a much better family setting than his father did.
Furthermore, the idea of a hero to him was one who was one who was sexist. He believed that the woman has very little placed in not only the family but in the community as well. More often than not, he would equate anything weak or frail to a woman and anything strong and energetic to the man. He hated the weak people in his community and especially those who were afraid of taking on a task. At some point, he suggested that his own son, Nwoye was a woman like (Achebe 4). Masculinity was meant to be expressed through violence according to Okwonkwo.
It is good to note that a hero was meant to abide by the community laws. Okwonkwo did this by allowing the clan elders to exile him to another village as a punishment. Reason being that he had beaten his wife during the week of peace. By agreeing to leave the community while being a leader was a way of being a good role model.
People are separated by successes and failures to a large extent
Clearly, Okwonkwo had to be exiled for his failure to practice self-control. Having beaten his wife during the week of peace, he had to leave his family and his followers in the community to another village.
In real life situations, the people who go against the law commonly referred to as criminals are normally locked up in cell. Some have had to be transferred to cells outside their own country depending on the level of crime they committed. For instance the Guantanamo bay in Latin America, which has been used to correct criminals from across the world.
In another instance, Okwonkwo decided to commit suicide reason being he could not fight the missionaries alone and his son had already converted to Christianity. This especially broke his heart because he could not understand how his son could disobey him and dutifully obey what the missionaries taught him.
Therefore in the form of death he got separated from his family and the community as a whole for neglecting change. In modern society there is a common saying that “change, before change changes you.” This means that there are things we simply cannot run away from and we just have to adapt.
Nwoye, Okwonkwo’s son on the other hand understood exactly what he wanted from life. He would make crucial decisions despite is father’s critics and lived up to them. He converted to Christianity and later on attended the school that was set up by the missionaries. This way, he became enlightened on the various aspects of life including gender equality. Due to his conversion his father began disowning him but he did not give up.
But we have a little of each
As humans, we all have our own flaws, no one is perfect. Okwonkwo, might have treated the women in his disrespectfully by beating them up and so on. However, he loved his daughter Ezinma and at some point wished he was a boy (Achebe 61).
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Maybe she could have inherited her father’s leadership and property as well. Okwonkwo also loved strong men who stood their position in whatever decisions they made. This is basically why he was angry at the clan elders when he came from exile and found that almost the whole community had converted to Christianity.
Given the advancement in technology and the very fast rate of globalization, many people live carelessly to say the least. This is due to the rate at which people are getting infected with certain diseases and taking part in gruesome immoral acts. However, at the end of the day most people believe in a higher power or belong to some sort of religion.
This signifies the two sided life of humans. In reference to the novel, Okwonkwo knew that the culture of killing people was wrong but he went ahead and took part in it despite being warned. In addition to this he was took part in the clan’s religious and spiritual events.
The Igbo community despite allowing wife battering had very few instances where the women would be assigned some important duties. Some of them being educating the young ones, telling them stories as well as painting the houses of the egwugwu (Achebe 84). Undoubtedly, the Igbo community valued the women in some aspects of community building hence they would not only gain respect from the egwugwu.
Achebe,Chinua. Things fall apart. United Kingdom: William Heinemann Ltd. 1958.