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Tragic Hero: Achilles and Okonkwo Research Paper

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Updated: Jun 19th, 2019

In the novel “Things Fall Apart”, Chinua Achebe portrays a futuristic community. Definitely, the main character Okonkwo’s consciousness and his endeavor to grasp and comprehend the necessity of change have driven the plot of the novel. He engages in self-gratification behavior and is interested in fulfilling his own needs. Okonkwo is a direct opposite of his lazy father Unoka. In the book “The Iliad” by Homer, Achilles is presented as a courageous warrior with supernatural power.

In addition, the gods love him. However, his weird character is an impediment towards integrity and nobility in his quest to protect a blotted pride. Thus, this reflective treatise attempts to explicitly review the similarities and differences in the characters of Okonkwo and Achilles. Specifically, the paper analyzes their personality and contribution towards their downfall as illustrated by Chunia Achebe and Homer.

Respect is illustrated as intense across the novel “Things Fall Apart” and as the contributory factor of Okonkwo’s fame. In the series of elder meetings, respect is accorded to those with blotted household and stores of yams such as Okonkwo’s household.

Moreover, “Things Fall Apart” presents an atmosphere that is socially declining in a comical gesture. For instance, introduction of Christianity, which offers an abode to the outcasts, is initially thought as a harmless home of the busybodies. In a comical twist, Okonkwo loses his first son Unoka to the mission centre.

In the end, the modernity system which the elders spent days and years ridiculing sweeps the entire village. Okonkwo loses everything he believed in and dies like an outcast. In a satiric twist of events, the sacrilege taboo of commit suicide on the rope overcomes Okonkwo. In the first paragraph, the author states that “fame rested on solid personal achievements. As a young man of 18, he had brought honor to his village” (Achebe 3).

Okonkwo is painted as a very strong man who “had a slight stammer & whenever he was angry & could not get his words out quickly enough, he would use his fists” (Achebe 28).

Reflectively, Achebe foreshadows Okonkwo’s own downfall due to uncontrolled temper. In fact, “he was a wealthy farmer & had 2 barns full of yams, & had just married his 3rd wife. To crown it all he had taken 2 titles” (Achebe 32). Okonkwo’s temper controls his decision and he is unable to not only arrest the unbecoming temper, but also uses it to express authority in his household.

Sadly, this anger is seen on the traditional holiday called the Thanksgiving Day when he gives his wife a thorough beating against the traditions. In this case, he explodes over negligible things. In chapter five, the author states that “Okonkwo, who had been walking about aimlessly in his compound in suppressed anger, suddenly found an outlet. “Who killed this banana tree?”(Achebe 98).

Achilles resembles Okonkwo in anger mismanagement. Despite being blessed by the gods, Achilles does not follow the instructions and often commits hideous offense in defense of his blotted ego. Same as Okonkwo, Achilles’ driving force is thirst for glory and he is willing to sacrifice everything to be crowned a legend.

Despite the fact that Patroclus’ death pushes him to make peace with Agamemnon, Achilles does not arrest his rage. Instead, the uncontained rage is directed on Hector. It is apparent that blood rush, pride and wrath completely consume him.

Okonkwo is painted as a ruthless person who does not know how to display emotion. In fact, “Okonkwo never showed any emotion openly, unless it is the emotion of anger. To show affection was a sign of weakness, the only thing worth demonstrating was strength” (Achebe 98).

Despite this, Okonkwo is overcome by emotions and is unable to kill his adopted son. Same as Okonkwo, Achilles is overcome by emotions and is unable to slain Patroclus his surrogate son. However, both characters are party to the plot of killing their surrogate sons.

The main character Okonkwo is full of African gentleman pride which he loses at the end and hangs himself. Colonialism is depicted as having forced the rather peaceful society to embrace sudden change. As a result, those who would not cope up had to be swept away by the heavy forced change.

Reflectively, Chinua is moved by Okonkwo’s imaginative exploration of memory manipulation and how misused power can wreak havoc on humanity. Chinua tries to blend the high-concept vision of the world of tomorrow with his own stylized and highly dramatized language. He creates a very human story that combines stories of both self-discovery and love.

Chinua Achebe succeeds in convincingly mingling the ‘futuristic’ and the ‘realistic’ imaginations of the colonial power to create a world of exotic exploitation and mind control characterized by time variances, chauvinism, and societal imbalances (“Literature of the Non Western World” par. 7). Interestingly, the narrative genre presents an unending conflict between neocolonialism and total freedom which exist to present times. However, Achilles lacks the gentleman aspect and displays arrogance and oozing pride (Homer 32).

Homer paints a picture of a hero called Achilles who rejects the attitude of unthinking conformity that is prevalent in the contemporary society. Achilles develops his own original relationship with the world. Achilles was disappointed with spiritual insufficiency of the recognized religions.

Achilles advocated for transcendentalism that was against unkind and merciless authoritarian rule despite being accused of practicing the same. Different from Okonkwo, Achilles is not emotionally communicative, socially mindful and humanistic in his ways of coexisting. This aspect final got the best of his heroic personality and contributed to his own downfall in the end.

In the character of Okonkwo, nature is something complicated to man; people do not appreciate the beauty of nature, even though nature provides everything to human being.

Human beings get distracted by natural events around them and they do not ripe favors from nature. Nature is perfectly appropriate for people’s need which is not a distractive element to them. Okonkwo has failed to build understanding of the holistic natural beauty. Same as Achilles, Okonkwo lacks personal reflection is an approach that enables human being to understand what nature holds.

Society’s activities are distractive that can ruin the holistic nature of human being. Achilles and Okonkwo fail to realize that human being and nature must build a reciprocal relation since nature is the only being that people can depend on. It is a divine aid that nourishes human being. Nature is the spiritual and universal being that people must appreciate and a divine being that human being must be dedicated to serve.

Reflectively, human soul acquires great experience and remains unhurt in the experience of maturity in expression and emotional display. Human intellection is healthier when people lead the “life of nature” and are not troubled with societal challenges which in the real sense do not exist (Homer 23).

Besides that, when people persistently build original intention, without conforming to recognized culture, they would never be confused in speculation. Instead, their intellection would have achieved significant reality that other individuals would learn from them. As a matter of fact, these events indicate that the toe heroes of the traditional African and Greek societies had themselves to blame for their unfortunate downfall.

Reflectively, Okonkwo bears the most responsibility in his downfall since he had control to follow the ways of the other elders who gave way for change. Besides, he is unable to arrest his anger and uses fists to solve even minor family feuds (Achebe 78). Unlike Achilles who was a soldier, Okonkwo lives in a free world and was in a position to manage his actions with little effort.

He lacks self control and uses emotions to make judgment. Though his judgment might have been right, he had no control over his son’s decision to join the missionary school. Besides, he was in a position to a void killing the messenger with a machete.

Conclusively, literary works are normally composed in an indirect and tricky manner in order for readers to think deeply for implied meanings. These stories share same connection in understanding the position of the society as dynamics of existence shifts from a friendlier parameter to a harsher reality. Okonkwo and Achilles shared same characteristics on anger management, rage, and irrationality in their respective societies. Unfortunately, these traits led to their own downfall.

Works Cited

Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart: Classics in Context. New York: Heinemann, 1996. Print.

Homer, Pope. The Iliad. Alabama: Rivington, 1760. Print.

Literature of the Non Western World. 2006. Web. <>.

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