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Okonkwo’s Tragedy: Tradition versus Change
Tradition is integral to the society in which Items Fall Apart is set. Okonkwo lives with his loved ones in the Umuofia clan, one particular of nine collective villages that uphold the same set of beliefs and traditions. Their lives revolve around their belief in ancestral spirits, named egwugwu, and a number of gods that demand sacrifices and strict rituals in exchange for their guidance and prosperity. Numerous customs define every day life, such as the kola nut and palm-wine which are presented when getting company, and the language spoken that conveys thoughtfulness and respect. An interaction involving Okonkwo’s father, Unoka, and a man whom he owed money to depicts the significance of language to their society: “Among the Igbo the art of conversation is regarded quite extremely, and proverbs are the palm-oil with which words are eaten” (Achebe four). They do not worth easy language, but rhetorical and formal language that, even though it might be inefficient, is a custom that shows sophistication and respect. The metaphor of words for food is particularly important since it implies that language and communication are as necessary to life as meals. In addition, it implies that these customs and each day elements of their culture are necessary to their life in that they establish communal morality by way of which folks can connect and develop as a society.
In addition to these habitual customs are commandments that decide one’s spot in society and coordinate a set of checks and balances. Achebe illustrates the value of this method by means of Okonkwo’s beating of his wife, Ojiugo, throughout peace week. The week of peace is a sacred element of Igbo culture in which the individuals need to live without violence of any sort for a week in order to receive a blessing for their crops from Ani, one particular of their gods. The priest of the earth goddess, Ezeani, tells him that “the evil you have done can ruin the whole clan” (Achebe 30) and he need to repent and spend a fine for his sins. 1 of the a lot more adverse functions of the Igbu customs is the separation of the osu from the rest of society. An osu is “a person committed to a god, a thing set apart—a taboo forever, and his kids right after him. He could neither marry nor be married by the free-born. He was in truth an outcast, living in a special area of the village…wherever he went he carried with him the mark of his forbidden caste—long, tangled and dirty hair” (156). The osu are at the bottom of the social order, while the council of elders are at the best and sit in judgment of society. Each and every aspect of life is defined by tradition, from social classes to spoken language. The Igbo folks have been living by these customs for generations and they offer structure and regulation for each individual. As is often the case, although, the serious nature of such beliefs creates gaps in between the individual and the group.
These gaps are what allow the colonizers to swarm in and convert so a lot of of the Igbo individuals to the new religion. When Christianity comes, it thrives specifically because it capitalizes on the weaknesses of society. The osu rush to the new religion simply because it welcomes them as equals, as well as several other folks deprived by tradition. In Joseph McLaren’s essay “Things Fall Apart: Cultural and Historical Context,” he explains that “Achebe uses the Umuofians’ abandonment of the twins, which was a general practice amongst the genuine-life Igbo, and their sacrifice of Ikemefuna, a demonstration of reciprocal justice maybe, to show Igbo culture’s vulnerability or susceptibility to Christian conversion.” (8). Although the elders and members with great standing in the civilization were not tempted by Christian freedoms, the individuals that had been destitute and oppressed by it were instantly drawn to such freedom. The outcasts had lost all respect in their village, either by their own undertaking or by poor luck, and they saw the new religion as an escape from their shame and humiliation.
Ultimately, even Okonkwo’s personal son, Nwoye, joins the Christians. Nwoye was never ever a sufficient son by Okonkwo requirements he acted too much like a woman, which reminded Okonkwo of his lazy father, and simply because of this Okonkwo was especially challenging on Nwoye. Okonkwo “had no patience with unsuccessful men” (Achebe two) and it is clear that Okonkwo has scared Nwoye into submission because Nwoye’s attraction to Christianity initially comes from the songs that depict “brothers who lived in darkness and in worry, ignorant of the enjoy of God” (153). Just like the ostracized members of the clan, Okonkwo’s personal son abandons his loved ones and faith to convert to Christianity in order to obtain his own freedom. Right after Nwoye’s betrayal of the clan, Okonkwo exclaims that “you all have seen the fantastic abomination of your brother. I will only have a son who is a man, who will hold his head up among my men and women. If any of you prefers to be a woman, let him comply with Nwoye” (172). Okonkwo is so disappointed in his son that he denies Nwoye as a son and degrades him to the function of a woman.
Just as Okonkwo loses his son to the new religion, Igbu folks, as properly as their traditions, are getting lost to it in the identical way. Uchendu, Okonkwo’s uncle who shelters him when he moves to Mbanta, claims that “It’s accurate that a youngster belongs to its father. But when a father beats his youngster, it seeks sympathy in its mother’s hut. A man belongs to his fatherland when factors are great and life is sweet. But when there is sorrow and bitterness he finds refuge in his motherland. Your mother is there to shield you.” (116-7). Uchendu’s aphorism is representative of the Igbu civilization losing members to the colonizers. The Igbu are the fatherland and the colonizers are the motherland, although the youngster is representative of the men and women in society that seek the freedom and safety of the new religion. Not only is this revelation reflective of the loss of Igbu tradition, but also the explanation for it. The Igbu, particularly Okonkwo, refuse to doubt any of their beliefs to the extent that they believed the converts to be “the excrement of the clan, and the new faith was a mad dog that had come to eat it up” (124). Unfortunately, this refusal to change only strengthens the temptation of the freedom the colonizers supply and hastens the tragic loss of Igbu culture.
The loss of Igbu culture is noticed predominantly by way of Okonkwo’s point of view, which serves to highlight its tragic elements. Okonkwo’s father was not an upstanding member of his clan, nor was he quite successful, which led Okonkwo to do every thing in his power to become an honorable and hardworking man. Regardless of his ideal efforts, even though, even Okonkwo does not reside up to all of the requirements set for him. He beats his wife for the duration of a time of peace and takes element in the killing of Ikemefuma regardless of Ogbuefi’s warning. In Matthew Bolton’s essay “’You Should Not Stand in One Place’: Reading Issues Fall Apart in A number of Contexts,” he asserts that “like Oedipus and other tragic heroes of the Athenian playwrights, Okonkwo is a flawed man. But he is destroyed not so a lot by these flaws as by broad and impersonal forces of history. He has the misfortune to subscribe wholeheartedly to Igbo culture at a time when this culture was being dismantled and abandoned” (four). Okonkwo’s character is tragic on both a private level and a broader, thematic level. His personal tragedies are mostly due to his overly ambitious compulsion to turn into a leader of his clan, which usually backfires and leads him into trouble. One particular such minor tragedy is the outcome of Okonkwo’s participation in Ikemefuma’s death. Ogbuefi warned Okonkwo not to serve any blows to Ikemefuma, but he struck him anyway in order to prove his manliness. Later, at Ogbuefi’s funeral, Okonkwo’s gun accidentally goes off and kills Ogbuefi’s son, which can be observed as Okonkwo’s punishment for striking Ikemefuma. This accident is a minor tragedy in itself due to the fact not only was Ogbuefi’s innocent son killed, but also Okonkwo should devote 7 years in banishment. This punishment is particularly cruel for Okonkwo because “his life had been ruled by a fantastic passion – to grow to be 1 of the lords of the clan” (Achebe 114) and his punishment removes him from his clan.
Okonkwo’s character also presents the broad tragedy that the novel encapsulates: the loss of Igbo culture to Christian colonization. Although Okonkwo was laboring away in attempt to achieve authority and respect in his clan, the lowest of his clan were progressively converting. He is blinded by his devotion and can't see that the members of his clan no longer feel the very same dedication to their beliefs. It is not till he is the sole rebel against the colonizers that he realizes that his tribe is lost, and his consequential suicide is his final tragic act. In the Igbo belief, “it is an abomination for a man to take his personal life. It is an offense against the Earth, and a man who commits it will not be buried by his clansmen. His physique is evil, and only strangers could touch it” (Achebe 178). Okonkwo realizes that his clan is converting, but he will not join them, so he commits suicide. His suicide is tragic not just simply because it goes against Igbo beliefs, but since it embodies the total loss of these beliefs. Okonkwo is devoted to tradition and customs and would never willingly go against them, which suggests that his suicide represents his personal loss of faith as nicely as the end of his culture. Bolton insists that “in his prime, Okonkwo embodied the ideals of Ibo culture, and his death serves not to restore the values of his culture but to hasten their personal demise” (four). Okonkwo’s character illustrates personal tragedy in his personal misfortunes and eventual loss of beliefs and also finalizes the extensive tragedy of the conversion of his civilization to Christianity.
The conflict among tradition and adjust is a typical theme in societies as they grow and encounter the rest of the globe. Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart is illustrates this by the introduction of Christian colonizers to the Igbo society and the eventual decimation of Igbo culture. The traditional beliefs and customs that provide order for the Igbo individuals are contrasted by the Christian best of freedom. The conflict among the two cultures culminates a tragedy on a private and cultural level, portrayed by way of Okonkwo’s loss of faith and the destruction of the Igbo men and women.
Achebe, Chinua. Factors Fall Apart. New York: Anchor, 1994. Print.
Bolton, Matthew J. “You Have to Not Stand In One particular Place”: Reading Factors Fall Apart In Numerous Contexts.” Crucial Insights: Issues Fall Apart (2010): 69-84. Literary Reference Center. Internet. 24 Feb. 2014.
McLaren, Joseph. “Things Fall Apart: Cultural And Historical Context.” Crucial Insights: Factors Fall Apart (2010): 19-32. Literary Reference Center. Internet. 24 Feb. 2014.
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