Things Fall Apart Father/Son DynamicGet Your
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Chinua Achebe’s novel, Things Fall Apart, illustrates several relationships between parents and their children. In most of these relationships, conflict arises that separates the two individuals and creates discord. In creating such a conflict between Okonkwo and Unoka, as well as between Okonkwo and Nwoye, Achebe creates a much deeper and accessible piece of literature. Unoka, Okonkwo’s father, is depicted as a weak, unmotivated, and lazy figure. Okonwo, on the other hand, is a zealous, hard-working man who has great aspirations.
Naturally, the two men clash and cannot create a harmonious symbiosis. Okonkwo grows to hate his father since his neglect to function and provide for his family forced the burden of responsibility on Okonkwo’s shoulders. He also considers his father an embarrassment because he never takes any titles in the tribe and he continually mooches off others with no intentions of repaying them. As a young man, Okonkwo looked down upon his father for his irresoluteness and carefree nature and he seeks to be everything his father was not: strong, stoic, powerful — the epitome of “manliness. The conflict between Okonkwo and Unoka shapes the man that Okonkwo becomes, thereby explaining the reason for Okonkwo’s overwhelming fears of failure and of appearing weak and effeminate. It allows the reader to better understand Okonkwo’s reprehensible actions in the novel, such as when he kills his adopted son Ikemefuna and when he denounces his eldest son Nwoye. Since Okonkwo is the protagonist of Things Fall Apart, the reasoning behind his defining character traits contributes to the overall depth of the novel.
His every interaction becomes more profound once Achebe establishes that Okonkwo’s every action is based upon being the antithesis of his father. Similar to how Okonkwo came to despise his father for his inherent characteristics, Nwoye begins to loathe Okonkwo. He sees his father as being too unyielding, too strong, and so he starts to fear him. The bitterness that Nowye has for his father is reflective of Okonkwo’s own fear that he will become like Unoka. The conflict between Nwoye and Okonkwo is reminiscent of that of his grandfather and father, although the roles are reversed.
It contributes to the overall meaning of the book by showing the path Okonkwo has taken. He has come full circle. Despite his reluctance to appear even remotely similar to this father, he has become the same by estranging his son. The juxtaposition of these three men creates deeper levels and greater stories than just that of Okonkwo. It shows the past and future lineage of the protagonist, while establishing the outlook on relationships that Okonkwo tragically possesses.
Author: Brandon Johnson
Things Fall Apart Father/Son Dynamic
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Nwoye, Okonkwo’s oldest son, struggles in the shadow of his powerful, successful, and demanding father. His interests are different from Okonkwo’s and resemble more closely those of Unoka, his grandfather. He undergoes many beatings, at a loss for how to please his father, until the arrival of Ikemefuna, who becomes like an older brother and teaches him a gentler form of successful masculinity. As a result, Okonkwo backs off, and Nwoye even starts to win his grudging approval. Nwoye remains conflicted, however: though he makes a show of scorning feminine things in order to please his father, he misses his mother’s stories.
With the unconscionable murder of Ikemefuna, however, Nwoye retreats into himself and finds himself forever changed. His reluctance to accept Okonkwo’s masculine values turns into pure embitterment toward him and his ways. When missionaries come to Mbanta, Nwoye’s hope and faith are reawakened, and he eventually joins forces with them. Although Okonkwo curses his lot for having borne so “effeminate” a son and disowns Nwoye, Nwoye appears to have found peace at last in leaving the oppressive atmosphere of his father’s tyranny.
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