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How Is The Human Story Told From A Different Things Fall Apart?
Fear is a powerful emotion. It has both the power to motivate one into action or paralyze into inaction. Throughout Things Fall Apart, Achebe demonstrates how fear drives different characters in varying ways to varying motives.
The best illustration of fear is in Okonkwo. We are that, unlike his father, he did not fear war and was not afraid of the site of blood. He was the first person to come back with the head of a human in the latest war in Umuofia (Achebe, chapter 2 para. 4) One would expect such a character to be fearless but Okonkwo is ruled by fear. It is informed by an incident in his childhood when a playmate called his father an agbala. ‘Perhaps down in his heart Okonkwo was not a cruel man. But his whole life was dominated by fear the fear of failure and weakness. It was deeper than the fear of evil and capricious gods and magic, the fear of the forest, and of nature…. Okonkwo’s fear was greater than these. It was not external but lay deep within himself. It was the fear of himself, lest he should be found to resemble his father. Even as a little boy he had resented his father’s failure and weakness, and even how he still remembered how he had suffered when a playmate had told him that his father was agbala. That was how Okonkwo first came to know that agbala was not only another name for a woman, it could also mean a man who had taken to title’ (Achebe, chapter 2, para. 12). These things were gentleness and idleness.
This fear of gentleness even hampers Okonkwo’s relationship with his children. children. This is clearly brought out in the book where we are told that while Okonkwo was very fond of Ezinma, who resembled her mother very much, ‘But his fondness only showed on very rare occasions’ (Achebe, chapter 5, para 60). It is further illustrated in the incident in which he is told that Ikemefuna had refused to eat her food. He walks into Ikemefuna’s hut carrying a big stick in his hand and Ikemefuna fearing repercussions ‘swallows the yams’ only to later throw up (Achebe, chapter 4, para. 5). The fear of his fury leads to his wives tiptoeing around him for fear of a thrashing.
Okonkwo kills his adopted son when he strikes Ikemefuna. However, his motive for killing him was not to protect Ikemefuna. ‘Dazed with fear, Okonkwo drew his machete and cut him down. He was afraid of being thought weak’ (Achebe, chapter 7, para. 27, 28). The fear of being thought weak overcomes the love of a father for his son CITATION Mat15 p 25 l 2057 (Mathur 25).
All these incidences portray a man desperately trying to validate his masculinity by overt expression of aggression. The other characters, however, are not aware of this and consider Okonkwo macho and or cruel. Ikemefuna and his wives are terrified of Okonkwo yet deeply unaware of the insecurities that fuel him.
Achebe through these incidences shows us how the human story should be told from different perspectives dependent on one’s ‘view’ of the character in question. Achebe lets us into the mind of Okonkwo and we can thus tell the intentions of his actions. Other characters on the other hand, are unaware and view his actions from their perspective.
BIBLIOGRAPHY Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart: A Novel. New York: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2010. E-reader version.
Mathur, Sanjeev. “Filiation and Affiliation in Things Fall Apart.” International Journal of English Language, Literature and Translational Studies 2(1) (2015): 24-26. Print.
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