“Things Fall Apart” as Tragedy
“In Things Fall Apart, Achebe opens a casement on Umofia revealing to us the compelling tragedy of Okonkwo, a hero, we cannot claim to like, but do not fail to admire”. Discuss.
“Things Fall Apart” with the history of Igbo society also follows the tragic story of Okonkwo, who is a tragic hero because of the combination of good and evil qualities. We can admire his qualities, in every manner because what he has acquired in his life is because of his god work but on the other hand, he has some flaws due to which we don’t like him. We can claim him as a tragic hero as he fulfills every ingredient of tragedy, provided by Aristotle in his book “Poetics”. Even otherwise, the decay of Igbo culture in itself is a tragedy, which compels us to admire. Okonkwo’s story starts from prosperity and ends with adversity. He can definitely be titled as a tragic hero of the novel. His downfall is surely because of his hamartia (error or frailty). He was a noble man, whose life started from happy days and ends at nothingness, summing up the story of a tragic characters. Whether we should like and claim him as a tragic hero or admire him because of his manly qualities let’s judge him in the eyes of Aristotle as it is the ancient and golden but only technique of judging a character.
The tragic hero, in the eyes of Aristotle, is a man, who must be gifted by heroic qualities, a person who is neither too wicked nor too innocent and a noble man from upper class. The upper class is chosen because as higher the class will be as tragic the downfall would be. Secondly, the hero should not be a wicked person as there is no tragedy in seeing an evil person because he deserves these kinds of tragic incidents. If he will be too innocent, we will not be able to justify his tragic downfall and instead of creating the feeling of piety and fear it will just shock us. As far as Okonkwo is concerned, he entirely fulfills all these conditions. First of all, he is a noble man, who has a good reputation and reverence in the vanity. He is a person, who is known in nine nearby villages. Everyone respects him and admires his nobleness. Secondly he is not a wicked man as we know that he has got this reputation by the dint of his hard work. We find him a person, who is at the peak and spending a flourishing life with his family. Thirdly, he is no an innocent person, there are flaws in it. He is not a pious man and has some errors in him. He is a person like everyone, with a mixture of good an evil as required by Aristotelian tragedy.
Another element which is prominent to be mentioned here, given by Aristotle, in tragedy, is that the hero must have hamartia in it, due to which he should suffer. Hamartia can be an error in the character. A mistake,which is conducted in passion or because of moral flaw. So far as Okonkwo is concerned, he fulfills this element of tragedy, too. His utmost flaw is his failing of fear and because of this error he, took steps which lead him to his ultimate destruction. Although, he is a strong man yet fears from failing, having no-confidence on him because of his father. That’s why he deals his wives and son with heavy hands. He is well aware with the fate of his father and thus afraid to become like him, therefore, tells his family to work hard lest they should face the evil days, just like his father. It was his fear due to which, he took part in killing Ikemefuna. When he returns from exile, he finds missionaries at the climax. He tries to deal with them single handedly but failed to save his culture from destruction. He, when become settled in life and earned respect, became haughty and rash due to which, eventually he had to suffer with the penalty of his life. He suffers and causes the arousal of feelings of piety and fear. Our catharsis is based on the tragedy of Okonkwo.
Keeping in view all these elements, we can say that Okonkwo is certainly a tragic hero as he is from upper class, neither good nor too bad and having hamartia in form of rashness and fear of failure, due to which he suffers and ultimately faces his disaster. He is portrayed as a person, completing all the elements of Aristotelian tragedy. No doubt, “Things Fall Apart” is the story, mainly concerned with Umofian society but the plot follows a tragedy, the tragic story of Okonkwo. Okonkwo was a strong man, living a peaceful life, enjoying fruit of his hard work but he suffers because of his hamartia. He is responsible for his downfall. In changing circumstances, he takes some steps which are against the nature of a layman. He should have not adopt such ways, which lead him to suffer. We can admire Okonkwo for his best qualities, such as his hard working capacity, his vigilance and his bravery but at the same time we don’t like him as he is hasty, harsh and strict to his family, beats his wives and deals everything with heavy hands. With these observations, we can judge “Things Fall Apart” as a tragic story of Okonkwo. Thus, with confidence, we can admire the story as it reveals to us the compelling tragedy of Okonkwo.