According to the definition of Aristotle, a tragic hero is supposed to have a noble character or a high status in the society and also have a tragic flaw(s) that is discovered through his own actions. In things Fall Apart, Okonkwo meets the definition of a tragic hero because of being a prosperous and notable leading light in Umuofia with certain shortcomings in character that he only discovers after his uncautious actions through which he discovers his fate (Achebe, 1958). The paper explores how Okonkwo is a tragic hero according to Aristotle’s way of definition.First, Okonkwo shows his noble side by being a highly respected and successful leader in Umuofia. The definition of Aristotle of the tragic hero directs that the hero should be noble and of high social rank.
Achebe describes Okonkwo as being, “well known throughout the nine villages and even beyond. His fame rested on solid personal achievements” (Achebe, 1958). Initially, Okonkwo is a poor peasant farmer with nothing of a fortune inherited from his father.
Nevertheless, Okonkwo applies himself diligently and eventually becomes a wealthy and highly respected man in Umuofia. Consequently, Okonkwo ends up having three wives and many children, a vast home ground with Obi for each wife and plenty of food. Okonkwo becomes respected by people due to his successes. When he is still a young man, he throws Amalinze the Cat, a wrestler who had not been defeated for seven years and as a result makes his people to be honored. Moreover, Okonkwo becomes one of the highly respected judges who in the community believed to be the ancestral spirits (Began, 1997). Furthermore, Okonkwo is also singled out by his village as the only capable proxy to deliberate with Mbaino villagers concerning the killing of a girl from Umuofia at Mbaino market. Without much struggle, Okonkwo manages to return back with a boy and girl who is a virgin to compensate the girl killed and amicably brings the disagreement to an end.
Just like other tragic heroes, Okonkwo manifests tragic flaws in that he fears being seen as weak and failing in his endeavors. The distaste of failure and weakness pushes Okonkwo to diligent labor earning him glory and success, putting him again in a number of conflicts. These characteristics make him harsh, violent and inconsiderate when dealing with other people and even family members.
He is cruel and fierce towards his immediate family for the reason that he does not desire to be considered a weak person. He applies strength and violence to solve his problems, something that gets him into a number of conflicts with his family members and eventually leads him to his downfall. For example, he goes against his clan norms and barters his wife during a week that is supposed to be a week of peace (Kortenaar, 2004). Furthermore, he kills Ikemefuna, a close ally of Nwoye. By killing Ikemefuna and beating his wives in order to show his strength, Okonkwo makes his relationship with his wives and Nwoye weak and unhealthy. Moreover, he brings mental torture to himself. His violent nature and impulsiveness results in him killing a British court emissary and subsequently discovering his tragic fate.According to Aristotle’s way of defining a tragic hero, the characters discover their fate through their own blunders.
For Okonkwo, self-realization commences after arriving back at Umuofia after staying in exile for seven years. He discovers that Umuofia has transformed in many aspects and he is no longer as regarded and famous as before. He does not command much attention and he has to relinquish his position in the Egwugu immediately for leaving his clansmen. Furthermore, he is required to wait for two years before he can assimilate sons into the society. He soon finds that there are white men who have immigrated into their village and who later plant a church and a school and begin to convert the local folks into Christians, disregarding their customs and beliefs. He is greatly angered by these happenings and coerces his clan to employ violence and chase the white people away. However, the clan opposes Okonkwo and informs him that the British settlers have some support from the local people. Conflicts between the white people and Igbo people continue to occur.
A church is burnt and the white men hold the meeting that was a decoy that ended in the apprehending and shaming of not less than five clan members. Okonkwo was one of those captured. He only discovers his tragic fate when he murders a British court emissaries sent to thwart the meeting (Nnoromele, 2000). After Okonkwo beheads the emissary and realizes that not a single of his clan members was ready to pursue the fleeing white men, “He knew that Umuofia would not go to war” (Achebe, 1958). Upon discovering that he has been defeated and that his people would become subjects of the white people, Okonkwo despairs and resolves to hang himself something taken to be an abomination by the Igbo people.Okonkwo’s character in so many ways is congruent to Aristotle’s definition of a tragic hero.
Starting from nothing, Okonkwo soars high to become an honored and successful man of Umuofia. His nobleness is tainted by a tragic flaw of dread for feebleness and failure (Glenn, 1985). This leads him to a number of stumbles and failing, and eventually he commits suicide.
He discovers his fate after he impulsively murders the British court messenger. Conclusively, Okonkwo begins his lifespan as a respectable man of Umuofia but due to his nature of being ferocious and imprudent, he experiences a disgraceful downfall.