Okonkwo The Tragic Hero
In the novel Things Fall Apart Okonkwo is a tragic hero. Aristotle's tragic hero characteristics include a man of high status who displays a tragic flaw called hamartia. He experiences a dramatic reversal or peripeteia. Then the tragic hero must endure a moment of recognition called anagnorisis. Okonkwo experiences all three of these traits of Aristotle's tragic hero.
Okonkwo holds a position of great influence and power inside of his tribe. Within the Igbo culture he was well respected and was best known as “the great wrestler who for seven years was unbeaten”(1). He brought great honor to his village and was determined to become rich and powerful. “Okonkwo was well known throughout the nine villages and even beyond his fame rested on solid personal achievements” (1). He had three wives and many children. Most of his dreams became reality.
Okonkwo had many tragic flaws including his incredible temper. He beat his wives and his children with very little provocation. Like many tragic Greek heroes he killed his own child. Okonkwo took Ikemefuna in when he was given to the tribe as a peace offering as a young child and raised him as his own. When Ikemefuna receives a death sentence “Okonkwo drew his machete and cut him down. He was afraid of being thought weak”(61). He killed his own child because of his fear of what other people thought of him.
Okonkwo was banished for seven years but he believed, “he would return with a flourish, and regain the seven wasted years”(171). Okonkwo wants his village to remain with the traditional beliefs of the past. In a fit of temper he rashly kills a messenger from the British office. He realizes he is gone too far when his own clan wants nothing to do with him. Okonkwo realized his tragic mistakes too late. When his own village clan members turn away from him this last time he finally sees everything he has done wrong and commits suicide.
Okonkwo, like many Greek tragic heroes, has a strong personality and is difficult to like or cheer for. He has all the traits of a tragic hero. Okonkwo was a great leader for his clansman; his tragic fall from their good graces came from his fear of weakness and failure. After his disgrace in the eyes of the Igbo community his suicide makes Okonkwo a classic tragic hero.