Reading Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart led me back to the class discussion on Monday about what it means to be a Nigerian novel. This novel displayed universal issues but embedded them in the everyday culture of the local. There is a struggle with family, society and even attempting to understand other societies as in the example of Okonkwo’s discussion with the other men at the end of chapter eight. The basis of this whole novel starts with the laziness of Okonkwo’s father. This brings in the first struggle of attempting to find individuality and not be labeled in anyway as reflective of his father. As a result, Okonkwo rejects any sign of laziness and emotion. Early on in the novel it is even stated that, “Okonkwo never showed any emotion openly, unless it be the emotion of anger. To show affection was a sign of weakness” (28). Since weakness is not considered ‘manly,’ Okonkwo refuses to show society, family or even himself anything but strength. There is even some struggle with religion when Okonkwo beats his wife during the Week of Peace, and will not stop because it will then display weakness. Here he is shown to believe strength is greater than religion – gods and ancestors. Again the power of strength for Okonkwo also prevails any love he had for Ikemefuna.

There is one part of the novel that I struggled with understanding. Okonkwo was able to start a new life without the burden of people judging him in light of his father. The novel reads, “among these people a man was judged according to his worth and not according to the worth of his father” (8). Therefore, the actions of his father are not reflective to his own life. What I don’t understand is how after Ikemefuna’s father murdered a woman, then Ikemefuna is punished as a result. If a man is not judged by his father, then why is Ikemefuna judged by his? Now, I understand that Ikemefuna is from another society and that the Oracle called for his death, what I don’t understand is why? After three years of proving himself as a member of Okonkwo’s family, why is he still to suffer for his ‘past’ father’s crime?

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About karadim

I am a first year graduate student at American University's MA Literature program.

One response »

  1. juliannatwiggs says:

    I think that as a parent one of the greatest punishments one can face is having your child taken from you. I imagine that many parents would offer their lives to save their child’s in just a moment. Though I agree that it seems unfair Ikemefuna was stripped of his family, I feel that his father would suffer even more knowing that his child suffers. On another note I think that what you quoted references the fact that even if one’s father is a failure, his children still have a chance to succeed. If Ikemefuna was not condemned to death he could have still become a strong and respected man regardless of the fact that his father killed someone. In fact, before the oracle called for Ikemefuna’s death, he WAS seen and a strong boy with much potential. So in a sense, Ikemefuna’s life was not all together destroyed due solely to his father’s actions.

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