Yousef Khalaf is a writer at BHSEC, Cleveland-West.
The influence fathers project onto their children is stronger than we believe. Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart testifies to this strength through its main character Okonkwo. Okonkwo dedicates his life to becoming the opposite of his father, Unoka, whom he hates. Okonkwo considers Unoka a lazy, insufficient provider who is constantly in debt. Yet, sadly, Okonkwo becomes a person worse than his father because he tries so hard to be different from him.
Okonkwo’s father is gentle, so Okonkwo tries to be violent. For example, when Ojiugo, one of Okonkwo’s wives, forgets to cook food, Okonkwo beats her “very heavily” (19). Okonkwo is so angry that he “had forgotten that it was the Week of Peace” (19). Violence — including beatings — is prohibited during that week, which means Okonkwo’s actions take on even graver consequence. Although Okonkwo wants to be a better father than his own, he ends up being an irresponsible parent, like Unoka, because he constantly nags and beats his son Nwoye. Contrarily, Okonkwo’s father never beats his family. Unoka may be a little lazy, but he never abuses anyone. Okonkwo’s violence is a direct result of his fear of being a so-called nobody like he considers his father to be.
Okonkwo turns out to be worse than his father because he tries to be dissimilar to him. Okonkwo’s marital violence, abusive parenting, and rejection of caring values make him a problematic person in some people’s eyes, as his father is in his own eyes. Okonkwo’s story is tragic. Even though this strand in Things Fall Apart is depressing, Achebe reminds the reader how influential our actions can be to others, especially our loved ones. While the arrival of Christian missionaries and imperialists speeds up the process of things falling apart for Okonkwo and his community, Okonkwo’s violence and closed-heart contribute to family and community falling apart before the Europeans arrive.