Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Importance of Respect and Reputation in Things Fall Apart

One major theme in the novel is that of the importance of reputation. Ones title determines how important you are and who respected you are. Reputation is extremely important to the men in the novel. Personal reputation is publicly denoted by the ankle bracelets men wear, which signify the number of “titles” they have earned. Reputation is based on merit – men gain reputation through bravery in battle, skill at wrestling, and hard work as seen through the size of their yam harvest. Reputation earns men positions of power and influence in the community as well as numerous wives. Okonkwo is extremely concerned with reputation because he grew up with a father who was shameful and lazy. Okonkwo overcompensates by working tirelessly on his farm and taking every opportunity available to prove his bravery and strength. Okonkwo is a big believer in the system, and he even feels that people without titles are not real men, as he says numerous times.

4 comments:

Laura N said...

Titles give Okonkwo a sense of worthiness, achievement and pride. Since he defines himself against his father who didnt have a title, the titles assure him that he is accomplished and manly, unlike his dad. Okonkwo's titles prove to himself that he is better than his father who is a disgrace to him.

Linz A said...

I think a lot of the reputation (at least, for Okonkwo) comes from one's own opinion of one's reputation. As we see in situations like the meeting where Okonkwo is scolded for being aggressive towards a man who has no title. Okonkwo holds himself in a position of high standards (and his family). The reputation that he establishes is, I think, largely in his own head. I'm not denying that Okonkwo was famous, but I think that he likes to think of himself as a strong village leader whose aggressive and angry behavior is something to be respected. Though there are times in Things Fall Apart, where the respect towards violence is actually proven to have a negative affect on reputation. Such as the time when Okonkwo's gun backfires and he accidentally kills a sixteen year old boy.

wkuehne said...

I think that Okonkwo's belief in tradition is actually the main motive for his suicide. Tradition is scrapped by the missionaries, and Okonkwo does not believe that his society will repudiate the missionaries influences that overshadow his culture's tradition. While I think Okonkwo is very traditional in his belief in the clan, the more concrete traditions are not amusing to him, such as festivals. It is also very interesting that Okonkwo commits suicide, which completely goes against the egwugwu, and is essentially a symbol of disrespect to his clan, who he believes are not "manly" enough to stand up to white influence.

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