Saturday, March 1, 2014

Okonkwo's Death

When I read the final two chapters of Things Fall Apart, the nature of Okonkwo's death struck me as heroic and redeeming.  I read his suicide as an attempt to save his village from retribution while keeping his honor, as well as an act of desperation and frustration.  Alone among the people of Umuofia, Okonkwo has the courage, the foresight (he sees that his culture cannot coexist peacefully with the colonizers), and the desire to save his culture to stand up to the District Commissioner.  Killing the court messenger is the only way he can keep his pride and his commitment to opposing European encroachments on his village.  It is a violent and ultimately futile action, but he has no good options by that point--he can't simply let the messengers break up the meeting after promising to fight to keep Umuofia's independence.

I think that by portraying Okonkwo's action as futile in spite of his overwhelming strength, determination, and courage, Achebe is trying to convey the frustration and despair of seeing one's culture slipping inexorably away.

1 comment:

Joseph D'Amico said...

I think his death was sort of futile along with his killing of the court messenger. Neither really accomplishes anything, as the christians will just come back in greater force, and since he is dead there is no way he can help. I think his death is quite sad, because after surviving many hopeless situations and working his way up in life, he finally gives up because the missionaries leave him no choice.