Daddy Issues

Although the sections are short, one of the recurring themes I saw in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart is the performance of masculinity. In fact, a large part of the protagonist is centered around his dedication to behaving as masculine as possible. Okonkwo is very physically strong and behaves aggressively; “whenever he was angry and could not get his words out quickly enough, he would use his fists” (1). It is clear through his actions and attitudes that he equates masculinity with worthiness or virtue and this is coupled with a virulent distaste for femininity, in both women and men, especially his father. In fact, “[Okonkwo] had no patience with his father” (1) and attempts to be the antithesis of him, where his father was thin, he is huge, where his father was a coward who can’t stand the sight of blood, he is a man of war who welcomes it. In essence, his “whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and of weakness… it was the fear of himself, lest he should be found to resemble his father” (4). In the beginning, these actions and attitudes have brought him wealth, fame, family, and respect but we see later in the reading that he faces some consequences and is exiled for seven years. What is your impression of the message that Achebe is trying to convey? Are Okonkwo’s displays of toxic masculinity something to condemn or is there another problem with his character? How do you view his feeling about his father and how he allows them to drive his life?

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