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Chinua Achebe's 1961 book is a narrative that follows the life of an Igbo tribe on the very cusp of the time when the wave of colonization washed over Africa.
Booker sees Okonkwo as a visual representation of the standards of success in Ibo life.
He is prosperous, he is one of the egwugwu, no one compared him to his shiftless father; he has everything he wants at first.
But Conrad does much worse; he describes Kurtz' mistress as "..savage and superb, wild-eyed and magnificent...
She stood looking at us without a stir and like the wilderness itself..." It's no wonder that Achebe picks out this passage in his essay.
Wright claims this is a phrase used in "this particular African society" to describe someone like a tragic hero, " who is most unlike his community but who, through his great strength and his ability to do more than it has ever asked of him, and set examples it does not require, belatedly becomes its representative"(Wright, 79). While he certainly fits the other qualifications of a "great man," Okonkwo only seems to be unlike the community at the end, once everyone has adapted and changed.
So how is Okonkwo related to the end of traditional Umofian society?But things start to change when Ikemefuma was killed.Up until that point, following the traditions of his society has only improved Okonkwo's situation.But just as the title predicts, Okonkwo's plans for a perfect life go astray.Change is inevitable, and even the best laid plans go astray.In that scene, he is following his own stubborn will, and not tradition.He kills Ikemefuma not because the system is flawed, but because he does not want to appear weak like his father.His depiction of the highly civilized cultures and traditions of the Igbo nation were a reply to Conrad's ignorant (but well meaning? (For more on this, like the Achebe essay and commentary on it, see the links section below.)Many critics see Things Fall Apart as a book with two narrators, one that adheres to tradition, and another with more modern views.In his essay, Wright plays off Neil Mc Ewan's idea of the two narrative voices: the traditional/communal which dominates the first 2/3 of the book, and the individual/ modern which takes over the last third He claims that Okonkwo's stubborn resistance and deep need to wipe out his father's memory " are out of harmony with a society which is renowned for its talent for social compromise and which judges a man according to his own worth , not that of his father." (Wright, 78) Okonkwo resists change so much that he can't even accept it in others.If the system was complete, then Okonkwo's stubborn, inflexible observation of the rules would not have led to his downfall.Wright also claims that Okonkwo's death was inevitable because through his inflexibility he was the clog in the wheel of progress.