Compare and Contrast The Relationships Between Okonkwo and his children to My father and me (Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe)

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In Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo plays the role of father to his son, Nwoye, and his daughter, Ezinma. Okonkwo's fear of looking weak like his father, which can be interpreted as his tragic flaw, causes him to expect more from both of his children and to act rashly, similar to the behavior of my father. Although both relationships—the relationship between Okonkwo and his son and the relationship between my father and I—involve disagreements between father and son, I constantly aim to see eye to eye with my father, just like Okonkwo and Ezinma, whereas Nwoye does not attempt to fulfill his father’s wishes.

The relationship between Okonkwo and Nwoye is one of disagreement, contretemps, and failure; Okonkwo’s inflexible expectations are not reached which triggers tension. This conflict commences at the start of the novel but at this point it seems minor: Okonkwo is merely concerned that his son shows some characteristics of his lazy father, Unoka.

He is trying to prevent this by all means but it starts to become somewhat undeniable. Okonkwo’s features being strong, hard-working, and somewhat misogynic conflicts with the impudent, weak, eccentric, and indolent characteristics of Nwoye. Though as the story proceeds, it seems likely that the relationship will be repaired: Ikemefuna’s involvement in Nwoye’s growth puts Nwoye on the path sought by Okonkwo. Unfortunately, this period of healing is disturbed by Okonkwo taking part in Ikemefuna’s death which results in the fear of Okonkwo by Nwoye and the lack of trust between the two. This instability continues throughout the majority, if not the entirety, of the book.

Ezinma, the only child of Okonkwo’s second wife, Ekwefi, has a relationship with Okonkwo that shows understanding and agreement, unlike Nwoye’s relationship. Surprisingly enough, this relationship is rather implicit since Okonkwo doesn’t speak to Ezinma a great deal of times, especially when compared to Nwoye. This may be due to the fact that she is a girl and she is generally not involved with masculine tasks that would bring her closer to Okonkwo. Still, Okonkwo believes that “she should have been a boy” (61) and she continually attempts to carry out masculine duties such as bringing Okonkwo’s chair to the wrestling match, which is said to be “a boy’s job” (45). This form of complement establishes amplification of the bond that is made between Okonkwo and Ezinma.

My father and I have a relationship that consists of clashing points of view, similar to the link between Okonkwo and Nwoye. We have frequent arguments, abundance of miscommunication, and we fail to see eye-to-eye. Both my father and Okonkwo seem to possess this stubborn feature which, in turn, results in senseless disputes. In fact, in chapter 5, Okonkwo initiates an argument about a dead banana tree which actually is alive; he ends up giving Ekwefi a beating because she “merely cut off a few leaves to wrap some food” (39). Another aspect they both share is their large amount of accomplishments; my dad being a successful translator who has traveled the world and Okonkwo being a famous wrestler and a leader of the Umofia clan has lead to higher expectations in their children, specifically Nwoye and I. This causes us distress while trying to reach that expectation and results in disappointment from our fathers when we don’t attain it. This kind of pressure is not asserted on Ezinma because she does not have to meet any expectations, besides doing feminine tasks like cooking, cleaning, etc. Though, Ezinma and I do share the aspect of attempting to see eye-to-eye with our fathers, generally unlike Nwoye; Nwoye seems to make an attempt when he starts grumbling about women, building the walls of the obi, and doing other masculine actions but in reality, he just trying to fit in with the patriarchal clan. Therefore, Ezinma is similar to me when it comes to intention, but different to Nwoye and me when it comes to the circumstances.

In conclusion, the novel emphasizes the importance of parental influence on the child, whether positive or negative. The analysis of Nwoye and Ezinma has taught me to generally stay on the path made for me by my ancestors and my parents in order to avoid conflict and I believe that I could teach them that although that path may be tough, the end result will be satisfying to both them and their parents.

Works CitedAchebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. New York: Fawcett, 1985.