The Life and Death of Okonkwo and Ivan Ilych.

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Leo Tolstoy and Chinua Achebe both write about characters that go through their lives doing everything they are supposed to do according to their respective societies. But in the end, they both realize that all they have done was not enough. While each of the protagonists' lives turn to grief, one fate was tragic while the other was pathetic. As they continued on their paths to "succeed", neither was able to predict the dangers that lay ahead for them until it was too late.

From Achebe's Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo was a well-respected member of his tribe. His father, Unoka, was not the "ideal" citizen of their clan. In fact, Okonkwo was ashamed of him from his childhood. He learned from Unoka what not to do in his life. From his early days, Okonkwo's embarrassment of his father's laziness led him to become a hard worker, on the farm and in the battlefield.

He earns a high status in his tribe with his wealth and strength, and is able to maintain his three wives and children. Throughout the novel, the reader gains more and more respect for this character that lives his life with the American vision in mind, work hard and you will succeed. As a law-abider to the utmost extent, Okonkwo will do anything to appear the perfect citizen in his society. When informed from Ogbuefi, a well-respected village elder, that the child he won in a settlement, Ikemefuna, was to be killed, Okonkwo does not really even think about defying the words of the Oracle. During the "execution", while several tribe members with machetes attacked Ikemefuna, he runs toward Okonkwo for protection. Knowing he cannot save the boy, he kills him with his own weapon. Although he did not try to defy the sacred commands...