Essay title: Things Fall Apart
Okonkwo’s moral ambiguity is not simply inherent in his character, but is developed by the situation he was presented with in life.Okonkwo’s father Unoka, exhibited qualities during his lifetime that were not respected by his fellow clan members.During the beginning of the book the reader can relate to how Okonkwo would want to be respected and can be happy for his success.It is the simple tendency of the reader to be happy when the protagonist succeeds; therefore when Okonkwo defeats Amalinze the cat in wrestling the reader is satisfied with the outcome.
Okonkwo’s moral ambiguity is defined when it is made clear that Okonkwo simply discards his father, whose death was described as being very painful.Although Okonkwo’s father was unsuccessful in life, the reader still pities him when he dies because he was a compassionate person.Even though Okonkwo appeals to the reader’s own want to be successful, and is viewed positively for that reason, he is developed as a morally ambiguous character because of the lack of compassion he showed toward his father.
Later in the book, as Okonkwo becomes more successful in his village by attaining wives and a large number of yams, the reader learns of his tendency towards violence and stubbornness.One of the first examples of Okonkwo’s violence was during the village’s sacred week of peace, when he severely beat his wife for arriving home late.Although a man beating his wife was common practice in Okonkwo’s village, it was extremely forbidden for a man to beat his wife during this sacred week.Even though Okonkwo’s neighbors were extremely upset with his actions, Okonkwo remained indignant.The book described his attitude saying, "But he was not the man to go about telling his neighbors that he was in error. And so people said he had no respect for the gods of the clan.
His enemies said that his good fortune had gone to his head."As if Okonkwo’s blatant sexism was not apparent, Okonkwo goes on to say to himself, "No matter how prosperous a man was, if he was unable to rule his women and his children he was not really a man."Despite the fact that Okonkwo beat his wife Ekwefi, it is clear that he still loves her.Later in the book Ekwefi’s only daughter Ezinma is taken by the town priestess, Okonkwo then takes it upon himself to follow his wife and daughter to make sure they are safe.Okonkwo also expresses his love for his daughters Ezinma throughout the book in his own way saying, “I wish she were a son.” Although at a surface level Okonkwo seems to have a disregard for his family, Okonkwo is battling between his emotions, and his want to be unlike his father.
Okonkwo’s moral standing once again comes into question through his relationship with his adopted son Ikemefuna.Ikemefuna was a teenage boy that Okonkwo took temporary possession of after a settlement with a neighboring clan.Okonkwo and his family created a close bond with the boy, which is significant because Okonkwo rarely ever has an attachment to people.One day it is determined that one of the local gods wants the foreign boy killed.Despite urgings from his neighbor, Okonkwo went with the men to kill Ikemefuna to avoid appearing unmanly.When the village men began to attack the unsuspecting boy he ran towards Okonkwo for help, Okonkwo instead cuts down the boy, once again to avoid appearing weak.Although Okonkwo appears stoic at first, he falls into a deep depression when he returns home saying to himself, "'When did you become a shivering old woman, you, who are.