Sample Essay


The novel describes the plight of a continent plagued by the errors of colonial rule, struggling to find its own identity and freedom in the 20th century and aiming to compete globally as well.

Achebe provides an overview of the situation through the eyes of one African-American individual Okonkwo, a member of the village of Umuofia, who follows a life of struggle and material concern while maintaining a culturally unique identity that defines him as a person in a well diversified world he lives in. Okonkwo’s aim in life is to acquire material success, and lead a life opposite to that of his father’s, had womanly attributes and preferred lazing about most of the day. Consequently his father became the village Agbala, a term deeming the lowest ranked members of Umuofia, a position that became the cause of embarrassment many times for Okonkwo, and eventually became his driving force to success as he strove to have everything his father did not. In the process, Achebe depicts Okonkwo’s journey to success and back down to that of the common man faced with the onslaught of Christianity (and the adherence of his people to this new religion) in contrast to that of Africa’s which was similarly kept from prospering because of the advent of colonial rule (Achebe, 1958).


Okonkwo represents the cultural disparity of the Igbo clan of people, who are shown to have distinct social institutions and way of life. Their culture is unmarked with the shortcomings of the western cultures which tend to judge people in accordance with their material possessions; Igbo people consider all their members equal. Okonkwo, in pursuit of manhood, is quick to gain worldly success while maintaining a rigorous attitude towards his children and wives which, according to him, was the right way for a man to act. His goal was to acquire the highest title of the land, and in doing so achieve what his father never could; masculinity.

Achebe put forth some more subtle arguments. Africa, while harboring skill and productivity never quite succeeded in harboring them fully. This was seen with the skirmishes that Okonkwo had with his son, who seemed to have the traits of a woman. Fate gave him the company of another young boy, Ikemefuna soon afterwards, and it seemed like Okonkwo finally had the son he wanted. However, the extent of Okonkwo’s adherence to his tribe’s traditions was displayed when it was decided that Ikemefuna had to be killed. Okonkwo fully participated in the same. Achebe attempts to signify the importance principles and values in African tradition here.

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