White Men

“Things Fall Apart” is a novel written by Chinua Achebe. It follows the life of Okonkwo, an Ibo man who is famous throughout the nine villages of Umuofia for being a wrestler and a clan leader. Okonkwo is the son of the lazy and gentle Unoka, a man he resents for his weaknesses. He rejects everything that his father loves because he does not want to be like his father that dies without titles which is an abomination to their clan. Ironically, in all his efforts not to end up like his father, he commits suicide which is an abomination in his culture and rebukes by his tribe. Although Okonkwo lives his life as a hardworking man and a fearless warrior, he dies in a disgraceful manner like his father. He is the greatest warrior alive, but things change and he commits suicide by the end of the novel. Okonkwo commits suicide because he is a proud man. Okonkwo knows that his clan will not fight with the white men, and so he hangs himself on a tree. Okonkwo kills himself because he is unable to adopt the new society.

The first reason why Okonkwo commits suicide is that he is a proud man. He knows that by ending his own life, he controls his own fate instead of letting the white men control him. By this, he prefers to take action into his own hands. Okonkwo would rather die than be humiliated by his enemies and by committing suicide, he prevents the British colonizers from getting revenge. He proudly declares his courage to fight whoever he wants, even if it means fighting a losing battle, “Afraid? I do not care what he does to you. I despise him and those who listen to him. I shall fight alone if I choose” (Achebe 201). He does not want anyone to take his life and be handed over to the white men, so he chooses the most dishonorable death which is committing suicide. Okonkwo’s arrogant pride makes him believe that he would still be the greatest man in the clan even if he is seven years away from their land, “Okonkwo saw clearly the high esteem in which he would be held, and saw himself taking the highest title in the land” (Achebe 172). He is confident that when he returns after his seven years of exile, he will still be the leader of his clan and he plans to rebuild his land into a much better and stronger clan, “He was determined that his return should be marked by his people. He would return with a flourish, and regain the seven years wasted” (Achebe 171). All of these plans on rebuilding his clan into a more magnificent scale did not happen, instead he takes matters into his own hands and hangs himself into a tree. Okonkwo is a proud man, so he rather kills himself than to accept the white men in his land.

Okonkwo knows that his clan will not fight with the white men and that is the second reason why he commits suicide. His clansmen did not do any action to fight for their own land, instead they allow themselves to accept Christianity. This motivates Okonkwo to hang himself on a tree. Okonkwo thinks that his clansmen are foolish and blind for letting the colonizers stay and work tricks, “How do you think we can fight when our brothers have turned against us? The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay” (Achebe 176). Hoping that his clansmen will follow his lead, Okonkwo kills a messenger of the British colonizers who is sent to break up village meeting regarding the possibility of going to war. However, the clan instead of following Okonkwo’s symbolic action, they are shock and interpret Okonkwo’s action as a form of brutality. He knows that the clan will not fight against the white men because the clan had broken into tumult instead of action, “He knew that Umuofia would not go to war. He knew because they had let the other messengers escape” (Achebe 205). He knows that he must face his disgrace alone since his clan members turn their backs on him. Okonkwo’s world falls apart. He knows that there is no cohesion among the Ibo people, “Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart” (Achebe 176). Okonkwo sees that Umuofia does not support him and he knows that they will not fight with the white men, this realization drives him to commit suicide.

The third reason why Okonkwo hangs himself is that he is unable to adopt the new society. The traditional way of life in Umuofia is changing due to the coming of the British missionary Christians. Okonkwo cannot handle the changes and challenges as Christian missionaries come into his land for the purpose of changing what they already believe in, removing their own way of life, and introducing them to a new religion. The white men are bringing their beliefs and customs to Umuofia and the surrounding tribe, “The white man had indeed brought a lunatic religion, but he had also built a trading store and for the first time palm-oil and kernel became things of great price, and much money flowed into Umuofia” (Achebe 178). When the white men bring Christianity to the Ibo society, Okonkwo opposes the new ways. He feels that the new ways are destroying the Ibo culture, changes that require accommodation and compromise, “The clan had undergone such profound change during his exile that it was barely recognizable. The new religion and the government and the trading stores were very much in the people’s eyes and mind” (Achebe 182). Okonkwo struggles to accept the changes because he is devoted to his old ways. At the beginning of the novel he is known as one of the most honorable and one of the strongest man in their clan, but as the white men arrive in their land then his other clansmen begin to change. Even Okonkwo’s son accepts Christianity but Okonkwo cannot handle the change. He is not happy to see the changes happening on his land and he sees his other clansmen as weak like his father, “Okonkwo was deeply grieved. And it was not just a personal grief. He mourned for the clan, which he saw breaking up and falling apart, and he mourns for the warlike men of Umuofia, who had so unaccountably become soft like women” (Achebe 183). Okonkwo kills himself because the Christian missionaries come into their land to make changes on his life and the life of his people who already establish their own way of living and he does not want to adopt the new society.

In conclusion, Okonkwo lives his life as a fearless and a hardworking man but he still dies in a disgraceful manner like his father. He is considered the greatest warrior alive, but things change and he commits suicide by the end of the novel. Okonkwo commits suicide because he is a proud man. He knows that his clan will not fight against the white men which motivates him to hang himself on a tree. Okonkwo kills himself because he is unable to adopt the new society. He chooses to end his life rather than accept new ways of living. After all that happens, Okonkwo’s pride leads him to his death, because he is afraid of being thought weak and so he ends his life. He accepts the fact that no one supports his plans for the tribe as his clansmen let the Christian white men in their land. His traditional world changes and falls apart, and Okonkwo does not want to live in a new world. It is true that the Ibo culture makes him a hero, but the Ibo culture changes with the coming of the white men and so Okonkwo's world falls apart. He attaches himself too much to the old values and his inflexibility makes his life to fall apart. Okonkwo hangs himself because he cannot watch losing all the things that he values. His suicide is definitely his last rebellion for the preservation of his clan.