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Failing to
be a Man

Countless men try to define who
they are by proving their masculinity, which leads to unhealthy
competitiveness, and aggressiveness. In Chinua Achebe’s, Things fall apart Okonkwo’s view on masculinity forces his son into
a world of exile, left to pick apart what makes a real man because of this
Okonkwo drives his deepest fear on to his son.

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Much of the traditional way of life
presented in the text revolves heavily around the idea of gender roles
throughout the community. Okonkwo is highly concerned with upholding his idea
of masculinity and the way he is viewed in the community. In many ways
Okonkwo’s masculinity in compromised; he devalues every and anything he sees as
feminine which started with his father, Unoka. He works tirelessly to be the
complete polar opposite of his father. Unoka’s carefree view of life caused
strain on the relationship with his son, leading to Okonkwo growing up
resenting his father in every way. Okonkwo worked hard to become a self-made
man with high rank in his community, in spite of the fact that ostensibly stern
and intense, a majority of his life is managed by a deep-rooted internal fear.

“He was not afraid of war. He was a man of action, a man of war” (Achebe 4)
Okonkwo, unlike his father, was not afraid of working hard to ensure his
success. His most prominent, overpowering stress is that he will end up
noticeably like his father – languid, unfit to provide for his family, and
weak.  Okonkwo viewed many of his
father’s qualities as feminine and will go to exhausting measures to ensure he
does not resemble his father in any way, pushing his own son further and
further away.

Nwoye, Okonkwo’s son, endures the
majority of his father’s tough love, Okonkwo “will not have a son who cannot
hold up his head in the gathering of the clan, he would sooner strangle him
with his own hands” (Achebe 14). The steady beating of Nwoye by Okonkwo is done
deliberately by him with a specific end goal to forestall Nwoye from becoming
plainly similar to Unoka. Okonkwo stresses over his child following in the
strides of his granddad that he even alludes to him being born the wrong gender
as compared to one of his daughters that she should have been his son and Nwoye
his daughter. Okonkwo sees his child as an image of apathy simply like Unoka,
thus he does his best to keep this from happening. The way that Nwoye has
female like attributes incenses his Okonkwo. Nwoye battles in the shadow of his
intense, fruitful, and requesting father that accordingly he is subjected to
beatings. It is unexpected how Okonkwo mocks his dad so much that he himself
has raised up a child who has interests that take after Unoka. In spite of
Okonkwo drive to beat the femininity away from his son he interns beats his son
away. Nwoye sought the approval of his father, but each of his attempts was to
no avail; just as Okonkwo feared to be like his father, Nwoye now exhibits the
same fear of being anything like his father. Okonkwo leaves Nwoye in an unfortunate
predicament, left to pick apart the qualities of what makes a real man.

Nwoye’s fear of his father makes
his decision to leave his family easy when the opportunity presented its self.

The white ministers’ songs of their god and the way things should really be
touches Nwoye profoundly. This current evangelists’ message appears to talk
about another approach to experience life one which Nwoye never thought about.

Nwoye wisely leaves, moving to Umuofia and joining the white missionary’s
school where he would learn to read and write. Okonkwo is irritated and
extraordinarily beset by Nwoye’s double-crossing. He tries to quiet himself by
revealing to himself that Nwoye does not merit battling for. Part of the reason
Okonkwo is so furious about Nwoye’s new religion is that he considers
Christianity frail and delicate.

Okonkwo sees his dad in Nwoye and
can hardly imagine how he could father a child who’s so much like him. After
Nwoye’s transformation to Christianity, Okonkwo accumulates whatever is left of
his five children together and issues a final proposal: “You have all seen the
great abomination of your brother. Now he is no longer my son or your brother.

I will only have a son who is a man, who will hold his head up among my people.

If anyone of you prefers to be a woman, let him follow Nwoye now while I am
alive so that I can curse him” (Achebe 70).

incessantly forces young boys and men into a box, built upon how a man should
and should not be. In things fall apart it shows how messed up one can become
when limited to the ideals of that box of what true masculinity is supposed to
look like. Okonkwo disowns and neglects his own son in the worst way, depriving
him of love and encouragement that was needed to build him up, all to be sure
never to re-live the sins of his father. This same situation is present in
countless homes around the world. The continues pressure of the male species to
prove his masculinity causes unneeded dysfunction within families and society.

“boys and men are held accountable to display gender in situationally specific
ways” (Young 5), shown by Okonkwo time and time again throughout the text.

Okonkwo sliced through the innocents of Inkunmfa, drove fear into his son and
broke peace between his wife all to prove his masculinity to those around him
and his-self regardless of consequences or moral deposition, believing that
“violence is a resource for demonstrating and showing a person is a man”
(Anderson 359). “Okonkwo ruled his household with a heavy hand. His wives,
especially the youngest, lived in perpetual fear of his fiery temper” (Achebe
5). Nwoye being deprived of a relationship with Okonkwo, do to his father
misconception sets Nwoye up for failure. The lack of feeling for the surfing
and shame Okonkwo conflicted on Nwoye with his words and judgment for his own
selfish reasons only strained the relationship more (Goldenberg).

The Hostility inflict on Nwoye
would cause him to battle with understanding who he is and what purpose he
serves. Okonkwo tries to disregard the unresolved and open wounds inflicted by
Unoka but the hurt still lingers resurfacing in many of Okonkwo’s flaws as an
adult, he is creating the same fear he has of his father for his son. The lack
of wisdom, love, and compassion passed between a father and son leaves maturing
young men “not knowing what to do with their problematic and disoriented
masculinity” (Pittman). studies show that the presence of a father figure
promotes a better emotional and social development as well as overall wellbeing
“men who reported a good relationship with their fathers during childhood were
less affected by stressful events than those who had poor father-son
relationships” (Monitor on Psychology). Nwoye’s emotional development was one
of the first things to be compromised by the lack of positive involvement
between Okonkwo. fathers who are involved in the care of their sons positions
them to be more likely to be securely attached to them, be better able to
handle strange situations, and be more resilient in the face of stressful
situations. More curious and eager to explore the environment, relate more
maturely to strangers, react more competently to complex and novel stimuli, and
be more trusting in branching out in their explorations (Allen 3). Following
the lack of emotional development Nwoye’s social and judgment skills were also
distorted. Father contribution is emphatically associated with a child’s
general social ability, social activity, social development, and limit with
regards to relatedness with others. Children of included fathers will probably
have positive companion relations, beneficiary associate relations are
encapsulated by less antagonism, less animosity, less clash, greater
correspondence, greater liberality, and then some positive fellowships.

Children of included fathers will indicate less negative passionate responses
amid play with peers, encounter less strain in their connections with other
children, and comprehend clashes without anyone else’s input as opposed to
looking for help. Children who have included fathers will probably grow up to
be tolerant furthermore, understanding, A Fathers warmth and nurturance
essentially predicts children’s ethical development. (Allen 4-5) Nwoye turned
to the white missionaries for social acceptance when he was rejected by
Okonkwo. Okonkwo not only committed an injustice toward Nwoye but as well as
toward himself seeing that there are benefits of father involvement for
fathers. Men who are included fathers feel more fearless and viable as
guardians, find parenthood all the more fulfilling, feel all the more
characteristically vital to their kid and feel urged to be much more included.

Investing energy dealing with youngsters furnishes fathers with opportunities
to show love and to support their Included fathers will probably observe their
collaborations with their kids emphatically be more mindful to their children’s
advancement better comprehend, and be more tolerating of their kids (Allen 11).

Fathers who are engaged with their children’s lives will probably show more prominent
psychosocial development, be more fulfilled with their lives, feel less mental
trouble also, empathically toward others, and incorporate their sentiments in a
progressing way. Included fathers report less incidental and unexpected losses,
not exactly normal contact with the law, less substance manhandles, less
healing facility confirmations, and a more noteworthy feeling of prosperity.

(Allen 12)

Nwoye challenges to understand what
it means to be a man and where he fits in society. Longing for attention and
happiness, Nwoye sought shelter from everything his father did not like, from
the stories he enjoyed hearing, to the joining of the white missionaries.

Okonkwo became the very thing that he feared, his father, forcing a continuous
cycle of father-son destruction. Okonkwo placed Nwoye in a devastating
predicament, unaware of the horrid consequences. Nwoye being practically
stranded in a world that lacked the vital necessities he need for emotional and
social development could result in him becoming who he now fears, Okonkwo,
Nwoye’s   unresolved hurt and pain
brought on by Okonkwo leads to bottled up tension and anger that he could, like
Okonkwo take out on the innocent like his own wife’s, children, and society. A
positive father figure in the lives of young men is essential to raising a well
round individual. Love, compassion, and the willingness to be open-minded and
excepting are a few very important key characteristics of a positive father. If
Okonkwo would have demonstrated any of these traits while raising Nwoye the
relationship between the two could have had an alternate ending regardless of
the relationship between Okonkwo and Unoka. Okonkwo’s neglect toward Nwoye
promotes the “evolving moral and spiritual sympathies of Nwoye moving him away from
such worldly sights to identification with the unprotected and
“unprotectable” of his culture, those immiserated by the
contradictory codes and practices of his society” (Jeyifo 851). If Nwoye felt
comfortable enough with his father to express his feelings he would have been
more willing to understand the man Okonkwo made himself into shedding a
positive light on what really makes a man; working hard to have what he was not
born titled to, creating a better life for his family regardless of his situation,
and molding ideals that he can pass down for generations to come; ending the
negative father-son sequence with Nwoye and Okonkwo.



Achebe, Chinua. Things fall apart.

Penguin Books, 2017.


Allen, Sarah, and Kerry Daly. “The
Effects of Father Involvement – FIRA.”, May 2007,


Anderson, Kristin L., and Debra
Umberson. “Gendering Violence: Masculinity and Power in Men’s Accounts of
Domestic Violence.” Gender and Society, vol. 15, no. 3, 2001, pp.

358–380. JSTOR, JSTOR,


Goldenberg, Ph.D. Deryl. “The
Psychology Behind Strained Father Son Relationships.” PsychAlive, 22
Mar. 2016,


Jeyifo, Biodun. “Okonkwo and His
Mother: Things Fall Apart and Issues of Gender in the Constitution of African
Postcolonial Discourse.” Callaloo, vol. 16, no. 4, 1993, pp. 847–858. JSTOR,



Monitor on Psychology,
American Psychological Association,



Pittman, Frank. “Fathers and Sons.” Psychology
Today, Sussex Publishers, 1 Sept. 1993,


Young, Josephine Peyton. “Displaying
Practices of Masculinity: Critical Literacy and Social Contexts.” Journal of
Adolescent & Adult Literacy, vol. 45, no. 1, 2001, pp. 4–14.,


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