Things fall apart is one of the literary novels enriched with different types of characters portraying antagonistic and similar behaviors. The characters are Okonkwo, Uchedu, Unoka, Obierika, Ekwefi, Enoch, Ogbuefi Ezeudu, Chielo, Akunma, Nwakibie, Mr. Kiaga, Okagbue Uyanwa, Maduka, Nwoye, Ezinma, Ikemefuna, Mr. Brown, and Reverend James Smith (Achebe 13). The paper, however, will handle two of the characters, Okonkwo and Unoka. Moreover, the paper will look into the importance of the two characters in the Nigerian society where the book is set as well as in the novel, that is, the general roles the two characters play in the novel.
Okonkwo, according to the novel, is an influential and charismatic clan leader in Umuofia. He is associated with hardworking qualities. He never shows any weakness in whatever he does. He is not weak emotionally, either. His leadership in Umuofia clan is what has driven him to his real and entire life. Unoka, in the novel, is Okonkwo’s father. Okonkwo has been ashamed of him since childhood. He was a coward and a spendthrift. He always borrowed money from clansmen and rarely paid the debts. His cowardice is seen when he failed to become a warrior due to his fear of blood. He succumbed to an abominable disease. Nevertheless, he also had his positive side. He was a talented musician. The following are the similarities, differences, roles and the resemblance of these characters in relevance to the real society.
As brought to light by Chinua Achebe, the two characters died miserably without titles. Okonkwo hanged himself after the exile and his father, Unoka dies a poor man in the village with no respect from fellow clansmen. The cause of their deaths is somehow mysterious. Unoka dies of a disease unknown and abominable whereas Okonkwo hangs himself after his release from exile. …this man who had killed had killed a messenger and hanged himself...” (Bloom 7). The two dying with no titles, and mysterious circumstances, and illness portray the problems undergone by individuals in Umuofia society. It also reveals suffering at the family level. In addition, the incidences reveal what can be termed as revenge by the dead spirits as believed by the Umuofia village. From the novel, Okonkwo is really unhappy and disappointed by his father’s debt and shame. He does not want people to associate him with him. This definitely is bitter to his father who sees it as some form of disrespect by the child. When Unoka dies, he holds the grudge and the death of his son through hanging are potentially attributed to his spirits. This similarity thus shows the belief as well as the effects of disrespects to the parents and the elderly among the Umuofia people.
The two are faced with similar challenges of prejudices. Unoka was looked down upon by Okonkwo whereas Okonkwo was looked down upon by the Europeans who had invaded the land when he was in exile. This shows the effects of the Europeans in the African land in Nigeria. Achebe has also used this to illustrate a point in the Umuofia community concerning revenge by another party. Umuofia people believe that anyone who does something very wrong and unacceptable or undermine, or kill other people will be killed or kill themselves. Okonkwo undermines his father and he is paid back with similar treatment by the invading and opportunistic Europeans. Furthermore, it also shows how the Umuofia people believed so much in respect to the elderly and the effects it might cause in case one went against the belief. They strongly upheld their belief that the elders deserved maximum respect from their juniors.
The two characters have similar features. They lack sympathy and responsibility. Okonkwo participated in the killing of Ikemefuna, a boy who had come to look for protection and care from him after his father’s death. Through this act, he ran away from his responsibility. Unoka, on the other hand, fails to pay back his debt. When his neighbor comes into his house to request for the money he had borrowed several years ago, Unoka laugh in the neighbor’s presence. He reaches the peak of disrespect by showing the man the magnitude of his death by staggering and finally sends him away. However, this behavior rewards them with mysteriously and sudden death. This is the belief upheld by the Umuofia community. They believe that punishment pertaining to death is punished by death. Death seems to be the ultimate punishment for ser4ious mistakes and crimes.
Okonkwo was respected by his tribe, the Igbo. He was the leader of the clansmen among the Igbo. Unoka, however, was not respected by the people in his tribe. He hardly provided for the family requirements and needs. He also lost his respect by borrowing money from other people and not paying them back as agreed (Achebe 76). This resemblance outlines how the Umuofia and Igbo people valued leadership among themselves. It shows how people gained their respect. Shamefulness and debts would grant no one respect among the societal members. The differences also show the suffering undergone by the lower class people in the society. They are unable to provide for the crucial welfare of their families. They cannot provide food; they are simply not bred winners of their families. This is in contrast to the well of families, especially those of the political leaders in the society. Okonkwo, in the novel, as been used allegorically to represent people in the society who are mainly political leaders and do not face problems as the lower class individuals. The difference also shows disparity in the distribution of income. The two characters are closely related, however, they are quite unequal in terms of finance. This reveals how the leaders in Nigeria, as well as, other countries and societies around the globe misuse of oppress the common citizens by having all the resources under them leaving them struggle in abject poverty.
Unoka is brought out as a lazy character (Achebe 65). He does provide for his family. The author says, he was incapable of thinking about the following day. He always thought on how he would spend his next amount of money, which he would receive from his next performance with his music band at certain events. His son, Okonkwo, however portray a completely different and opposite character as his. Okonkwo is hardworking and ensures that his family members get food, including his lazy father. He gets money and knows how to use it in the right manner. His budget is quite different from his father’s. This difference is important in the novel as they tell the readers about the different types of parenthood in the Nigerian society during the Pre-colonial period. One type of parenthood is irresponsible one enhanced by Unoka. This type of parenthood is discouraged in the Nigerian society as it brings shame to the family. It also results into other problems like hunger and suffering among the family members. Moreover, irresponsible parenthood makes the family loose respect among other members of the society. Okonkwo was a very wealthy man. He had two large yam barns. He had brought honor and glory to his village, Igbo and was awarded with two titles. “Okonkwo was well known throughout the nine villages ... His fame rested on solid personal achievement” (Bloom 1). He was different from other village men who were not hardworking and still relied on their parents for survival. Okonkwo had learnt to survive and work hard due to the problems he faced from his father’s laziness. He knew what poverty and laziness would bring to his future family and never liked such a life in his own family. The teaching or lesson derived from this is that people learn from experience. Okonkwo had experienced the hard life in a house where a family head did not care. He did not want this to happen to him in his own family and thus worked harder to earn enough for his family as well as his mother and siblings whose needs had been abandoned by the irresponsible father. The awarding of Okonkwo shows that the society respected and rewarded hard work but despised laziness. Achebe thus reveals the aim of the rewards in the Umuofia community. It was meant to encourage hard work among the people in the community to ensure that resources and wealth were available to facilitate other development plans and projects within the ancient Umuofia society.
The above differences affect the development of these characters in several ways. First, the differences in responsibilities and hard work affect a lot, especially, Okonkwo who learns from his father the dangerous side of being lazy. From the lesson, he decides to become one of the hardworking men in the village. Achebe describes him as a very determined man. He wants to achieve his dream of moving out of poverty. He hates his father who looks like not seeing anything wrong with the kind of lifestyle they lived.
Okonkwo and Unoka are characters with several differences and similarities. These similarities and differences have relevance to the current Nigerian and the world society, at large. They teach crucial lessons about different thematic concerns such as politics and its evils like corruption.