MHS AP Lit. 2012-2013 discussion

Things Fall Apart (The African Trilogy, #1)
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Ryan Gallagher (ryangallagher) | 24 comments Mod
Things Fall Apart Part 1 (post # 1)

message 2: by Ashly (new)

Ashly | 8 comments As I sat on the porch of Aopoyo resort in Laguna de Apoyo Nicaragua I was completely immersed in Chinua Achebe’s enchanted story of tragedy. Achebe provides detailed descriptions of Igbo traditions, customs, and beliefs. He takes an opportunity to tell of past incidents which only indirectly connects to his central story. These digressions allow him to bring out his portrait of tribal life, as African tribal cultures were long dismissed by white scholars as barbaric and evil. I had completely forgotten where I was, disregarding the soft breeze and tropical sun I began to turn the pages.
Achebe introduces Okonkwo, a great man among the Igbo tribe, well known in the nine villages and beyond. Through Okonkwo Achebe brings forth the ideas of ambition and greatness. Okonkwo is indeed ambitious and unlike his father he is on a journey to achieve greatness. Okonkwo has already two titles and is blessed with riches. Success and honor is very important to Okonkwo, he has worked his whole life to win the respect of his people. He rises from humble beginnings to a position of leadership but his greatness comes from the same traits that are the source of his weaknesses .Although Okonkwo is full of determination; his work ethics and his ambition also give rise to his faults. He is a harsh man, quick to anger and without humility. Okonkwo undoubtedly fears failure, and it is Okonkwo's fear of failure that makes him a harsh man. He is strong, but he fails to see that not everyone is as strong as he is.
As I continued to read, I couldn’t help but began to feel animosity towards Okonkwo. Like most who strive to reach the “top” (if that even exist) Okonkwo lacks the understanding to see the way his obsessions affect others around him. It is understandable that Okonkwo holds on to his pride and masculinity but, a great leader has the power to balance these traits. Male power lies in authority and brute force, but For Oknokwo any kind of compassion is a sign of weakness and effeminacy. Okonkwo's fear of effeminacy and weakness drives him to actions and emotions that do not always come naturally to him. This idea is represented after the sacrifice of Ikemefuna. Okonkwo is disturbed by the death of Ikemefuna, but he is even more disturbed that he feels they way. Unfortunately any emotion approaching tenderness or softness had to be suppressed. Achebe sets up Okonkwo as a man much respected for his considerable achievements and noble virtues but, yet he manages to refrain himself from seeming the least bit humane. Okonkwo is indeed a tragic hero. Okonkwo's flaw is his obsession with manliness; his fear of looking weak like his father drives him to commit irrational acts of violence that undermine his nobleness.

message 3: by Amalia (new)

Amalia Quesada | 8 comments Throughout reading Things Fall Apart, my attention could not help but gravitate towards Okonkwo's character. Okonkwo is presented as a very masculine man, preaching his values of bravery, violence, and manliness. These values prove to get him far in his journey for success. He is blessed with honor and riches. However, his fiery ambition unravels his weaknesses as well as his strengths.
Okonkwo fears failure, and he comes to terms with his fear by lacking a sense of humility and gentility, mostly among his people. His drive for power makes him oblivious to the effect his harshness has on his people. As I was reading, I also got the sense that since Okonkwo’s father, Unoka, consciously held ideals like conversation and emotion, Okonkwo perceived these values as “soft.” Okonkwo lacks the ability to show emotion, in a sense be human, in order to maintain his title as a “strong” leader.
There is no doubt that Okonkwo was destined to be a leader. However, being an effective and inspiring leader, and being strong, does not mean that showing emotion is a sign of weakness. Okonkwo lacks empathy, which is a key trait that a leader must possess in order to maintain the faith of his followers. When I was in South Africa this summer, I learned about leadership, and the many different types of it that exist within its name. One of the most prominent ones I learned about was servant leadership, which states that “the great leader is seen as a servant first.” A servant leader differs from someone who is a leader first because the servant leader’s intentions are solely to serve its people, while the person that is a leader first has a power drive or desire to aquire something.
I struggled to tell if Okonkwo was classified as a servant leader. A true servant leader needs to be empathetic in order to sacrifice his own interests for the good of other people; and Okonkwo lacks this ability, as his drive for power and strength corrupt him. However, on the other hand, part of being an empathetic leader means that there may be a time when the leader must put up a front, in dark times or not, in order to give his followers a sense of peace and tranquility. Okonkwo does this by not showing his emotions, and given the time period and culture the novel is set in, in which masculinity is admired as nobility, he does indeed make the sacrifice a servant leader would. However, going back to intentions, I feel that his choice to not show emotions is his own internal choice and conflict, rather than an act of sacrifice for his people. Okonkwo is indeed a tragic hero, as his strengths end up being his biggest downfall. His internal conflicts hold him back from reaching his true and full potential as an impactful leader.

message 4: by Iris (new)

Iris (iris_feng) | 6 comments Same to Amalia and Ashly, my attention draws to Okonkwo, whom Achebe dedicates the first few chapters to the reveal of his nature. He is driven by his hatred of his father, Unoka, and his fear of becoming like him. To avoid picking up Unoka’s traits, Okonkwo acts violently without thinking, often provoking avoidable fights. He has a bad temper and rules his household with fear. According to Okonkwo, his father embodies weakness, and weakness represents femininity. Because his behavior is so markedly different from his father’s, he believes that it constitutes masculinity. However, it destroys his relationship with Nwoye and leads him to sin in Chapter 4 by breaking the Week of Peace. His rash behavior also causes tension within the community because he expresses disdain for less successful men. In contrast to Okonkwo’s pride and violent nature, Ikemefuna proves that masculinity should not sacrifice kindness, gentleness, and affection, and Nwoye responds far more positively to Ikemefuna’s nurturing influence than to Okonkwo’s heavy-handedness.
Similar to you Amalia, I was also in Nicaragua this summer learning about leadership. My role as a volunteer in the third world country was a facilitator. Although this is different from the tribal rule, however, I firmly agree with you that “the great leader is seen as a servant first”. Only when one puts down his/her pride, could one really genuinely help and influence others genuinely. Okonkwo does not deserve the title of a leader.
Although traditional Igbo culture is fairly democratic in nature, it is also profoundly patriarchal. Wife-beating is an accepted practice. Moreover, femininity is associated with weakness while masculinity is associated with strength. Not surprisingly that a titleless man also means “woman.” A man is not believed to be “manly” if he cannot control his women. With this belief in mind, Okonkwo frequently beats his wives, and the only emotion he allows himself to display is anger. Okonkwo’s frustration at this idleness causes him to act violently, breaking the spirit of the celebration during feasts. He continuously tries to prove his masculinity and power but sacrifice people’s respect as a consequence.
What I really enjoy is learning about Igbo culture throught Achebe’s writing. He highlights the complexity and originality of the Igbo language. However Achebe also points out another aspect of Igbo culture that colonialist Europe tended to ignore: the existence of subcultures within a given African population. Often, I will refer to my black friends as African unconsciously even though some may not have originated from Africa. After spending six weeks in Nicaragua, I became more culturally sensitive especially to the differences among cultures. Each clan has its own stories, and Ikemefuna acts as a catalyst for cultural awareness as he brings with him new and unfamiliar folk tales. With the introduction of Ikemefuna, Achebe is able to remind us that the story we are reading is not about Africa but rather about one specific culture within Africa. He thus combats the European tendency to see all Africans as one and the same.

message 5: by Shelee (new)

Shelee Victoria | 1 comments I received a love spell from and within 3 days he casterd the spell, the spell started working straight away. before i could know what is happening my lover who broke my heart came to my house to ask me out for a lunch" we back together now and we are living happily – Shelee Victoria, Australia

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