I believe that Okonkwo spent his life believing that his chi, or guardian spirit, was not with him. Probably because he felt so much shame by his lazy father, so he believed he was cursed. Okonkwo spent his entire life trying to overcome the shame of his father, and attempting not to follow in his footsteps, that he ultimately forgot who he was. In some sense, he was not even as equal of a man as his father was. I say this because his father, while being lazy and in many ways worthless, did not deny who he was. Okonkwo did deny who he was. He constantly was not himself because of his fear of what other people would think. His anger was always all-consuming, and this blinded him to so many precious things in life. Even though we know how much he loved Ikemefuna, Ezinma, and Ekwefi from the text, he physically and emotionally abandoned his loved ones to uphold his image in front of others. I believe if he would have stood up for Ikemefuna’s life, cherished Ezinma, and respected and valued his wives opinions, he would not have felt abandoned and the need to take his own life.
I know my own Christian beliefs do not belong in juxtaposition with “Things Fall Apart”, but one verse lands close to describing how I think Okonkwo felt. Matthew 10:33 “But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in Heaven.” Okonkwo felt he had so much retribution to his clansmen to prove he was a “real man” that he denied any emotion before them, and was in turn denied much happiness and insight in his life. He possessed the respect to save Ikemefuna; his wives respected him without needing it beat into them. His anger even eventually led to his Gods becoming unhappy with him when he broke the week of peace, and then to exile from his village. All the events in his life were not due to the absence of his chi, they were self-inflicted. A man that allows his foolhardy pride to restrain him is no better than a man who is lazy. Okonkwo’s story is a tragedy, but only because he allowed it to be.
Achebe, Chinua. “Things Fall Apart.” The Longman Anthology of World Literature Volume F The Twentieth Century. Eds. David Damrosch and David L. Pike. New York: Pearson Longman 2009. 765-849.