Another theme of interest found within Chinua Achebe’s, Things Fall Apart, is that of the varying definitions and interpretations behind masculinity and what truly makes someone “a man”. There are a variety of ways in which one could interpret one as being “manly” or “a man” such as some people, consider someone a man as long as they have the body parts/physique to prove it. Others may consider this to a be a more in depth analysis and say that a true man is the one who is the provider, the overseer, and the protector of a given area or household. However, you could also say that a real man is someone who expresses great courage and strength, and who appears to be tough at all times, and the one in charge of everything. This last definition of masculinity is the most similar to that of Okonkwo’s found within Things Fall Apart, and his idea that in order to be a man, one must express a tough edge and aggression in order to ensure that he is strong and envelops a sense of power and prestige that is not to be reckoned with. This idea of masculinity possessed by Okonkwo reflects his relationship with his late father, whom he viewed as weak, and the poor relationship in which he had with him during his lifetime. Because Okonkwo did not want to come across as the weak person in which he viewed his own father to be, he felt that the only way to assert that he was strong and a “man” was to be aggressive in his thoughts and actions, and that the only emotion in which he could display to further enforce this concept was that of anger and resentment. In my opinion, just because you are angry all the time and act in a violent manner does not mean that you are anymore manly than the next guy. A man, to me, is someone who is a strong protector and always tries to do the right thing that he knows is best for those who surround him. I understand that Okonkwo did not want to be seen as weak like his father; however, resorting to anger such as he did is sort of a rash display of action, and I feel like this decision of behavior made by Okonkwo ultimately affected his character and was in a way, the bane of his existence, considering that his anger caused him to murder, be exiled for seven years, and ultimately depart as a result of his enragement so that he could be seen a s more of a “man”.
“No matter how prosperous a man was, if he was unable to rule his women and his children (and especially his women) he was not really a man.” March 23, 2011