Tuesday, February 1, 2011
In our class discussion I was struck by the theme of fear, especially in Okonkwo’s character. This theme is represented in two ways; Okonkwo’s fear of love and the fear of losing his reputation. If you look carefully at the two it is clear that often times they worked against each other, meaning Okonkwo’s fear of love is easily dominated by his need for others to fear and respect him. A perfect example of this is the scene where Ikemefuma is murdered. Achebe describes Okonkwo’s feelings in one simple sentence, “He was afraid of being weak.”(61) The fact that Achebe does not show Okonkwo’s thought process about the murder, but rather just explains it simply is very important. By now we are halfway through the book and Achebe has made us feel as though we know Okonkwo. By stating so simply that he was afraid, it now seems that Okonkwo’s fear of weakness is so strong that he has fully blocked out any remains of love. Yet as we read on there are many instances where this subtle love resurfaces. We see his guilt about killing Ikemefuma surface in the next chapter when Achebe writes, “He tried not to think about Ikemefuma, but the more he tried the more he thought about him” (63). He has a complete loss of appetite, drinks all day long and does not sleep; it is as if he is punishing himself. This overwhelming sense of guilt seems to be a stepping stone to working his way through the barrier he has created between him and his loved ones. As the book progresses we see this guilt turn into concern when Okonkwo is looking for Ekwefi, “It was only his fourth trip that he had found Ekwefi, and by then he had become gravely worried” (112) His fear for once has moved from himself to his wife, whom he has never really shown kindness too. It seems that no matter much Okonkwo tries to avoid emotional connections to the people around him; his true being cannot fully reject them. This leads me to wonder if Achebe is trying to send his readers a message. Perhaps love leads to success in the heart and mind where as rejecting it leads to self punishment and guilt.