In Part Two of the novel, Achebe continues to present certain elements of symbolism.
Symbols are objects, characters, figures, or colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.
Achebe depicts the locusts that descend upon the village to have the reader connect this event to the arrival of the white settlers, who will feast on and exploit the resources of the Igbo. The fact that the Igbo eat these locusts highlights how innocent they take them to be.
The language that Achebe uses to describe the locusts indicates their symbolic status. The repetition of words like “settled” and “everywhere” emphasizes the presence of these insects and hints at the way in which the arrival of the white settlers takes the Igbo off guard. For example, the locusts are so heavy they break the tree branches, which symbolizes the fracturing of Igbo traditions and culture under the onslaught of colonialism and white settlement. Perhaps the most explicit clue that the locusts symbolize the colonists is Obierika’s comment in Chapter Fifteen: “the Oracle . . . said that other white men were on their way. They were locusts. . . .”
Okonkwo is associated with burning, fire, and flame throughout the novel, symbolizing his intense and dangerous anger which is the only emotion that he allows himself to display in public. Yet the problem with fire, as Okonkwo acknowledges in Chapters Seventeen and Twenty-Four, is that it destroys everything it consumes…
Okonkwo is both physically destructive as he kills Ikemefuna and Ogbuefi Ezeudu’s son and emotionally destructive as he suppresses his fondness for Ikemefuna and Ezinma in favor of a colder, more masculine identity. Just as fire feeds on itself until all that is left is a pile of ash, Okonkwo eventually succumbs to his intense rage, allowing it to rule his actions until it destroys him.
Keep these symbols in mind as you read through the rest of the novel.
Tragedy may be defined as dramatic narrative in which serious and important actions turn out disastrously for the protagonist or tragic hero. The classical Western tragic hero is the main character of great importance to his state or culture and is conventionally of noble birth and high social station, the ruler or an important leader in his society. The moral health of the state is identified with, and dependent on, that of its ruler, and so the tragic hero’s story is also that of his state. Such heroes are mixed characters, neither thoroughly good or thoroughly evil, yet “better” or “greater” than the rest of us are in the sense that they are of higher than ordinary moral worth and social significance. The plot of tragedy traces the tragic fall of the hero, when a disastrous change of fortune, or reversal, catapults him (classical tragic heroes are often male) from the heights of happiness to the depths of misery. This fall usually comes as a consequence of atragic flaw in the hero’s character and/or an error of judgment, although the fall may also be a product of the hero’s pre-ordained destiny or fate. The gods may have prophesized this fall, and the hero’s tragic flaw, sometimes in the form of a ruling passion (classically, hubris or overweening pride and self-confidence), may cause the hero to disregard divine law and/or try in vain to escape his fate. The tragic hero may experience a supreme moment of recognition of the truth of his situation and/or of his identity. The tragic hero is supposed to move us to pity, because, since he is not an evil man, his misfortune is greater than he deserves; but his story may also move us to fear or terror, because we recognize similar possibilities of flaw in our fallible natures or of errors of judgment in our own lesser lives. In the Poetics, ancient Greek theorist Aristotle also asserts that these feelings of pity and fear are purged or purified through katharsis: tragic representations of suffering and defeat leave an audience feeling, not depressed, but relieved and even elevated.
In your opinion does the plot of Things Fall Apart and the character of its protagonist Okonkwo adhere to the conventions of Western tragedy and the tragic hero
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