The Tragic Hero Of "Things Fall Apart"

What comes to mind when you hear the word hero? You may think of superheroes, a significant figure in your life or anyone else who generally brings greatness about the world. A tragic hero on the other hand is a character who has a flaw that eventually helps aid to their downfall as a tragic hero. In the novel Things Fall Apart written by Chinua Achebe and Macbeth written by Shakespeare, we meet two prime examples of tragic heros. The elements of a tragic hero include hamartia, anagnorisis and the tragic downfall. Hamartia is the hero 's tragic flaw, it often gets in the way of their success. Anagnorisis is the turning point for the character, they often come to realization of something important and meaningful. Lastly is the tragic hero 's downfall, this is simply the heroes downward spiral of events. The characters Okonkwo and Macbeth both carry all of these aspects. The protagonists , Okonkwo and Macbeth, are both tragic heroes, who share similarities and differences that ultimately lead to their downfall.

Okonkwo is considered a man of high status. He was looked at as a fierce warrior in the clan of Umofia. According to Achebe, “He was a man of action, a man of war.” (10). He was a hard worker throughout his community which had landed him the position as a wealthy farmer. His hard work had obtained him a high ranking throughout the nine villages. Okonkwo 's tragic flaw was simply his fear of weakness or failing, which all had stemmed from his Father, Unoka.

Achebe informs us, “But his whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and weakness.” (13). This quote truly goes to show how his tragic flaw was a very deep rooted problem and has developed over a lifetime. He had wanted to resemble nothing of his Father, Okonkwo would stop at nothing to be not considered weak. For example, killing Ikemefuna who he has grown quite close too and he valued him alot and even considered him a son of his own. But to prove himself he decided to kill him. He felt terrible the week after and I think this goes to show how Okonkwo is not as heartless as he presents himself to be, it’s just a constant state of his life being ruled and dictated by fear. Okonkwo’s anagnorisis is when he decides to face his obstacles alone. The clan of Umuofia would not go to war with Okonkwo . There new life had already begun its path to much had changed within the seven years of his exile, when he returned he was livid and immediately wanted to revolt. Which ultimately left Okonkwo to face this alone. This all lead to tragic downfall. Okonkwo 's downfall was a domino effect, his actions of violence towards others had truly helped aid to his downfall as a tragic hero. His downfall could include when he was sent to exile for seven years and also his suicide. He had committed suicide due to the fact that outsiders had came from different parts of the world and tried to change everything he once knew. Okonkwo wanted to fight for the old ways that Umofia had once had but the clan of Umofia as well as the people were all something that they once were not. This aided towards Okonkwo’s depression and eventually his suicide. 

Macbeth does occupy a high status, many of the people in the play had shown great respect for him as an individual. Although he had not obtained the highest position of society he had been ranked General of King Duncan, Macbeth’s position in society was elite compared to just average citizens. Macbeth 's tragic flaw is his thirst for power. He had developed an intense fascination with gaining power, that he was blindsided by all the wrongs that he was doing. Macbeth realizes his downfall (anagnorisis) when Macduff told him that he was not birthed by a woman and Macbeth had come to realization that the prophecies the witches had said would not come true. Realization had been brought to Macbeth that he was not as powerful as he had convinced himself to be. These countless treacherous acts had completely brainwashed him and he was not able to determine right from wrong anymore. This alone had played a huge factor to his downfall as a tragic hero. Shakespeare writes, “I’ll go on no more. I am afraid to think what i have done. Look on’t again I dare not.”(II.2.48-50). In this quote it truly goes to show the self realization that he was brought upon Macbeth, he had done a terrible deed and instantly regretted it. Macbeth 's downfall may be known to have had been influenced by other characters . The choices Macbeth had made had resulted in his death by Macduff.

Both Macbeth and Okonkwo have their similarities and their differences but they are both truly tragic heros. One similarity Macbeth and Okonkwo both share is a fear of being considered weak. Macbeth had done whatever Lady Macbeth had told him to do because she had threatened his masculinity and he did whatever he could to protect that. Okonkwo had played up a tough persona to make sure everyone had this ideal image of this tough leader, everything that his Father was not. In contrast, to Macbeth, Okonkwo has no respect towards women or his wives. Macbeth on the other hand gets pushed around by his wife, Lady Macbeth. This goes to show how Okonkwo tries to portray more of a dominant individual, by lack of respect towards women. It had made Okonkwo feel superior. Macbeth did not portray this single characteristic. Another difference could include how Okonkwo had to work for his position that he received he was brought up from a poor Father and wasn’t that respected but he worked an immense amount to get the position he received. Macbeth was already well respected and was brought into royalty.

To conclude, Macbeth and Okonkwo are both tragic heroes due to their similarities and differences. They both have such a crucial fear to interfere with their success as a hero. Their hamartia are both very similar, and eventually aid to their downfall as tragic heroes. Both of their fears had revolved in some way around fear or relating to. Macbeth and Okonkwo may have lived very different lives and had different circumstances but they are both truly tragic heroes. Macbeth’s fascination with power had thrown him into a downward spiral and Okonkwo’s constant need to not be considered as weak had made him just absolutely a monster from the outside but truly he was just scared, scared of what others would think. Both Okonkwo and Macbeth were insecure at heart which had ultimately led to their tragic downfall. Insecurities had played a pretty crucial part. Men have been identified as having to be masculine and this whole idea of being tough and dominant were both pushed upon macbeth and okonkwo. This lead to their downfall, constantly being told or looked at as weak would crush any spirit. It is no place to thrive in it is a terrible environment for a hero to be in and that is why Macbeth and Okonkwo had spiraled down a hero’s journey to a tragic downfall.


Works Cited

"How Is Macbeth a Tragic Hero? | ENotes." Enotes.com. Enotes.com, n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2016. Chinua. Things Fall Apart. New York: Anchor, 1994. Print. 016.
Chua, John. "Things Fall Apart." Okonkwo. CliffsNotes, n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2016.
Beers, Kylene. “The Tragedy of Macbeth”. California Collections. Orlando Florida: Houghton Mifflin Harkor Publishing Company,
2015. 215-289. Print.

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