In addition to cultural clash, Achebe explores the theme of masculinity versus femininity, and in doing so, reveals Okonkwo’s fatal character flaw: hyper-masculinity. He trembled with the desire to conquer and subdue” (42).Okonkwo is motivated by a desire to prove himself superior to his father, who was cowardly and irresponsible and died a poor man with many unpaid debts. Okonkwo gained power and importance in Umuofian society by burning lesser people as fuel. Okonkwo’s inner fire is what allowed him to conquer Umuofian society and rise above the disgrace of his father.As the Europeans gained influence and political clout in the Umuofian government, Okonkwo saw his own power and influence at risk.
by Chinua Achebe, the reader is taken on a literary journey to a Nigerian tribe, the Umuofia, to experience first-hand the struggles of a warrior named Okonkwo.
At first glance, the novel appears to be written for a very specific audience: scholars familiar with Nigerian history, traditions, and culture.
Like a fire, Okonkwo is violent, and burns whatever he touches. Throughout the novel, Okonkwo nags on his wives and son, beats his family, and kills three innocent people—not to mention himself, as well.
In many cases, he hurts his family for trivial reasons.
However, upon further examination the novel reveals itself to be a striking chronicle of human experiences, universal themes, and timeless struggles that appeal to every human, regardless of familiarity with Nigerian culture.
Taken as a whole, the novel appears to be much more than the sum of its parts: syntax, diction, figurative language, imagery, repetition, and symbols.
Achebe uses figurative language like metaphors and similes to compare Okonkwo to a fire. He constantly reminded himself of his masculinity and strove to make sure all his clansmen knew of it as well.
“Okonkwo was popularly called the ‘Roaring Flame.’ As he looked into the log fire he recalled the name. The metaphor of fire is perfect to describe Okonkwo’s character, and yields a deep analysis of human feelings and personality.
He viewed his father as overly pensive, slow to act, and effeminate (womanly). Okonkwo's fame had grown like a bush-fire in the harmattan . Just like a brush-fire, Okonkwo’s fame, importance, and prestige grew stronger the longer he burned. As his fame and popularity increased, Okonkwo pursued his ideal of masculinity.
Therefore, Okonkwo adopts opposite traits; Okonkwo is rash, quick to act, and excessively violent (Okonkwo associates violence with masculinity). Okonkwo constantly distanced himself from anything even remotely feminine.