Things Fall Apart
How we cite our quotes:
[…] he [Okonkwo] was not afraid of war. He was a man of action, a man of war. Unlike his father he could stand the look of blood. In Umuofia’s latest war he was the first to bring home a human head. (2.4)
Okonkwo, unlike his father, has no fear of violence, but actually revels in it. Fearlessness in war is a highly respected quality in Umuofia.
Perhaps down in his heart Okonkwo was not a cruel man. But his whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and of weakness. It was deeper and more intimate than the fear of evil and capricious gods and of magic, the fear of the forest, and of nature, malevolent, red in tooth and claw. Okonkwo’s fear was greater than these. It was not external, but lay deep within himself. It was the fear of himself, lest he should be found to resemble his father. Even as a little boy he had resented his father’s failure and weakness, and even now he still remembered how he had suffered when a playmate had told him that his father was agbala. That was how Okonkwo first came to know that agbala was not only another name for a woman, it could also mean a man who had taken to title. And so Okonkwo was ruled by one passion – to hate everything that his father Unoka had loved. One of those things was gentleness and another was idleness. (2.12)
Despite all of Okonkwo’s showy manliness, he is ruled by fear – a profound fear of being deemed weak and feminine, like his father. Essentially, Okonkwo fears nothing but himself.
As for the boy himself, he was terribly afraid. He could not understand what was happening to him or what he had done. How could he know that his father had taken a hand in killing a daughter of Umuofia? All he knew was that a few men had arrived at their house, conversing with his father in low tones, and at the end he had been taken out and handed over to a stranger. His mother had wept bitterly, but he had been too surprised to weep. (2.20)
Ikemefuna’s fear stems from deep disorientation, unfamiliarity, and uncertainty about what the future will hold. With a child’s limited understanding of the social world around him, he cannot begin to comprehend the series of events that led to his sudden and painful separation from his family. All he knows is that he wants to go home.