Things Fall Apart
Respect and Reputation Theme
Reputation is extremely important to the men in the novel. Personal reputation is publicly denoted by the ankle bracelets men wear, which signify the number of “titles” they have earned. Reputation is based on merit – men gain reputation through bravery in battle, skill at wrestling, and hard work as seen through the size of their yam harvest. Reputation earns men positions of power and influence in the community as well as numerous wives. Okonkwo, the novel’s protagonist, is extremely concerned with reputation because he grew up with a father who was shameful and lazy. Okonkwo overcompensates by working tirelessly on his farm and taking every opportunity available to prove his bravery and strength.
Questions About Respect and Reputation
- Does a man’s reputation in Umuofia usually accurately denote his personal value?
- On what factors are a man’s reputation based? Is reputation in Umuofia based on merit or based on some other qualities?
- What factors influence a woman’s reputation?
- Is Okonkwo’s desire for a strong reputation positive? Does it ever get in the way of his obligations, especially to his family and to the gods?
- Does Okonkwo’s reputation in Umuofia remain the same or does it change over the course of the book?
Chew on This
Though reputation may be an accurate indicator of a man’s work ethic, it says nothing about his merit as a husband, father, or friend.
Reputation in Umuofia is based entirely on personal merit.