Okonkwo is the main protagonist of the classic novel Things Fall Apart. Even though he is the story's protagonist he commits countless villainous acts over the course of the story and has no redeeming qualities. Despite this, he is considered a tragic character though a number of readers have a hard time sympathizing with him.



Okonkwo is the head of his family and a clan leader in an African tribe called the Ibo. Okonkwo has multiple wives and is extremely strict. Okonkwo sees his son Nwoye as weak and is extremely hard on him. Okonkwo tries his hardest to keep his way of life but when white men from across the sea come he starts to hate them for changing his culture.


After trying to start the war and failing he realizes that his people will no longer fight. His society's traditions were gone and his people had completely changed. Unable to live in or accept the new way things are and having given upon his people, he hangs himself. This action is considered disgraceful in his culture and Okonkwo ultimately ruins his reputation with this final act. In trying to escape the change in his culture he commits a grave taboo against the very traditions he wanted to fight for. The novel ends with an irony that a Caucasian posse leader sent to get Okonkwo for murdering a white man thinks Okonkwo is worth a chapter or two for his biography: never mind the fact that the author of the novel wrote an entire book about Okonkwo.

Villainous Acts

  • Beats his wives
  • Is a complete social darwinist and cares only about strength. This makes him incredibly hard hearted and cruel.
  • Abuses his son Nwoye for not being 'tough' enough.
  • Considered his most villainous act in the book, Okonkwo murders his adopted son Ikemefuna who he grew to care for (this deed would haunt Okonkwo before eventually moving on). The reason for this is shallow and completely unjustified, Okonkwo goes along with the innocent boy's murder because he does not want to be seen as unmanly. What is worse is that the boy was murdered for something that his previous father did and that he had nothing to do with.
  • Has Xenophobia towards the white men and hates them for making his son Nwoye join them even though they treat Nwoye much better than he ever did.
  • Murders a man in cold blood because he is one of the white men.
  • Tries to start a war with the white men for the simple reason that they are changing his culture.