In what ways is Okonkwo a good father and in what ways is he a bad father?

In the novel Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo displays dominance among his family and clan, and he is well respected. He is famous for his personal achievements, such as defeating the Cat in a wrestling tournament, and holds many titles. He is a hardworking and successful farmer, which results in his wealth. However, Okonkwo also fears failure, rules his household with a heavy hand, and displays a great amount of anger.

“Okonkwo never showed any emotion openly, unless it be the emotion of anger. To show affection was a sign of weakness; the only thing worth demonstrating was strength.”

Although he admires his children, he does not often show them affection, because he believes showing affection is a sign of weakness. Many of Okonkwo’s actions could be used to justify the idea that he is a “bad” father. He threatens his adopted son with a big stick when the son refuses to eat, he threatens to break the jaw of his oldest son for the way he cuts yams, and he openly beats his wives in front of his children. Okonkwo’s involvement in the killing of his adopted son and the lack of attention towards and respect for his oldest son, Nwoye, ultimately results in Nwoye’s conversion to Christianity, partially to get away from Okonkwo.

No matter the lack of affection he shows, Okonkwo does instill in his children a good and solid work ethic, which could be considered a trait of a “good” father. His favorite child, Ezinma, whom he wishes was born a boy, does not whine or question any job given to her; she does it with a good attitude. Despite his departure from the clan and family, Nwoye always shows respect for others’ differences. However, regardless of the morals he instills in his children, Okonkwo’s violence, threats, and lack of attention and affection give grounds for him being labeled a “bad” father.

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