Self-Motivation, Courage and Sacrifice in Achebe's Things Fall Apart and Harrison's the Black Man's Burden

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Self-Motivation, Courage and Sacrifice in Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and Harrison’s The Black Man’s Burden

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Chinua Achebe once said, “when tradition gathers enough strength to go on for centuries, you do not just turn it off in one day.” The novel Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe constructs an anecdote behind a man known as Okonkwo who also disapproves of terminating highly organized religions overnight. Throughout the novel, Achebe illustrates the difficult decisions it took for Okonkwo, who was an honorable man with many titles in his clan, to make. In the same manner, the poem The Black Man’s Burden by Hubert Harrison, emphasizes that an individual has to do everything in his or her power in order to maintain his or her principle. The poem and the novel breaks down a fanatic man’s perception of the actions one needs to take for the sake of his beliefs. Although this self-motivation to do what one believes in can lead to one’s tragic flaw, these individuals epitomize the definition of great patriotism. Moreover, these individuals consist of high courage and demonstrate their willingness to sacrifice themselves to maintain prosperity to their belifs. .

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In the novel, Okonkwo is a man that has received all but one of his clan’s titles. He epitomizes what an ideal Nigerian should act upon, as he tends to not follow all of the written rules in order to continue worshiping his gods’ traditions. During this time period, many Africans still had a patriarchal society where they used beatings and dehumanized their wives. However, earlier in the novel Okonkwo was punished for beating his third wife during the peace week, so he had to pay a fine that deterred him from beating others. A few days later, after Okonkwo realized his second wife Ekwefi had killed the banana tree, “Okonkwo decide to go out hunting”… “He was not a hunter” (Achebe 38). Okonkwo is so used to hurting people because other man in his clan taught him that a true man does not show any sign of weakness. Therefore, his first response when someone disobeys or commits wrongful acts is to physically punish them. Okonkwo took the gun in an attempt to hurt Ekwefi because it was the closest item he could have harmed her with. Soon, “He pressed the trigger… there lay a woman… but quite unhurt” (Achebe 39). Okonkwo illuminates patriotism by making manly actions and honoring his ancestors who would have done the same. Later in the novel, Okonkwo ‘s great honor towards continuing these masculine traditions influences him to become thrown off his clan. It was the tradition for men to fire their guns as a sign to honor the married couple; however, when “Okonkwo’s gun had exploded, a piece of iron had pierced through a boy’s heart” (Achebe 124). Okonkwo tried his best to follow the other men’s actions because if he did otherwise, he would have made a feminine act. Okonkwo also fired the weapon to prevent poeple veiwing his actions as feminine since this was a masculine tradition.Unfortunately, after this accident, Okonkwo “could not return to his clan after seven years” (Achebe 124), and he still was accused of committing a feminine act “ because it had been inadvertent” (Achebe 124). Throughout these events, Okonkwo’s masculine actions are greatly influenced by the idea of trying to become honorable and showing his patriotism; nevertheless, it was not long before his honorable actions soon transformed into his greatest enemy.

Although having a great amount of patriotism may lead to one’s tragic flaw, it increases the amount of courage and bravery that one consists of. The Black Man’s Burden describes a man who does have the courage to “fight with clubs and arrows [as he] brooks [his] rifle’s smoke” (Harrison). Beyond the courageous act, this man kept fighting to defend his land, principles, and beliefs, which is necessary in order to maintain his normal lifestyle. Similarly, Harrison includes these details in his poem in order to emphasize the willingness courage brings aside. In further the lines, Harrison included the phrase “will take up the brown” (Harrison) after describing the warriors’ scheme to indicate that the idea of patriotism gives the warrior a greater reason to fight. By the same token, after Okonkwo tried persuading his man to also become courageous and fight, a messenger came in and “in a flash [Okonkwo] drew his machete” (Achebe 204). Not everyone is brave enough to kill the first man to begin the riot; however, after one begins a perilous act, others usually continue the first person’s actions. In this scenario, Okonkwo did not carry any concern for his behavior because his mind was centralized behind the idea of conserving his Igbo culture. Withal, the description “in a flesh” emphasizes that Okonkwo did not have an opportunity to rethink his actions, which means that he subconsciously drew his weapon. This, to add on, is where willingness begins to play a role in patriotism since Okonkwo intuitively knew what the best thing to do was, which also means that Okonkwo had established an acceptance to murder earlier in the novel. Arguably, these men’s great devotion and love towards their rituals or principles made it possible to accumulate such tremendous courage.

Patriotism includes great support and defending something very valuable to someone; this may include dying trying to preserve this idea or living long enough to see one become conquered by someone trying to demolish it. Harrison favors this point when disclosing, “with bullets, blood or death better by far defend it” (Harrison). Although death may seem being directed to an extremist, the moment someone loses his or her true faith or mortal becomes the moment when that person in a way loses his or her humanity. This is because a fanatic designed his or her life around a certain criteria; however, when that fanatic chooses to lose the battle against someone who will take his principles away, the fanatic also loses his mortality and life routine. In terms with a patriot, Harrison ensures to emphasize that it is justified for a warrior to sacrifice himself in a fight instead of surrendering and being defeated because one’s devotion towards what one is fighting still remains concealed. Achebe also highlights the point as Okonkwo chose to hang himself after “He knew that Umuofia would not go to war” (Achebe 205). The main conflict of book three of the novel is whether or not the white man would succeed in obtaining the Ibo people and exterminate their culture. Okonkwo was the fanatic man in this scenario, and he sacrificed himself in order for the Igbo people to observe the reality of the situation and begin to deter these white men from continuing to demolish their culture. Okonkwo acknowledges the fact that even the Umuofian leaders were becoming hopeless; therefore, instead of being tortured from seeing his people and traditions fall apart, he too was the one that terminates his life in order to preserve his great love and devotion. Self-sacrifice, therefore, is not a crime, but it is an honor if it means that there was no other form from preserving the greatest amount of love, devotion, and honor to one’s custom.

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