Chinua Achebe’s novel does a great job of depicting the theme of change within one’s culture. Throughout the novel the Ibo tribe gradually changes in both tradition and language, something Okonkwo despises. However, if we were to take a closer look at the male side of Okonkwo’s family, we could see that the last three generations of men have been moving towards this progression.
Unoka is known as a man who can not be trusted amongst the people of the Ibo tribe. He is lazy, wasteful, selfish, and loves to drink. Moreover, he never repays his numerous debts, never earns a title in the tribe, and is afraid of war. The two things things Unoka is actually good at are playing the wooden flute and being a gentle man. Sadly, Okonkwo lives in shame of his father and vows never to resemble him.
In the Ipo tribe Okonkwo is known to be a disciplined, hardworking man. He is a clan leader, a respected farmer, and a strong warrior. Due to his father’s lack of resources and drive, Okonkwo begins farming at a young age. As a young man, Okonkwo has a successful farm and is able to provide for his mother and sisters. However, as he grows older Okonkwo has trouble thinking outside of his tribe’s traditions. He has a short temper and anyone who disagrees with his thoughts or beliefs usually suffer the consequences. One person in particular is Okonkwo’s son, Nwoye.
As the last two generations seem to be opposites of each other, Nwoye is the perfect mix of the two. He is free spirited, sensitive, and gentle. He both respects women and keeps an open mind, all the while having a great amount of strength. Nwoye demonstrates his strength by living in the shadow of his father. He is able to survive his father’s beatings and rules. Throughout the novel we see Nwoye slowing grow as a character until he has the ultimate turning point of telling his father no, and joining the missionaries that come to the Ipo tribe.