Some might consider the protagonist of “Things Fall Apart,” Okonkwo, to be a household tyrant. Whether intimidating his wives with violence or murdering his adopted son, Ikemefuna, every act of aggression is meant to prove his masculinity. However, in Chapter 11 I saw a compassionate side to Okonkwo that feels worthy of discussion.
Overtime Okonkwo’s soft spot for his daughter, Ezinma, becomes apparent. He wishes she was born male, which is rather interesting considering that Ezinma is an obanje: a child who repeatedly dies and returns to its mother to be reborn. Her mother, Ekwefi, gave birth to nine children prior. I’m inclined to say that Okonkwo is empathetic toward Ekwefi, although he’d never outwardly express it.
When Chielo, under the spiritual influence of Agbala, took Ezinma away from Okonkwo’s compound for unbeknownst reasons, though, he dealt with the situation quite admirably. Primarily I was surprised by the manner in which he didn’t react to Ekwefi leaving the compound without permission to ensure Ezinma’s safety. Considering that Okonkwo “rules his household with a heavy hand,” I expected him to later reprimand Ekwefi for her boldness. Instead he showed no objections. Ultimately I believe Okonkwo allowed Ekwefi to leave freely because he was equally concerned for Ezinma’s wellbeing.
Secondly, in the following chapter we sense how troubled Okonkwo was with Ezinma’s abduction. Apparently he traveled back and forth from him obi to Agbala’s temple on four occasions, allowing “manly intervals” of time to pass before another visit. Although Okonkwo’s rigid perception of masculinity can be drastic, I respect the way he dealt with this whole ordeal. He demonstrated to Ekwefi that he would go to great lengths to protect their daughter. In my opinion this was his most redeeming moment as a father, a husband and a warrior.