Comparative Analysis: Oedipus & Okonkwo Okonkwo from a strict African culture and Oedipus from a Grecian society in 400 B. C. are oddly not too different from each other.
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Through Oedipus and Okonkwo’s downfall both represent the qualities of a tragic hero and the show their process of self-actualization. Things Fall Apart written by Chinua Achebe depicts the life of Okonkwo and the honor he has strived for in his village is quickly falling apart. In Oedipus Rex written by Sophocles is ended by complete tragedy in Oedipus knowing his fate.
A tragic hero’s journey is like an ocean wave; the waves become rougher at the end of the day and calms by morning. At the ending of both Things Fall Apart and Oedipus Rex it is clear that both have achieved self-actualization driven from their tragedies. Both Okonkwo and Oedipus were of noble stature in their societies.
Okonkwo was shown as a high member in his society and Oedipus was the king. “ And so although Okonkwo was still young, he was already one of the greatest men of his time. ” (Achebe 8) They are both well known in their societies. Here I am myself – you all know me, the world knows my fame; I am Oedipus” (Sophocles 264) Even with their greatness, they were not perfect people.
Okonkwo refused to fail and show weakness. He believed it weakness and to show fear was womanly.
This caused him to be brutal and show barely any kindness. “ His wives, especially the youngest, lived in perpetual fear of his fiery temper, and so did his little children. ” (Achebe 13) Oedipus like Okonkwo was also imperfect. “ Laius- how did he look? Describe him. Had he reached his prime? (Sophocles 296) He pretends that he wants to find the person who has murdered Laius when in fact he was doing it in selfishness.
Oedipus was selfish, his motive to portray himself as a selfless king was to only make himself look better. Both Oedipus and Okonkwo share the first two tragic hero qualities. Oedipus and Okonkwo’s tragic flaws result in their own downfall. For Oedipus fate was inevitable the day he was born. “ Then let him go, even if it does lead to my ruin, my death, or my disgrace, driven from Thebes for life. ” (Sophocles 290) Okonkwo’s downfall was from the result of his own actions.
He accidentally killed someone at a funeral ceremony, which caused the tribe to punish him to be exiled from the tribe for 7 years, which caused the start of Okonkwo’s downfall. “ Okonkwo had committed the female, because it had been inadvertent. He could return to the clan after seven years. ” (Achebe 124) Even though Okonkwo had killed a man, he had killed him by accident. An accidental crime should not receive such harsh punishments. Which shows another reason why Okonkwo is a tragic hero because his punishment exceeds his crime.
Why should a man suffer so grievously for an offense he had committed inadvertently? ” (Achebe 125) On the other hand Oedipus who has found out of his awful doings he decides he never wants to see of his misfortune again, so he gouges his eyes out in disappointment. His crime was brought upon him because he was destined for bad luck. “…He digs them into his sockets of his eyes…” (Sophocles 313) Even though Okonkwo and Oedipus’ fall was a tragedy it was not a complete loss. The end of a tragic hero’s journey ends with a moral and acquiring of self-knowledge. “ How can I ever hope to win his trust?
I wronged him so, just now, in every way.
You must see that – I was wrong, so wrong. ” (Sophocles 318) Oedipus learns for the better of his children, that he was wrong in his doings. “ Okonkwo stood looking at the dead man. He knew that Umuofia would not go to war. ” (Achebe 205) Okonkwo wants to fight back against the missionaries, but as soon as he kills the man he realizes that it was a mistake to kill a man who has not done anything to him.
The end of the book ends in Okonkwo committing suicide because he realizes he can no longer be in the clan with his different morals.
He realizes that everything he strived for has become useless under the rule of the missionaries. “ Then they came to the tree which Okonkwo’s body was dangling, and they stopped dead. ” (Achebe 207) “ Now as we keep our watch, and wait till the final day, count no man happy till he dies, free of pain at last. ” (Sophocles 322) The end of the play finishes with the chorus explaining how Oedipus will not be happy until he dies, free of all his burdens.
The Chorus gives his ending speech to the audience to show a feeling of catharsis or cleansing of emotion.
Okonkwo’s death is also a feeling of catharsis because it shows that all of Okonkwo’s burdens have also vanished. Okonkwo and Oedipus have become self-actualized when they became objective rather than subjective. Okonkwo became an objective person when he committed suicide because when he killed the messenger it made him realize to his faults and how he had subjected to a brutal reality. “ They had broken into tumult instead of action. He discerned fright in that tumult.
” (Achebe 204) “ O god-all come true all burst to light! O light-now let me look my last on you!
I stand revealed at last-cursed in my birth, cursed in marriage, cursed in the lives I cut down with these hands! ” (Sophocles 316) Oedipus finally is aware to his tragedy and realizes he deserves no special treatment. They both have developed a keen sense of reality and aware of real situations. Oedipus and Okonkwo have become socially compassionate and possessed humanity towards others. “ Please, in God’s name… You wipe my fears away, coming so generously to me, the worst of men. Do one thing more for your sake, not mine.
” (Sophocles 318) Oedipus had become compassionate and kind towards the people he had wronged. My Mother’s people have been kind to me and I must show my gratitude. ” (Achebe 165) The people of his mother’s clan gratified Okonkwo and how they took him in graciously. He gives them a great feast and party to say thanks for everything they have done for him and his family.
“ What good were eyes to me? Nothing I could see could bring me joy. ” (Sophocles 320) Oedipus showed that even though he had become blind, he was still comfortable with one and accepted his reality.
“ Then they came to the tree which Okonkwo’s body was dangling, and they stopped dead. (Achebe 207) Okonkwo had also accepted his reality, but took it to a different extreme and commits suicide because he believed he could no longer live in such society. It is showed in Oedipus Rex that you cannot escape one’s destined fate, and the moral in Things Fall Apart describes how you should not resist change and that a man driven by fear will end in bad decisions. A tragic hero’s journey becomes an ocean wave; their story ends in rough tides, but as they become self-actualized the waves clear up by morning. Through Oedipus and Okonkwo’s downfall it is clear that they have both become tragic heroes and