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Father-Son Relationship in Achebes novel THINGS FALL APART

Himanshi Sharma 0017 B.A. (Hons.) English-III Year Chinua Achebes novel Things Fall Apart (1958) is often seen as a part of the personal project of the author to provide a better gaze at Nigeria and the African subcontinent than that which is provided by some colonial writers like Joseph Conrad and Joyce Cary. The novel came to be seen as one of the novels which brought about the African landscape in the eyes of the world not as a dark, unknown landscape but as a land with its own structures of hierarchy, kinship, family, property and its own set of ideologies. In this paper, I attempt to focus on the relationship between son and father in Achebes novel in which the relationship comes to lay the foundation for the communitys growth or decadence. The Igbo community is a patriarchal community. The kinship patterns in the society are patrilineal, i.e. the property is transferred from father to son. In the novel, the kinship patterns define the accession of property along with the personal relationships as well. A woman is not considered to be a rightful heir of the property and hence, a mans obi passes on to his son and no one else. In the novel Things Fall Apart, the relationship between a father and a son plays a very important role in Okwos life. He gets no satisfaction either from his father, Unoka or from his son Nwoye. He is stuck in the middle with no one to inherit his legacy from or to pass it down to. However, he does find one relationship which is more of a duty which gives him a sense of security that with Ikemefuna. This relationship is forced upon both of them but gradually, they develop liking and affection for each other. However, the bond is not greater than the social constraints which lead to Ikemefunas killing. Also, this father son metaphor is extended to the country and community as well. A child belongs to its father and his family and not to its mother and her family. When Uchendu, Okonkwos maternal uncle, remarks the above statement in the context of the allegiance of a child, it almost becomes a remark on the

politics of kinship in the community. The novel begins with Okonkwos appraisal and an account of the hardships encountered by him while growing up. The important thing here to note is that the person held responsible for hardships is his father, Unoka. Unoka and Okonkwo are the first people to whom the reader is introduced in the novel and gradually, their relationship becomes the source of pain for Okonkwo and Unoka as well. For Okonkwo, this relationship becomes a reason for his pathetic start to life- without an inheritance, without a land, even a wife. For Unoka, his way of life brings about a distance between himself and his own son. Unoka, though a marginal character, becomes the image of the simple pleasures of Life. Okonkwo becomes the voice of the social ridicule hurled at Unoka for his lack of vigour and toil. This hatred then comes to define the relationship between the father and the son. Though nowhere is it clearly stated that Okonkwo hated his father as a person but then, it is evident that a persons social status also defined his personal relationships. This probably becomes the reason as to why Okonkwo sees Unoka as a failure in the private and the public sphere. This is so because a father is supposed to introduce his son into the society through the OZU ceremony. However, Okonkwo is left to fend for himself as well as his fathers household at a very young age. With no proper initiation into the society, Okonkwo is distanced from his father as for him, it becomes an added obligation. This responsibility of supporting his father as well as himself and alongside, carving a niche for himself probably sours the relationship and eventually, Okonkwo and Unoka have no association with each other except the biological bond. It is to be noted here that Okonkwos association with his father as well as his son, Nwoye are unsuccessful ones. The father-son relationships in Okonkwos life become a source of pain and can be seen as a betrayal by nature. Okonkwos hard work in creating a place for himself in the society is not carried forward by his son and eventually, his identity remains his own and dies along with him. Another father son relationship in the novel is that between Okonkwo and Ikemefuna. Ikemefuna in the novel becomes Okonkwos son. He is a part of the peace treaty forged between Mbaino and Umuofia after some men from the former village murdered a woman from the latter village. Okonkwo is ordered to be Ikemefunas care taker till the Council of Elders passed a judgement about his fate. This call of duty, however, transforms into an affectionate relationship which is testified by the way Ikemefuna addresses Okonkwo. He calls him Father. This bond leads to a silent and covert acceptance of the

young boy in Okonkwos family. This developing relationship also evokes the feelings of sympathy and love in Okonkwo and gradually, Ikemefuna becomes a part of not only the household but also of the rituals associated with harvesting and farming. This inclusion cements the bond. However, society again decides the fate of this relationship. When oracle declares the fate of the young boy, it comes as a shock to Okonkwo as the boy is to be killed. Though Okonkwo is advised by Ogbuefi to not be a part of the plan, the fear of being thought of as weak defeats the compassion in him and he ends up being one of the people who kill the boy. However, it is to be noted here that though the relationship lasts for only three years, the bond is so strong that Okonkwo is unsettled after Ikemefuna is killed. This anxiety is not visible when Okonkwos own son, Nwoye, snaps all ties and joins the missionaries. This brings us to the other relationship in the novel, Okonkwo and Nwoye. Nwoye is his son from his first wife, Ojiugo. Nwoye is represented as a rather weak character when compared with Okonkwo. Nwoye is both physically and emotionally considered to be a woman due to his fragile body and his attachment with his mother. Here again, Nwoyes physical ability governs the relationship with his father. Okonkwo wanted a son who could carry forward his name and the tradition of hard work initiated by him. In the novel, Nwoye is seen as the impotent ash begotten from the ferocious nature of Okonkwo. It is interesting to note the fact that Nwoye emerges as the character against the stringent rules and ideologies of the Igbo community upheld by his father. After Nwoye joins the Christian missionaries, the gap is widened and the bond turns sour for life, so much so that each f them refuse to accept others existence. It is important here to note how a persons prowess at farming, interactions with women, personal choices and religious beliefs form the only parameters which decide the depth of the relationship. The father son metaphor also relates to the larger framework of an author and his duty towards his country. Achebe thorugh this work returns back to the country as the prodigal son and helps many readers to return back to back to their land not only physically but also, culturally. It is interesting to note that Achebe tries to portray the Igbo community objectively inoredr to prove that a native land is good with all its customs and beliefs. The father son relationship, hence, not only forms an important part of the life of the author but also of the Author through which he returns back t his native land as the son apparently away from his homeland.