The Allocation of Responsibility for Immoral Actions in Things Fall Apart and Macbeth

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ENG2DB Tuesday, May 6, 2014 Word Count: 1287 The Allocation of Responsibility for Immoral Actions in Things Fall Apart and Macbeth Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe and Macbeth by William Shakespeare both demonstrate the ill effects of excessive ambition and pride. The protagonists of both texts act in a way that would normally be appalling and unforgivable. However, the authors make the audience tolerant, and even sympathetic, towards Okonkwo and Macbeth. This is done by portraying the characters as not fully responsible for their actions. Okonkwo and Macbeth are both heavily influenced by other characters, fuelled by the expectations of their societies, and driven to act based on their tragic flaw. The reason behind all the actions Okonkwo takes can be traced back to one person; his father. Okonkwo grew up hating Unoka’s laziness and he “was ruled by one passion- to hate everything that his father Unoka had loved” (Achebe 13). This led him to rule “his household with a heavy hand” (Achebe 13), and treat his family poorly. He is afraid to show affection, as seen with Ezinma and Ikemefuna. In fact, he is so “possessed by the fear of his father’s contemptible life” (Achebe 18), that he does not heed Ezeudu’s advice regarding the death of Ikemefuna. Okonkwo is afraid of looking weak, so he kills Ikemefuna himself. His deep seated fear of resembling his father is stronger than even love for his adopted son. Okonkwo’s “whole life was dominated by […] fear of failure and of weakness” (Achebe 13), and while this initially aids him in his success, it is also the precise reason for all his immoral actions. Okonkwo is also driven by the need to conform and live up to the expectations of males in Igbo culture. Igbo culture closely associates masculinity with strength and courage, and this gender role is stressed upon boys from a very young age. Due to this,
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