Question #5 – Contrasting Foil Characters
Achebe craftfully foils the characters Okonkwo and Unoka to develop their own characteristics, but their similarities are shown when they matter the most.
On page 2, “Unoka, for that was his father’s name, had died ten years ago…and he owed every neighbor some money, from a few cowries to quite a substantial smount” (pg 2). In this paragraph you get Okonkwo’s point of view as well as Achebe’s. You get direct presentation when Achebe calls Unoka “lazy and improvident” but you get indirect presentation when you hear that Unoka “immediately” bought gourds of palm-wine. This money he uses can’t all be in palm-wine. He has to use it on some of the other vital food supplies and what not. Unoka had a way of making this money back. “But Unoka was such a man that he always succeeded in borrowing more, and piling up his debts” (pg 3). This is indirect presentation of Unoka; this tells us that Unoka is very eloquent and maybe even respected among the tribe. Another example of direct presentation is brought up when Achebe uses his point of view to express Unoka. He describes Unoka as, “tall but very thin and had a slight stoop. He wore a haggard and mournful look except when he was drinking of playing on his flute.” Unoka does not have any titles, he doesn’t have a barn full of yams, and he doesn’t have many wives or children. Also he “was never happy when it came to wars. He was in fact a coward and could not bear ithe site of blood” (pg 4).
Okonkwo was a man portrayed as an opposite of his father. He was a very wealthy farmer and had two barns full of yams, and had taken three titles! Plus, he was still a very young man. In the Ibo culture, “Age was respected …but achievement was revered.” Okonkwo was not very eloquent. In fact, he has a stammer and when he cannot get his words out he uses his fists instead (pg 2 and 3). Okonkwo is described as, “tall and huge, and his bushy eyebrows and wide nose gave him a very stern look.” Futhermore, Okonkwo “was a man of action, a man of war” (pg 8). Finally Okonkwo “ruled his house witha heavy hand.” Okonkwo wanted to be nothing like his father. Through Okonkwo’s eyes, Unoka was seen as a weak and powerless character. Okonkwo wanted his wives and children to respect him. There would be no disobedience, crying, etc. because that was viewed as being weak. Okonkwo had no patience with weak people because weak people were unsuccessful in his eyes.
(Right click > View Image, for full sized image)
I am not my father. I will survive anything. I am not afraid of work. No one will view me as weak. I will do whatever it takes to be and stay strong. After I am sure of my strength, I will make my son an image of me. He will learn to be a man and as strong as me. I am Okonkwo and I will never be compared to Unoka.
I am a man of the present. Who cares what will happen in the days to follow. All I have to worry about are the tunes of my flute and the sizzling of my drink. And heck, if I can’t buy a drink, I’ll call upon another neighbor for cowries. My debt may grow large, but as long as I have a valid excuse for my late payments I can continue my life. I am Unoka and I believe life to be a time of enjoyment.