Diana DeBernardis, 5 Mr. Rosenberry Honors English 11 December 19, 2012 Okonkwo’s Foil “Opposites attract. ” This is a very cliche quote used by physicists and other scientific personnel, but it rings true in many different ways. In literature, the correct term for a character that sets off or enhances another character by contrast is called a “foil. ” Pairs of characters that are foils to each other have very opposing views and personalities, but their presence with each other illustrates the qualities in a better light. The book Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe is a fictional novel which includes a main character named Okonkwo.
Okonkwo has some very distinguishing features about him, but the fact that he has a foil in the novel makes his features more noticeable. In Things Fall Apart, Obierika is a foil to Okonkwo. Okonkwo is very strong-minded, dogmatic, and hot-tempered, while Obierika is very calm, easy-going, and composed. To start off, Obierika is a foil to Okonkwo because Obierika is very calm, easy-going, and composed. In the story, Obierika is very relaxed with everything and does not get frustrated easily. If something does not go his way, he waits for the course of nature to play out.
For example, when the Oracle called for Ikemefuna to be killed, Obierika stayed behind. He stayed behind and did not want anything to do with the death of Ikemefuna. When Okonkwo asked Obierika why he did not go to kill the man, Obierika answered with great wit. “’Because I did not want to… I had something better to do… Why should I? But the Oracle did not ask me to carry out its decision’” (Achebe 66). These quotes from the passage of the novel shows that Obierika did not want to intrude on a matter that he did not believe he should intrude on.
He is not obsessed with having power and being the mightiest person. Along with being easy-going and calm, Obierika is a foil to Okonkwo because he is not obsessed with power and being mighty. In the story, Obierika’s son, Maduka, is very powerful and is a wrestler in the village. Okonkwo has great belief for Maduka and is sure that he will do great things. When Okonkwo explains to Obierika how he would strive to have a son like his because he is so strong and mighty, Obierika answers with a very pacifying response. “‘You worry yourself for nothing,’ said Obierika. ‘The children are still very young. ” (Achebe 66). This passage shows that Obierika is not so concerned about power and supremacy. Because of the contrast in Obierika’s traits, he is definitely a foil to Okonkwo because Okonkwo is very strong-minded, dogmatic, and hot-tempered. If something does not go his way, Okonkwo will do something very irrational about it. When Okonkwo asked his second wife where his third wife, Ojiugo, was he became angered because his second wife lied to him about Ojiugo’s whereabouts. “He walked back to his obi to await Ojiugo’s return. And when she returned he beat her very heavily” (Achebe 29).
Okonkwo’s rationale of beating his third wife was in very poor judgment because he beat her during the Week of Peace. The Week of Peace was a week among the tribes where there was supposed to be no violence. This shows that Okonkwo has a very short temper and he does not tolerate nearly as much as Obierika can tolerate. Not only does Okonkwo differ from Obierika in the fact of their personality traits, but Obierika is a foil to Okonkwo because of Okonkwo’s hunger for power. Okonkwo himself was known as the most powerful man in his village because he threw Amalinze the Cat, who was a great wrestler who had never been beaten before.
Okonkwo was the first to beat him, so he was very powerful. He wanted his son, Nwoye, to follow in his footsteps. However, Nwoye is more like his mother and more feminine than Okonkwo desired. Okonkwo stated in the book about his worries for his Nwoye. “’I am worried about Nwoye. A bowl of pounded yams can throw him in a wrestling match. His two younger brothers are more promising. But I can tell you, Obierika, that my children do not resemble me’” (Achebe 66). In this passage, Okonkwo is explaining to Obierika how he would long for a son like Maduka because he is so powerful, unlike Nwoye.
This shows that Okonkwo is very power hungry and will do anything to have him and his family be the supreme. All in all, in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, Obierika is a perfect example of a foil to Okonkwo for many reasons. Okonkwo is very dogmatic and hot-tempered, while Obierika is very calm and quiet about a lot. Also, Okonkwo is so power hungry, while Obierika is not. Even though Obierika and Okonkwo were complete opposites, they still ended up being close friends in the novel, because opposites really do attract.