Okonkwo was tall and stout. He had bushy eyebrows, and wide nose. He looked severe. He breathed heavily, when he was aslept, he snored so soundly that his snoring could be heard by his wife and children in their out-houses. He walked on his toes raising his heels. It then looked that he would pounce upon someone.While speaking, he stutterred a little. When he was angry with someone, he used his fists and not words. He lacked patience. He did not treat even his father with patience. He was well known throughout nine nearby villages. He earned fame by dint of his personal achievements. He was self-made. His father was a drunkard. He was heavily in debt. He could not provide the members of his family enough to eat. He had no contribution to the fame of his son. When Okonkwo was young, he had won fame as a great wrestler in nine villages. It was by dint of his hard work that he happened to be a wealthy farmer. He had two barns full of Yams. He had just married his third wife. He had taken two titles. He had displayed his courage in two inter-tribal wars. He had been the greatest man of his time in his youth. No other boy of his age could earn so much fame as he did.
He was a man of action. He was very bold and never feared war. He bore to see blood-shed during war. In Umuofia's latest war, he was the first to bring home a human head. That was his fifth head and he was not an old man yet. On auspicious occasions, he drank palm-wine from his first human head.
He was trustworthy and the villagers hold him in high esteem. He was choosen to go to Mbaino as a great messenger of war at Mbaino. He was treated with great honour and reverence. After two days, he returned with a boy of 15 years of age and a young virgin as decided in the public meeting addressed by Ogbuefi Ezeugo. The boy's name was Ikemefuna who is talked about in Umuofia even today.
He treated his family with strictness. His three wives and eight children feared him. He was not cruel to have done so. He did so because he had the fear of failure and weakness. It was the fear of himself lest he or his family should see evil days as his father did. When he was a little boy, he resented his father's weakness and failure. He also remembered how he had to cut a sorry figure when a playmate told him that his father was ‘Agbala' (a person who has no title to his credit). So he hated everything that his father Unoka had loved.
He was very diligent. He always treated work as a great worship. He worked on his farms from morning till evening. He was very strong and was not tired of toiling hard. He did not inherit anything from his father. In spite of this disadvantages, he had started laying foundation of a prosperous future at an early age. He rose in life by the sweat of his brow. He went to Nwakibie who promised him to give him eight hundred Yams (seed-Yams). The year when Okonkwo took Yams from Nwakibie was the worst in living memory. It rained late and not sufficiently for a good crop. The sun blazed fiercely and searched all the Yams that had grown with the scanty rains. He did not lose heart. He planted what was left of his seed-Yams when it rained again. He had one consolation that the Yams he had sown before the drought were his own. He still had eight hundred from Nwakibie and four hundred from his father's friend. That year, it rained heavily and washed away the Yam heaps. Trees were uprooted and barns were full of water which destroyed the seeds. That year, the harvest was like a funeral. One man tied his cloth to a tree branch and hanged himself. In spite of all that, he remained a fierce fighter. He said, "Since I survived that year, I shall survive anything."
He became a little arrogant in his good days. It is said that "money corrupts man and absolute money corrupts absolutely. This truly applies in the case of Okonkwo. In prosperity he became somewhat haughty, rash and rough in his behaviour. In a meeting he insulted a member and then others reprimanded him and he had to apologize. At home, he ruled his wives and children with a heavy hand. His wife and children were afraid of him. If a wife disobeyed him, or did something he did not approve, he would even beat her. Once during the week of peace, he beat his second wife and was, consequently, punished by the priest of the goddess Ani for violating the peace of sacred week. His treatment towards Nwoye was very harsh. He wanted him to be a successful man in his life. It was only due to this reason that he often used to scold and beat him without foreseeing that his harsh treatment might turn his son into an irritated boy.
With the entry of Ikemefuna into his family, Okonkwo was very happy. He was a very lovely boy. By degrees, he developed affection for the village, the children and Okonkwo's family. Nwoye who was two years younger than Ekemefuna became his good friend. He could make flutes from bamboo stems and from the elephant grass. He knew the names of all the birds and could entrap them. He also knew which tres made the strongest bows. All these skills of the boy delighted Okonkwo very much.
Okonkwo loved the boy but inwardly. He never revealed any emotion. Outwardly, he treated him in anger. It is taken for granted that it is a sign of weakness to love a child openly. The proverb, "spare the rod, spoil the child" may be made applicable in the case of love of Okonkwo for the boys. He therefore treated Nwoye and Ekemefuna as he treated everybody else with a heavy hand whenever he went to a big village meeting or to attend an ancestral feast. He allowed Ikemefuna to accompany him. It was later that the boy treated him as his father and Okonkwo loved him like his son.
Influence of Ezinma on Okonkwo—She understood the mood of her father. She only had the courage to go to him, when he was mentally disturbed. She offered him food with her own hands in his depressed state of mind. When he returned after killing Ikemefuna, he did not eat anything for three days. It was only Ezinma who prepared the food and offered him to eat. He loved her and wished that she were a boy.
An unexpected incident added an infury to his peaceful life. When Okonkwo was handling his gun on the occasion of the funeral of Ezeudu, a piece of iron exploded from his gun and pierced the body of Ezeudu's sixteen years old son. So, the only course open to Okonkwo was to leave his native place. It was a crime against the earth goddess to kill a clansman. Obierika and half a dozen other friends came to help and to console him. And before the cock crowed, Okonkwo and his family were fleeing to other land. It was a little village called Mbanta beyond the borders of Mbaino.
Harm done to Okonkwo's property—People in great number reached Okonkwo's compound. They sat fire to his houses, demolished his red walls, killed his animals and destroyed his barn. It was the justice of the earth goddess. Obieriko sat down in his hut and mourned his friends calamity. He said, "Why should Okonkwo suffer for an offence he had not done knowingly."
Seven years of Okonkwo's exile— Okonkwo left his village and went to live in Mbanta the Native village of his mother. Uchendu the younger brother of Okonkwo's mother was the only elder surviving member of that family. It was he who received Okonkwo and provided him all possible help. When Uchendu saw him with his sad weary company, he guessed what had happened and asked no question. Okonkwo was given a plot of ground on which to build his compound, and two or three pieces of land on which to farm during the coming planting season with the help of his mother's kinsmen, he built for himself an obi and three huts for his wives. He then installed the personal gods and the symbols of his departed fathers, each of Uchendu's five sons contributed three hundred seed-Yams to enable their cousin to plant a farm before the rains would begin.
He made a plan what he would do on his return to his native village. He wished that he would gain the same status among his clansmen, as he held earlier. He was a man of action. When missionaries entered Mbanta he did not know how to face the challenge.
After seven years in exile, he returned to his village. He found that missionary's compaign was at the climax. He wanted to face the challenge single handed but he failed to do so. He had to commit suicide for his failure of saving his culture from destruction. He was one of the greatest men in his village. He rose from poverty into a man of great fame by dint of his hard work. He had all the qualities which are required to be found in an ideal citizen. He had been the champion wrestler in his boyhood. He was a good warrior.
After facing a lot of trouble he was favoured by his fortune. He built three huts for his three wives separately. He became one of the lords of the clan. He attended the meetings of the elders. He earned fame among his clansmen. He attended the feasts of ancestors. The people of his clan selected him to be sent to the near by village where a daughter of his village was killed by a man of that village. He was held in esteem by his clansmen. Okonkwo was one of the great warriors. He had fought many wars and cut the heads of many of his foes. When he came back as a successful victor, he used to be given a warm reception. As per decision arrived at the meeting, a young girl and a boy of fifteen named Ikemefuna were given to Umuofia as compensation for the murder of the daughter of his village. The girl was entrusted to the man whose wife was murdered. Ikemefuna was handed over to Okonkwo for due nourishment and care. Okonkwo achieved a great fame and he had now grown into a man. He was considered to be the one of the members of the jury of nine ancestral masked spirits. He had already taken two titles and was expected to get the fourth which was the final to be awarded to a man. According to the custom of the clan, it was known to the villagers that he achieved such a great place in the society by virtue of his qualities of head and heart. As he prospered by dint of hard struggle against poverty, no one would say that he had been lucky. He was a man of iron will and he moulded his fate to the path of glory with his own efforts. There was a spirit of revolt in him. He made his fortune smile on him by the charm of his deeds.
He was a flaming fire. He was true to his ancestral culture and traditions for the sake of which he ended his life at his own accord like a true patriot. He fought many wars and cut heads of many of his enemies. He was a man of iron will. He was ambitious. He was a man of revolt. But, he lacked foresightedness and shrewdness of a successful man. He never loved the members of his family with the exception of Ezinma. He was of the opinion that emotion of any kind is the symptom of human weakness. It was due to this flaw in his character that he failed to change himself according to the changed circumstances. This weakness of his character punished him with the penalty of his life.