Being a perfectionist causes me to refuse acceptance of any standard short of perfection, so when assignments from school come around that are worth a considerable amount of my grade I make sure they’re flawless. At times, this mindset can be a major benefit for certain school assignments, but, on occasions that require superlative work in a short amount of time, it can cause disastrous failure, one of my biggest fears. Perfectionism and fear of failing are some of the conflicts I deal with that are similar to the conflicts of two novels. The first novel, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, the protagonist, Okonkwo, is famously known in his village, Umuofia, for wrestling, yam farming, and being a bold clan leader. He has a total of three wives and ten children which cause him to be seen as an incredibly successful man.
Though, throughout the novel, Okonkwo is caught in an internal struggle that affects his entire life as he fights with all his might against the possibility of becoming a failure, similar to his father, who he found to be effeminate and lazy. Through this endeavor, he develops a quick temper that causes him to make bad decisions which inevitably leads him to his suicide. Another book titled Catalyst, written by Laurie Halse Anderson, has another character who deals with an immense amount of conflict named Kate Malone who is the main protagonist and narrator of the novel. Kate Malone, or “Good Kate” as she refers herself as, is an AP/honor roll student, science fair winner, and exceptional long-distance cross-country runner.
Being the daughter of a widowed minister, Kate inherits the responsibilities of a mother at a very young age. This includes doing the laundry for the family, making the meals, and ensuring that her younger brother takes his medications. She bears the burden of these chores with great self-confidence and continues to maintain an above average scholarly record, good enough, in fact, to apply to MIT, her deceased mother’s alma mater, and dream school. The conflicts Kate deals with include her rejection from MIT and having her arch nemesis, Teri Litch, move in with her after Teri Litch’s house burned down.
Although, how she manages with these issues differ greatly from Okonkwo. The protagonists from each of these stories both deal with notable conflicts, but, from seeing how Kate resolved her’s, you can clearly see that Kate Malone is better at coping with conflict than Okonkwo is. Okonkwo has many defining characteristics that affect his way of dealing with conflict. Many would find how Okonkwo handles his issues has highly foolish and irrational. Okonkwo will go to any extent in order not be, in any way, comparable to his father.
“As the man who had cleared his throat drew up and raised his machete, Okonkwo looked away. He heard the blow. The pot fell and broke in the sand. He heard Ikemefuna cry, “My father, they have killed me!” as he ran towards him. Dazed with fear, Okonkwo drew his machete and cut him down. He was afraid of being thought weak” (Achebe 61). This quote shows how Okonkwo struggles with his unbearable fear of being compared to Unoka, his father.
Unoka was seen as weak and feminine and if Okonkwo did not be the one to kill his adopted son then he would not show strength and masculinity, instead, he would be seen as weak. Another example of how Okonkwo copes with conflict was when he accidentally shot a boy and was banished to his mother’s homeland for seven long years. When he returned, he became upset that the white missionaries gained so much control over his village. Okonkwo was deeply grieved not just for himself, but for the whole clan.
“He mourned for the clan, which he saw breaking up and falling apart, and he mourned for the warlike men of Umuofia, who had so unaccountably become soft like women” (Achebe 183). He attempts to get his clansmen to fight the missionaries in war but ultimately fails. Feeling helpless and unable to adjust to the new religion and traditions of the white missionaries, he commits suicide in an effort to die as a hero. Although, in doing this many find his death as an example of how he’s a tragic failure.
“‘It is an abomination for a man to take his own life. It is an offense against the Earth, and a man who commits it will not be buried by his clansmen'” (Achebe 207). This quote shows that suicide in the Igbo culture is seen as a major offense making Okonkwo seen as a failure. Also, since he felt as he had no other choice other than killing himself instead of trying to adapt to the new changes, it shows that he is weak and a coward, the exact opposite that he wanted to be seen as. To sum up, Okonkwo deals with his conflict based on his encompassing fear of being compared to his father. From this, he decides to be the one who kills his adopted son and himself. Okonkwo’s way of handling conflict is selfish and impulsive.Kate Malone, although having a similar personality to Okonkwo, manages her conflicts in a more rational way, but at certain times, she can be irrational, similar to Okonkwo.
An example of her ignorant behavior towards conflict is when she got her college decision from MIT. Being a senior in high school, Kate is awaiting her college acceptance letter to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). But her only problem is that she didn’t apply to any safety schools. Kate is set on attending the institute ever since she found out her mother, who died while Kate was a child, went there. Once she received her letter she opened it.
“The letter is brief … ‘We regret to inform you… thousands of qualified candidates… not a reflection on your abilities… many opportunities elsewhere… Sincerely…’ The need to vomit vanishes. Dead girls don’t puke” (Anderson 69). After receiving the bad news, she denies it and becomes ignorant. “Maybe the real letter, the acceptance letter, is hidden in there, written in invisible ink on invisible, space-age paper” (Anderson 69). “At my lab table… I light the Bunsen burner.
The thin envelope goes up in flames” (Anderson 72). From seeing her making irrational thoughts about her rejection and burning her rejection letter while in school, you can get an idea of how she deals with certain types of conflict. Although, she has the capability to resolve other kinds of conflict throughout the novel. When the house of the antagonist, Teri Litch, burned down, she moved in with the Malone’s. “‘Let’s face it.
Neither one of us is happy with the living arrangements right now.’ ‘Got that right. Your house is a damn psycho ward.
And the phone never stops ringing.’ ‘So I’ll convince Dad that you should be allowed to help rebuild your own house. The sooner it’s done, the sooner we can both go back to normal life.’ … ‘Suits me fine.’ ‘Me, too.’ I unbuckle my seatbelt. ‘We have a deal'” (Anderson 123).
This conversation between Teri and Kate shows how they both hate living with each other. In knowing that, they work together to create a plan to quickly get back to their “normal” lives. In seeing Kate’s capability of compromise while in conflict, it can be inferred that Kate Malone can manage conflicts in a rational and thoughtful way. But, out of the two main characters from each book who would be considered to be superior at dealing with conflicts?Each protagonist has their pros and cons on how they deal with their problems throughout their novels. From seeing the evidence provided, I can conclude that Kate Malone is better at handling conflicts than Okonkwo. To begin with, Okonkwo’s conflicts all end with someone dying whereas when Kate is confronted with problems she handles them in a way not as primitive and naive as Okonkwo. For instance, Okonkwo was easily be angered by a change in tradition in his village, one of them being the converting of religion due to the white missionaries, and saw that the best solution was to commit suicide.
Committing suicide over a change in traditions is an exceedingly brutal and barbaric way of dealing with conflict. To add on, Kate is the character better at managing conflict because Kate can actually develop a compromise between a character who is causing conflict. This character is the book’s antagonist, Teri Litch. Both of these girls hate each other, however, seeing how Kate was able to come to an agreement on how to handle building Teri’s house after it burned, it can be assumed that Kate’s ability to create an agreement between someone that she dislikes shows that she is the best at handling conflicts when compared to Okonkwo. Overall, Kate Malone’s way of dealing with conflict in her life is better, in my opinion, when compared to Okonkwo because Kate handles her problems in a logical manner and can develop ways to get quickly get around conflict. In the final analysis, Okonkwo and Kate Malone both have major ordeals they have to deal with throughout their novels, but Kate handles them in a much more exceptional way than Okonkwo does which makes her far superior at resolving conflicts. This is because Kate is far more intelligent and sensible when it comes to solving problems that arise in her life.
In addition, she can create satisfactory resolutions between characters in her story. These main points clearly show why Kate Malone is exceptionally well at handling conflict. Finally, I hope you can look at the conflicts in your life, such as my conflict of perfectionism, and reflect on how you handled them and how you could improve.