Things Fall Apart and The Tragedy of Julius Caesar

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, and The Tragedy of Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare are two different books that are interconnected through their similarity in their characters and themes. Most of the characters from both stories relate to one another due to their respective characteristics and motives. There are themes and aspects of both stories that are similar such as themes of conflict, honour and betrayal as well as a tragic ending. Nevertheless, these books display some differences between themes and characters. This paper seeks to pursue the comparison of the books Things Fall Apart and The Tragedy of Julius Caesar.

Both Things Fall Apart, and The Tragedy of Julius Caesar have main characters with hubris. Okonkwo of Things Fall Apart and Julius Caesar of The Tragedy of Julius Caesar are the stories’ main characters. Okonkwo, being an honourable man tries to do better than what his father did and gains great titles in his community. He, however, commits a feminine crime and is exiled for seven years and when he returns, he finds out that the white missionaries have altered the beliefs and customs of his tribe. His tribe no longer stands for their beliefs and culture. Julius Caesar, on the other hand, is almost crowned the dictator of Rome and believes that he is the most superior to all the people. He was about to be crowned the dictator of Rome but is killed by a group of men. Caesar has a strong belief in his ideas. Okonkwo is a man of physical strength and is very masculine. Both men consider their weaknesses as strengths and the differences between how they are viewed and what they are, brings about their downfall.

Okonkwo and Brutus from the play The Tragedy of Julius Caesar also have similarities. Both of them are tragic heroes as they are both highly respected and have a remarkable quality and a high potential of being great leaders. However, they also have a fatal flaw that results in their downfall. Okonkwo’s tragic flaw is his fear of resembling his father Unoka who was viewed as feminine because he was weak. Brutus fatal defect, on the other hand, is his gullibility. It was due to his naivety that he allowed Antony to live and during Caesar’s funeral, he allows him to speak by himself. His gullibility costs him as it leads to his downfall as well as the rest of the novel.

The theme of Betrayal is well showcased in both Things Fall Apart and Tragedy of Julius Caesar. in Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo feels betrayed by his clan. He fails to understand why his fellow tribesmen have not defended themselves against the intrusion of the white people. He returns from exile only to find his clan crumbled, several of his clan’s leaders having joined the missionaries and the tribal customs and beliefs being overlooked. Okonkwo also feels betrayed by his goddess which let him produce an effeminate son, Nwoye. Nwoye constantly disappointed his father, Okonkwo. He also preferred his mother’s tales as opposed to manly pursuits. Nwoye later as an adult joins the white missionaries. In The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, the theme of betrayal is presented. The first instance of betrayal is evident at the very beginning of the play where Marcillus and Flavius sent away the commoners then ensued to take off the scarves from the sculptures praising Caesar. they made a statement, “These growing feathers pluck’d from Caesar’s wing will make him fly an ordinary pitch.” To put it differently, the two schemers felt that Caesar’s ego would be brought down by sending away his followers. The next instance is seen where Cassius works hard to get Brutus to his side and make him not to believe in Caesar. He does this by sending him an unauthentic letter in which he tells Brutus how he feels betrayed by Caesar. Cassius also tells him about the time they were swimming in the Tiber River, and Caesar was about to drown and was crying out to Cassius for help.  He tells Brutus how he saved Caesar’s life and describes how Caesar had become a god while Cassius was an inferior being who bends his body. Another illustration of betrayal in the play is seen after Caesar’s murder where his ally Mark Anthony acted like he betrayed Caesar so that he could later take his revenge. This happens when Cassius arrives at the murder scene and shakes hands with all the schemers that killed Caesar despite blood covering their hands. He then speaks to Caesar’s spirit talking of how noble he is for shaking the bloody fingers of Caesar’s enemies in the presence of his corpse.

The theme of conflict also manifests itself in both the stories. Things Fall Apart has many conflicts in the story. The major conflict is seen where Okonkwo desires to defeat or overcome the legacy of his father Unoka who was considered feminine due to his laziness. Unoka only liked to drink palm wine and play music, and he died leaving lots of debts and no respect from his clan. Okonkwo was ashamed of him for a long period and struggled to fight against this whole his life. He strived to overcome the humiliation of being Unoka’s son by working extremely hard to create his wealth, became a prodigious warrior and refused to display any sign of emotion or weakness due to his fear of showing his father’s personality. Okonkwo’s temper also got him into trouble since he lacked control over it. He engaged in the killing of Ikemefuna by firing a gun at one of his wives and beat another wife during peace week all of these resulting in severe consequences. Next conflict is that which arose when the missionaries introduced Christianity, conflicting with the beliefs and culture of the clan. In the Tragedy of Julius Caesar, various kinds of conflicts are presented. They include the triumvirs vs the conspirators, friendship vs the needs of the state and personal ambition vs democratic governance. In the triumvir’s vs the conspirators, Lepidus, Antony and Octavius engage Brutus and Cassius in public warfare on the battlefield to avenge the death of Caesar. In friendship vs the needs of the state conflict, Brutus and Caesar are very close friends, but Brutus begins to Caesar’s ambitions and its effects it would have on the future of Rome. Brutus is forced to choose between his friendship and the health of Rome, and at the end, Rome wins. The conflict of personal ambitions vs democratic governance is evident in various forms. First, we see it in Caesar’s desire for dictatorship over Rome and the schemers desire of shutting him down. It also seen in Antony willing to use an angry crowd to project him to a higher power position, forgetting that the schemers’ fight was for the protection of Rome’s government.

Moreover, the theme of honour is apprehended in both the stories. Okonkwo is accorded honour due to his courage and physical prowess. He is a man of high rank in his village which makes him a proud and aggressive man who cannot stand less successful men. He is also honoured due to his possession of substantial goods such as many yams, barns and even three wives. Honour in The Tragedy of Julius Caesar is equal to selflessness and bravery. It is for this reason that Brutus is considered an honourable man by most of the characters. He tells Cassius of how he is ready to sacrifice his life for the good of his country. He sincerely commits to public service and the general good of his country.  It is through this virtue that Cassius petitions to Brutus’ honor, serving to entangle him in the conspiracy. Unfortunately, this virtue is what leads to his death. The theme of honour is also seen in Calpurnia’s words, “We are two lions littered in one day. And I the elder and more terrible. And Caesar shall go forth.” at this point, Calpurnia urges Caesar not to visit the Senate, but Caesar refers to himself as “danger” using the symbol of the two lions. He claims that he is greater than the twins to describe how a man of honour he is. On Brutus’ side, respect for Caesar denotes strength and bravery. He would appear dishonourable if how would cancel going to the Senate owing to his wife’s presentiments as it would imply cowardice and fear. This highlights the nature of honour as performative. Tragically, Caesar’s desire for honour leads to his death, just like Brutus. Furthermore, Brutus commits suicide thinking that it was the most honourable way to die. He is considered confident, brave and an exemplary of Roman merit. Contrarily, Cassius shows cowardice and fear by ordering somebody else to kill him with a sword. It is due to this that he is deemed dishonourable.

In conclusion, the books Things Fall Apart, and The Tragedy of Julius Caesar share several similarities despite being very different stories. Although their plots are not related, they share a similarity in characters and some important themes. It is through this resemblance that two very different stories are brought together in several illustrations even though they are totally different in locations and time frames.