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Okonkwo, a late 19th century African man, lived in a village supposedly untouched by European modernity. He represents the fantasy of an African masculinity, pure and untainted by European ideals of the male body. When he first appeared in 1959 with the publication of Chinua Achebe’s debut novel Things Fall Apart, readers and literary scholars the world over embraced him. The love affair was instant. They said he was the hero of the pre-modern world. Okonkwo was Africa’s response to Conrad’s savages.

Sure, Okonkwo is a fine figure of cultural resistance. But he is also a sex god…okay maybe not a sex god but at least a figure of erotic fantasies.  Granted, Achebe does not make this point explicitly. But then he makes it quite easy to fantasize about the character. What is Okonkwo like in bed?—a question that lurks in the shadows of the story, hidden behind subtexts inviting us to look at Okonkwo’s body and imagine its erotic possibilities. 

Athletic body: The novel begins with a vivid picture of an 18 year old Okonkwo in a wrestling match. Taking us up close and personal, the narrator shows us nerves and muscles “stretching to breaking point” on arms, back, and thighs. Okonkwo is clearly ripped, but he is also “tall and huge.” He doesn’t walk. He bounces as though “on springs.”

Celebrity Status:  “He was well known through out the nine villages and beyond,” we are told. From the kid who defeated a powerful opponent in wrestling, Okonkwo grew up to be rich and powerful, placing Okonkwo in a long like of novel character ranging from Mr. Darcy to Christian Grey. A self-made man, Okonkwo knows what it means to be once poor and then rich. What’s sexier than a man who defies society’s expectations that he will end up as poor as his own father?

Doting Daddy: Okonkwo has a daughter he loves to no ends. She is the only one who understand him. Ezinma is the child of Ekwefi—the one wife he truly loves. Okonkwo’s troubled relationship with his son has received a lot of attention. But it is in his fatherly bond with his daughter that we see that Okonkwo is tender and has vulnerabilities that makes him quite irresistible.

The Dark Side: An essential element of seduction. Being in a relationship with Okonkwo is not always a walk in the park. He has anger issues. He is a workaholic who gets violent when he is idle. Okonkwo is also a member of “the most secret cult in the clan.” His involvement in this cult shows he is a powerful man, but it is also his most mysterious side. Okonkwo’s dark side does get super-uncomfortably-dark when he kills his foster son and ends up killing himself, but from the perspective of the reader, this only deepens the enigma around the character

Between The Covers: Okonkwo has all these erotic qualities, but is he good in bed? If he is, how do we know? Is there proof? To start with, Okonkwo is the kind of guy who gets turned by something as simple as drumbeats. This happens while he is sitting in his hut, taking some time off before the wrestling match scheduled for much later in the day. From his hut, Okonkwo can hear sounds of drumming floating in from the village square. The narrator tells us that the sound “filled him with fire” making him “tremble with…the desire for a woman.”

There is also the story of how Okonkwo came to marry his second wife, Ekwefi. Okonkwo was poor when they first met. Even though he loved her, he watched as she was married off to some other guy and could do nothing. It took only two years for Ekwefi to decide that she couldn’t live without Okonkwo.

It had been early in the morning. The moon was shining. She was going to the stream to fetch water. Okonkwo’s house was on the way to the stream. She went in and knocked at his door and he came out. Even in those days he was not a man of many words. He just carried her into his bed and in the darkness began to feel around her waist for the loose end of her cloth.

Less talk. More action. That’s Okonkwo’s motto in bed. What’s not to like?

Which male character in African fiction do you think is sexy?


Image is Denis Rouvre of Senegalese wrestling. See more {HERE}

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Ainehi Edoro is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she teaches African literature. She received her doctorate at Duke University. She is the founder and editor of Brittle Paper and series editor of Ohio University Press’s Modern African Writer’s imprint.

7 Responses to “African Fictional Characters In Bed — Okonkwo Is Less Talk, More Action” Subscribe

  1. ayodele February 13, 2014 at 2:09 am #

    actually the last line made me feel like he’s more of a fumbler, the archetype of Nigerian men who take their pleasure without trying to take their partners along for the ride.
    the image I got was after fumbling for her wrapper he just parted her legs and plunged in. eww.

  2. Ainehi Edoro February 13, 2014 at 8:18 am #

    LOL. Ayodele, you won’t kill me. You know, you have a point there. But then, maybe Ewefi likes it like that 🙂

  3. ndi charles November 23, 2014 at 9:36 am #

    Yea okonkwo could have been a fumbler, but how can ayodele say he was the archetype for nigerian men? Everyone knows we go slowly and gently, and never rush in as though late for an appointment, like OJ we know women are not filling stations.

  4. Obi November 24, 2014 at 3:29 am #

    Odenigbo in HOAYS is the sexiest character I’ve read. Then Blaine in Americanah. Then Odibo in The Last Duty.


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