October 20, 2020

Assess the Character and Role of Onko in the Novel, Faceless

Reading Time: 6 minutes

I am about to give you the points you need to write a good literature essay based on the character and role of the character called Onko in Amma Darko’s Novel, Faceless.

This post is yet another tutorial on the characters in Amma Darko’s novel, Faceless.

You are going to find out the important aspects of the character of Onko.

You will also get to know what to say if you are asked a question on the role of Onko in Faceless.

So let’s go straight ahead and delve into the character and role of the man called Onko in Amma Darko’s novel, Faceless.

Who is Onko?

  • Onko is the son of one of Naa Yomo’s cousins.
  • Onko is a mature adult who has been living in the family house even long before any of Maa Tsuru’s children were born.
  • Onko, unlike two other adult male characters, Nii Kpakpo and Kwei, is gainfully employed. He is a welder by profession. But his welding business will later run into financial difficulties some time after his rape of Baby T.
  • Economically, Onko is much better off than most of the people in his household. Onko’s relatively high economic status is evidenced by the following three factors:

1. He has a relatively new, expensive curtain hanging in front of his door.
2. He owns a colour TV set which is in excellent condition.
3. He owns an original, big, made-in-Japan cassette tape recorder.

  • Onko is unmarried
  • Onko is a father.

He has two sons with two different women who live in their respective family homes with the children. He would not allow the children to come and live with him.

Unlike Nii Kpakpo and Kwei, Onko makes sure that, financially, his children and their mothers are taken care of very well. Onko is able to perform this particular fatherly role well mainly because, just like Kabria’s husband Adade, he is gainfully employed.

  • Another positive aspect of Onko’s character is that he is a kind man.

Onko is so kind that the children in the house fight among themselves just to get a chance to run errands for him “because he tipped off well”.

He always has sweets in his room which he gives out freely to appease crying or distressed children in the house.

  • It is Onko’s generosity that makes him very approachable.

The children in the house freely enter his room to watch TV.

The children feel more at ease talking to him about their worries than to their own fathers.

In fact, both the young and old regard him as a most dependable uncle figure. That is how come they all choose to call him UNCLE which has over the years been corrupted to become ONKO.

Negative aspects of Onko’s character

But Onko turns out to be a child molester, a rapist, a morally corrupt and superstitious character.

  • Onko is a rapist and child molester

Fofo, convinced by Onko’s generosity and approachability, sees him as the best person to confide in when Nii Kpakpo defiles Baby T with his hands.

“Onko would know what to do. Onko would know the right thing to do.”

Unfortunately, however, Onko betrays the trust the children have come to repose in him. He is the kind of man who would readily and shamelessly take advantage of a helpless girl in desperate need of fatherly love and support.

Onko lures the poor girl into his room under the pretext of sending her to buy food for both of them. He then rapes Baby T making the 12-year-old go through exactly the same traumatic experience she has been trying to run away from.

  • Onko uses blackmail to cover up his evil deeds

After taking advantage of the poor girl, Onko uses the threat of emotional blackmail to try to silence Baby T over the rape incident.

He threatens Baby T not to tell anyone about what he has done to her because Fofo had already told him what Kpakpo did to her. Onko vows to embarrass and hurt the feelings of her mother, Maa Tsuru, by announcing Kpakpo’s behaviour to the whole world, knowing Maa Tsuru’s undying love for Kpakpo.

But Baby T eventually gives out his name: “Mother, it was Onko”.

  • Onko also uses bribes in the form of gifts and also threats to silence Maa Tsuru too.

Onko’s loose morals seem to know no bounds. He unashamedly taunts Baby T after the incident. He makes lewd remarks whenever he sees the already demoralized girl. He even claims he loves the 12-year-old Baby T.

The role of Onko in Faceless: His contribution to the themes in the novel

Onko contributes to the development of the themes of irresponsible male adults, streetism and superstition in the novel, Faceless by Amma Darko.

The themes of irresponsible male adults and streetism

  • On one level, Onko contrasts with such irresponsible fathers like Kpakpo and Kwei.

Though he is not able to maintain and run a stable family like Adade, Onko is at least able to provide adequately for his two sons and their mothers.

Onko reminds us of the kind of man who may not take seriously the institution of marriage but who knows and is prepared to live up to his fatherly responsibilities.

Just like Adade, and, indeed unlike Kwei and Kpakpo, Onko has managed to keep his two sons off the street.

What Amma Darko appears to be saying here is that one sure way to fight the street child menace is to have more men who are willing to at least work and take care of the material needs of the children they help bring into the world.

  • Sadly, on a different level, Onko comes across as a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Onko hides behind the facade of his outward show of kindness and compassion towards children to commit unspeakable acts against the very same vulnerable children he professes to deeply care about.

On this score, Onko sinks to as low depths as the irresponsible character called Nii Kpakpo. Onko may not be an uncaring father, but he is as morally irresponsible as Kpakpo.

There are many street girls and child prostitutes out there who have become what they are just because they have been forced out of homes where all they have come to know is sexual violence from men who are supposed to treat them with love and respect.

These are men without any moral scruples. They are nothing more than a social liability. Amma Darko spares no effort to expose and satirize irresponsible men like Onko who create hell on earth for disadvantaged innocent young girls like Baby T.

The fewer the number of such depraved men and sexual predators in society, the better the prospects the future holds for its female children.

The theme of superstition

Onko’s actions after his rape of Baby T contribute to the theme of superstition in Faceless.

As we have seen, the one issue that drives the behaviour of many characters in the novel, Faceless, happens to be the supposed curse on Maa Tsuru’s head.

When Onko consults a jujuman concerning his failing welding business, he is promptly told that it all has to do with him having an affair with the child of a cursed woman, Maa Tsuru.

So, Onko must nullify the curse that has now been extended to his business by performing some rituals with items including Baby T’s pubic hair. Onko believes this oracle. He quickly sets in motion the necessary steps to enable him to nullify the effects of Baby T and Maa Tsuru’s curse on his business.

Thus, like many other characters in the novel, Faceless, Onko places a high premium on superstitious beliefs.

Onko, probably out of desperation to save his sinking business, is prepared to act in ways that would reverse the supposed curse coming from Maa Tsuru’s lineage.

Onko is no different from others like Kwei’s mother and many others in his own household.

The disastrous outcome of Onko’s attempt to nullify the effect of the curse on his welding business is one more motif used by the author to put before our eyes the harm a slavish attachment to superstitious beliefs can cause individuals and society at large.

According to Naa Yomo, the revered grandmother in Maa Tsuru’s household, superstition only leads to destructive consequences. Naa Yomo therefore always cautions everyone against “laying out the red carpet for superstition in the mind”.

Onko’s role in the development of the plot of Faceless

Onko’s singular act of defiling Baby T is what prepares the ground for many of the subsequent incidents in Faceless.

This rape incident is more like the rising action in the novel.

As a result of Onko’s dastardly rape of Baby T and his shameless, unrepentant behaviour towards the girl thereafter, Maa Tsuru is faced with a single choice: to take Baby T out of the house and the neighbourhood, the earlier, the better.

Thus it is Onko who caused Baby T ‘s departure onto the street and into child prostitution.

It is this same Onko who goes after Baby T to enable him to do what the jujuman demands in order to revive his failing welding business. The death of Baby T is a direct result of Onko’s desperate attempts to save himself and his business.

When Kabria learns of the death of yet another street girl and encounters Fofo, the deceased’s younger sister, she and her NGO, MUTE begin an investigation that ultimately shakes the whole society to wake up and behold the plight of too many Ghanaian children living on the street.

Hopefully, the actions of men like Onko, though reprehensible, would serve as a catalyst for social reform.

Fofo and others like her may now be rehabilitated to face the future with greater confidence and hope.

The relevant state institutions may also begin to take measures needed to prevent more Onkos from preying on innocent girls.

This is how relevant the character called Onko is and this is how he contributes to the development of the plot of Faceless.

Please remember to share these tutorials on Facebook and other social media platforms for the benefit of your friends and colleagues.

Thank you.

Trial question: What character traits do you admire in Onko?

Photo by Larry Li on Unsplash

Ralph Nyadzi

Ralph has a passion for the teaching and learning of Language and Literature mainly because these two help him to understand and appreciate why people act the way they do. Over the past two decades, he has coached over 5000 students and adult learners to achieve their educational goals. Ralph is the founder and CEO of Cegast Academy.

View all posts by Ralph Nyadzi →

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