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Gender Roles in Things Fall Apart

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Gender Roles in Things Fall Apart

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  • Jan. 2011
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In Chinua Achebe's novel Things Fall Apart, the Ibo society has a strict system of behavioral customs that are assigned by gender. These customs restrict the freedom of Ibo woman and help to reinforce generation after generation the notion that Ibo men are superior to women. In Achebe's essay An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness, he claims that Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, despite it's insights, ought to be eradicated from literature as an appropriate piece of work on the argument that it is racist. Achebe focuses on gender roles and avoiding stereotypes to dismiss the racist attitude towards Africans in his novel by bringing the reader down to the level of his unbiased narration of a historical fiction novel.

In Things Fall Apart, Achebe is cautious to avoid typical stereotypes describing white men. When the first white man is introduced, he is described as “...not an Albino. He was quite different” his presence is foreign and not understood, but not dangerous. Achebe creates no account of the man being atrocious. In fact, throughout the entire story Achebe consistently attributes those same qualities to the white men later on in the novel; with the exception of The District Commissioner, who is described as “strict and unreasonable”. Achebe even puts white men in a good light; Mr. Brown constantly reminds the people of Umuofia that they should send their children to his church to learn to read and write so that other white men will not come to institute a new government and destroy their culture. By not negatively chronicling that white men are evil through narration and characterization, Achebe successfully lets loose the bounded stereotype of evil white men that are against African culture.

Achebe affirms that in Ibo society, the condition of weakness is strongly associated with women. Therefore, a man being declared “woman-like” is an extreme insult. Unoka, Okonwko’s father, embodies the counter-values that stand in...

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