Masculinity/Feminity, Things Fall Apart

Topics: Things Fall Apart, Gender, Chinua Achebe Pages: 6 (2200 words) Published: September 12, 2008
Things Fall Apart
In most cultures an individual’s gender will influence their characterization. For instance, Ibo tribes in Africa classify people according to their gender. Women are thought as submissive individuals who are to some extent weaker than men. Men on the other hand are thought of as strong beings with much expected from them. Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart strongly emphasizes on the categorization of masculinity and femininity in the society of Ibo tribes. Throughout the book, Okonkwo’s idea about masculinity situates him with respect to his community. In his community Okonkwo is greatly praised for his masculine traits. It is Okonkwo integration with masculinity that leads to him becoming an “outcast” in his community and to him committing suicide. According to Okonkwo it was better dead then to summit to femininity, any feminine action on a man’s behalf is considered to be humiliating his reputation.

Okonkwo’s father Unoka is an example of a man with a humiliating reputation. Unoka is a failure in his community and considered an “unsuccessful” man, due to the fact that he was always borrowing money and his family suffers from hunger. “When Unoka died he had taken no title at all and he was heavily in debt.” (p.8) For this reason Unoka is often referred to as being agbala, which is the word for a woman or a man with no titles. Okonkwo is the opposite of his father, he is a successful man. It is because of his father that he tends to look down at feminine actions of any kind, because of this fear of becoming his father or having one of his sons become like his father. In contrast to his father Okonkwo earns many titles and instead of being looked down upon, he is greatly admired for his achievements. Once of Okonkwo’s greatest achievement is his escapement from his father femininity and failure. “But for a young man whose father had no yams, there was no other way. And what made it worse in Okonkwo's case was that he had to support his mother and two sisters from his meager harvest. And supporting his mother also meant supporting his father…And so at a very early age when he was striving desperately to build a barn through share-cropping Okonkwo was also fending for his father’s house.”(p. 22)

Okonkwo is able to do what his father does not do. Okonkwo is able to take care of the family. From an early age Okonkwo has to do his work and his father’s work of supporting the family all at the same time. One can see that by taking on his father’s tasks and his own tasks that he wants to rise above his father’s legacy of spendthrift, lazy behavior, which he views as weak and therefore feminine. Not only does Okonkwo show that he is trying to rise above his father’s legacy but he also shows his aggravation and lack of patience with unsuccessful men. During the meeting held for men to discuss the next ancestral feast, Okonkwo let off on a man with no titles. The man with no titles contradicted Okonkwo and displeased with his comment Okonkwo fired back “this meeting is for men.” With this comment Okonkwo “killed” this man’s spirit by insinuating that the man was feminine for having no titles and for being stupid enough to contradict Okonkwo who is a man of titles. The people in the village were very displeased with Okonkwo’s comment asking him to apologize. This shows that although Okonkwo is viewed as a hero, his impatience and extreme masculinity make him an outcast among the people in his tribe. Okonkwo’s impatience and extreme masculinity is not what solely makes him an outcast in his tribe but ironically it was also his feminine sin that forces him to be cast out of his tribe for a long period of time. In the tribe there are two kinds of crimes a female crime and a male crime, when Okonkwo’s gun blows up, he incidentally kills a boy and that is a feminine sin. It is considered a feminine sin because it is done unintentionally. This shows how his masculinity as well as...
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