Role of Women in "Things Fall Apart"

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Women in the Ibo society are lower in the hierarchy than men; however, they are still holders of very important roles in the Ibo society. Women seem to be useless and without any power, but at a further look into their role, a bigger significance is revealed. Even though wife beating is allowed and women are discriminated in several other ways, they still possess significant roles, such as householders, educators of the children and caretakers of crops. Women also function as spiritual leaders and other important roles in the Ibo religion.

Women in “Things Fall Apart” are in general thought of as the weaker sex. At a first glance, women are the laborers, and the producers of children. They are not respected as real people, but are more just the men’s property. All they have to do is to be good housewives, and make sure to please their husband at all times. For this reason, women have no identity of their own; but are defined by the status or position of their husband. Women are discriminated in several ways throughout the novel. As an example on page 21, Okonkwo beats up his first wife for not returning home to cook the afternoon meal. In this specific example, he has to pay a penalty for beating up his wife during the ‘week of peace’, although it seems perfectly normal and acceptable for the men to beat up their wives on other times of the year. Similarly, it is okay for the men to talk down to the women, and treat them however they want. The men are in control, and women have no say when it comes to decision-making around the house.

It is an insult for a man to be called a woman. For instance, Okonkwo call his own father, Unoka, a woman because of the way he lived, taking loans and surviving in debts. He is ashamed of him and of being his son, so Unoka is only worth the title of a female. Another example is where Okonkwo kills his new ‘son’, Ikemefuma and command himself to not “become like a shivering old woman.” (45) He doesn’t want to appear weak to...
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