The Multifaceted Role of Women in Igbo Society

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The novel Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe follows the story of Okonkwo, an Igbo man who lives in Umuofia, Nigeria. In this society, the men are very masculine and they value strength, wealth, and the ability to be a good fighter; in fact, Okonkwo himself is an accomplished warrior. These values also extend into their personal relationships with women and as such, women are treated with less respect than men are. Although the women in Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart are viewed in an inferior light by the Igbo men, there are also occurrences which showcase their strength and importance in the society.

The overarching social rules of the Igbo people call for male domination over women and this is reflected in the mindsets of the men. Female inferiority is an integral part of their society and "no matter how prosperous a man was, if he was unable to control his women and his children (and especially his women) he was not really a man" (37). This suggests that not only does a man need to present himself as having all of the attributes that make a man, such as strength, valor, and wealth, but he also has to be able to control his wife (and children). A man needs to be able to do this or his other accomplishments are worthless. A man could be the greatest warrior but if his women are out of control, all respect will be lost upon him. This attitude is also evident when Okonkwo becomes "happy when he heard [Nwoye] grumbling about women. That showed that in time he would be able to control his women-folk" (37). Okonkwo is excited that his son is showing signs of transforming from a child into a man and this pleases Okonkwo. The cultural norms of the Igbo place women in a lower social group with less power than the proud men who must control them.

The mediocrity of the women is so rooted in their culture that women hardly ever challenged it but simply accepted it as a way of life. This is evident during a ceremony in which "there were many women, but...
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