The Portrayal of Women in Things Fall Apart

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An image that comes of African women is usually a faceless and a voiceless being. There is always a tendency to look at them more or less than a slave. Chinua Achebe’s post-colonial novel, Things Fall Apart, do at some points of the novel support the case of the subjugated African women in the course of Okonkwo’s life through the practice of polygamy, paying bride price, and the atypical case of Okonkwo beating his wives at slight frustration. In Okonkwo’s eyes, women are mere property and the ones that keep a man sane. But, it is also through Okonkwo, we see women – mothers (Ekwefi), wives (Ojiugo), daughters (Ezinma), priestesses (Chielo, Ezeani) and goddesses (Ani) – who are revered and whose stature in the culture is paradoxical in the very idea of the marginalized and dutiful female that Okonkwo tries to rationalize. Achebe illustrates how at times, an Igbo woman is in the background, but at other times, they’re in the forefront and they are not painted as inferior, instead they are an essential partner to the male and they are equal and at some occasions superior to the male. Women in different roles play most vital functions in society. Though they are seen as weakness, it is ironic that they are the refuge for everyone. Ekwefi’s and Ezinma’s mother to child relationship confirms this. When Okonkwo forbids Ekwefi to leave her hut after Ezinma is carried off by the chief priestess, Ekwefi ignores her husband and risks a beating to follow Chielo and her daughter throughout the night, until she is certain that her daughter will return home safely. But instead of attempting to restrain her, Okonkwo joins the journey, following from a safe distance, also to guarantee the protection of his child. Here, one can both see the strength of a mother and how Okonkwo, instead of giving her a beating, respects her decisions in following Chielo. It is said that the commonest name given to children is Nneka, “Mother is Supreme”. Uchendu explains to Okonkwo how “when a...
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