Things Fall Apart

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In Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, women of the Ibo

tribe are terribly mistreated, and viewed as weak and

receive little or no respect outside of their role as a mother.

Tradition dictates their role in life. These women are

courageous and obedient. These women are nurturers above

all and they are anything but weak. In the novel Things Fall

Apart, Okonkwo has several wives. He orders them around

like dogs. They are never to question what they are

instructed to do; they are expected to be obedient. We

clearly see this early in the story, when Okonkwo brings

Ikemefuna into his home. Okonkwo tells his senior wife that

Ikemefuna belongs to the tribe and that she is expected to

look after him. She in turn asks him if he will be staying with

them for a long period of time. This sends Okonkwo into a

fury. He snaps at her in a very degrading manner, "Do what

you are told woman. When did you become one of the

ndichie (meaning elders) of Umuofia?"(pg.12) Clearly she

receives no respect. Later in the story we see this woman try

to comfort Ikemefuna. She "mothers" him as if he is one of

her own children. She tries to put him at ease and can almost

instinctively feel how much he misses his own mother.

In keeping with the Ibo view of female nature, the tribe

allows wife beating. Okonkwo beats his youngest wife

one-day because she was visiting with a friend and did not

get home in time to prepare a meal for him. Another one of

his wives tries to cover for her when she is questioned as to

whether or not the youngest wife has fed the children before

she left. Certainly she does this in effort to protect the

youngest wife, knowing full well what she faced. Okonkwo

does not let them down, he beats his youngest wife severely

until he is satisfied. Even in spite of pleas from his other

wives reminding him that it is forbidden to beat your wife

during the Week of Peace. Okonkwo will face

consequences, not for beating another human being, but only

because of his timing. He beats his second wife when she

refers to him as one of those "guns that never shot". When a

severe case of wife beating comes before the egwugwu, he

finds in favor of the wife, but at the end of the trial a man

wonders "why such a trifle should come before the

egwugwu"(pg.83). The husband considers his wife as a

property. He either wants his wife back or his bride price.

The omniscient narrator acknowledges a near-invisibility of

women in Things Fall Apart. Describing a communal

ceremony, he confesses, "It was clear from the way the

crowd stood that the ceremony was for men. There were

many women, but they looked on from the fringe like

outsiders"(pg.77). They are not invited to stay when men are

engaged in any discussion; they are not included in council of

war; they do not form part of the masquerades representing

the judiciary and ancestral spirits.

Okonkwo views women to be weak and foolish. He has a

different expectation for men and women. This can be seen

clearly by the way that he raises his children. He tries his

best to train Nwoye to be strong and brave while he feels

sorry that Ezinma is a girl. Okonkwo knows that "Ezinma

has the right spirit", but he does not try to make her to be

brave or strong. He favors her the most out of all of his

children, yet "if Ezinma had been a boy [he] would have

been happier"(pg.69). This kind of contradiction comes up

in the novel repeatedly. Those practical, daily life examples

of how Okonkwo views women play an important role in

showing Okonkwo's real drive for his behaviors. From

those examples, we can see that Okonkwo hates any

women's characteristics because they remind him of his

father. He is afraid of becoming like his father. He hates the

fact that his father is so unsuccessful; therefore, he does not

want to be...
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