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Analyze Some Of The Female Characters I

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Kheyra Hernandez
Professor Yasotha Sriharan
ENGL-102-E5
October - 2014

The Most Influential Women in Okonkwo’s Life

Things Fall Apart is an African novel written by Chinua Achebe in 1958. The novel presents Okonkwo’s life, the Igbo culture, and the colonization by the British. Okonkwo is the protagonist; he cares what the others think about him. He wants to become the man with many titles and he fears to be labeled as effeminate, weak man. The Igbo culture maintains a difference between female and male in the tribe but Okonkwo take those ideals very seriously. In the Igbo culture, the women are seem to be the weaker sex; they are in charge in nearly identical to male duties but also include duties like: bearing and parenting, farming, washing clothes, making meals, and housekeeping. There are three female characters that are very close to Okonkwo’s life and all of them have their strengths and weaknesses. His second wife, Ekwefi, she is the only one who can handle Okonkwo and answers back to him if necessary. Enzima is Okonkwo’s favorite daughter and Ekwefi’s child, she is similar to Okonkwo, he remarks in the novel wishing that his daughter would have made better being a male than a girl. The third female is Chielo, the priestess of Agbala; she is well respected by Okonkwo and the Igbo tribe. Also, the novel presents others female characters like Ojiubo, Obiageli, Nneka, Nwoye’s mother, and Akueke.

First, Ekwefi is Okonkwo’s second wife; when young she was beautiful and likes to watch the wrestling events. In one of that event, when Okonkwo beat Amalinze the Cat she was attracted to Okonkwo. One day she escaped from her territory and husband to be with Okonkwo. With this action we can interpreted that she is a strong women and for her the loves comes first, she doesn’t care at all of breaking their rules. In other event, Ekwefi goes behind Chielo, the Priestess of Agbala, who has Ezinma, her only daughter, knowing that action is not a good decision because their culture. Now, we can say Ekwefi weakness is her only daughter, Ezinma, after losing ten children. Her sorrow was caused because of the others dead children. Ekwefi to marry Okonkwo. She was smitten with Okonkwo when he beat the notorious Cat in a legendary wrestling match. Though it’s kind of romantic the Ekwefi ran away and eloped with Okonkwo, it turns out he’s not Prince Charming. Ekwefi, like Okonkwo’s other two wives, suffers quite a bit under his forceful and aggressive rule of the household. At one point, just because he was in a bad mood, Okonkwo beat Ekwefi badly and even threatened to kill her with his gun. Regardless, Ekwefi is the most spirited of Okonkwo’s wives and frequently stands up to him and talks back.

Ekwefi’s life has been full of sadness. She has bad luck with bearing children; despite giving birth to ten children, only one has survived. Thus, she nurtures a deep bond with her single daughter, Ezinma. Achebe paints Ekwefi as an extremely devoted mother. Her pain and bitterness in losing nine other children leads her to treasure her one daughter even above life itself. She dotes over and spoils her child, allowing her treats forbidden to other children and building a deep relationship of trust.

Ekwefi’s history of loss and bitterness renders her a strong woman, capable of withstanding much pain and disappointment. This also leads to a sense of boldness in her, a rather unfeminine characteristic that sometimes annoys Okonkwo. She has the audacity to knock on his door at night and to talk back to him when he accuses her of killing a banana tree. But she also takes her punishment with gritted teeth and without complaint. This kind of strength and boldness has something masculine about it, which emerges even more strongly in her daughter, Ezinma. Though not explicitly stated, we think Ekwefi might be Okonkwo’s favorite wife, just like Ezinma is his favorite daughter.
Overall, she struggle those problems but that make her a strong women when she has the strength to face and answer to her husband. She takes care of her daughter and also she spoiled her for example when she gave her eggs to eat hidden from his father. Character Analysis
Ezinma is Okonkwo’s eldest daughter and Ekwefi’s only child. The girl has a very close relationship with her mother, and she is her father’s favorite child. Okonkwo – being a man who basically only values masculine qualities – strongly wishes that Ezinma had been born a boy, which, from his frame of mind, shows how much he loves and values her.

Because she is her mother’s only child, Ezinma is coddled and often acts in a bolder manner than the other children. She grows up more privileged and adored than many of her peers. Her deep love for her mother is based on little conspiracies like eating (forbidden) eggs together secretly in Ekwefi’s locked bedroom and a shared sense of respect that goes beyond that of the traditional mother-daughter relationship. Ezinma calls her mother by her given name, and she has the audacity to ask Ekwefi questions that other mothers would find annoying.

Like Ekwefi, Ezinma has an inborn confidence that outshines that of most girls. The narrator suggests that the she sits like a man, asks to take on the tasks of a boy, talks with brazenness unknown to her sex, and even has temper tantrums like her father. However, Okonkwo seems to enjoy her transgressions of prescribed gender boundaries, despite his outwardly staunch adherence to traditional gender roles.

However, Ezinma – as atypical as she is with her ogbanje birth and brazen character – ends up living the life of a typical Umuofia woman. She grows up into a beauty like her mother, comes back to Umuofia after living in exile with her father, and gets married there. Ironically it’s Nwoye, the timid boy, who steps out and openly chooses a nontraditional life path, not Ezinma who seems to grow similar to her traditional father.

Women are responsible for many things in the Igbo culture. Their duties are nearly identical to men but they also include housekeeping, farming, bearing and raising children, washing clothes, and making meals. They also participate in courts, the market, and worship of the gods.

They are implied to be generally passive to their husband's will.

Other women also become priestess of the gods, such as the priestess to the Oracle of Agbala.

They do not get as honourable funerals, and they are somewhat treated as property of a man.
Women helped do all the tasks that would normally be required with farming, including clearing land, tilling soil, weeding, and harvesting crops. They planted crops in between the rows of yams.
The first wife would present food first to the husband. After the husband finished this food the second wife would present food, and so on.

Chika and Chielo were both women who became the priestess of Agbala, Oracle of the Caves and Hills.
Women were treated as possessions of males. They took care of the home, and were not invited to town meetings. Their responsibilities were to their husband and then to their children. They did the cleaning, cooking, and minor farming. The first wife would be in charge of the household, and would be able to direct the other wives as well be the only other person to wear the titles of her husband.
Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart portrays Africa, particularly the Ibo society, right before the arrival of the white man. Things Fall Apart analyzes the destruction of African culture by the appearance of the white man in terms of the destruction of the bonds between individuals and their society. Achebe, who teaches us a great deal about Ibo society and translates Ibo myth and proverbs, also explains the role of women in pre-colonial Africa.
In Things Fall Apart, the reader follows the trials and tribulations of Okonkwo, a tragic hero whose tragic flaw includes the fact that "his whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and weakness." (16) For Okonkwo, his father Unoka embodied the epitome of failure and weakness. Okonkwo was taunted as a child by other children when they called Unoka agbala. Agbala could either mean a man who had taken no title or "woman." Okonkwo hated anything weak or frail, and his descriptions of his tribe and the members of his family show that in Ibo society anything strong was likened to man and anything weak to woman. Because Nwoye, his son by his first wife, reminds Okonkwo of his father Unoka he describes him as woman-like. After hearing of Nwoye's conversion to the Christianity, Okonkwo ponders how he, "a flaming fire could have begotten a son like Nwoye, degenerate and effeminate" (143)? On the other hand, his daughter Ezinma "should have been a boy." (61) He favored her the most out of all of his children, yet "if Ezinma had been a boy [he] would have been happier." (63) After killing Ikemefuna, Okonkwo, who cannot understand why he is so distraught, asks himself, "When did you become a shivering old woman?" (62) When his fellows looks as if they are not going to fight against the intruding missionaries, Okonkwo remembers the "days when men were men." (184)
In keeping with the Ibo view of female nature, they allowed wife beating. The novel describes two instances when Okonkwo beats his second wife, once when she did not come home to make his meal. He beat her severely and was punished but only because he beat her during the Week of Peace. He beat her again when she referred to him as one of those "guns that never shot." When a severe case of wife beating comes before the egwugwu, hefound in favor of the wife., but at the end of the trial a man wondered "why such a trifle should come before the egwugwu." (89)
Achebe shows that the Ibo nonetheless assign important roles to women. For instance, women painted the houses of the egwugwu (84). Furthermore, the first wife of a man in the Ibo society is paid some respect. This deference is illustrated by the palm wine ceremony at Nwakibie's obi . Anasi, Nwakibie's first wife, had not yet arrived and "the others [other wives] could not drink before her" (22). The importance of woman's role appears when Okonkwo is exiled to his motherland. His uncle, Uchendu, noticing Okonkwo's distress, eloquently explains how Okonkwo should view his exile: "A man belongs to his fatherland when things are good and life is sweet. But when there is sorrow and bitterness he finds refuge in his motherland." A man has both joy and sorrow in his life and when the bad times come his "mother" is always there to comfort him. Thus comes the saying "Mother is Supreme".
Achebe shows that the Ibo nonetheless assign important roles to women. For instance, women painted the houses of the egwugwu (84). Women in Things Fall Apart are the primary educators of children. Through story telling and behavior, they educate and socialize the children, inspiring in them curiosity about social values, relationships, and the human condition. The stories the women tell also develop the artistic consciousness of the children, in addition to entertaining them. Furthermore, the first wife of a man in the Ibo society is paid some respect. This deference is illustrated by the palm wine ceremony at Nwakibie's obi. Anasi, Nwakibie's first wife, had not yet arrived and "the others [other wives] could not drink before her" (22). The importance of woman's role appears when Okonkwo is exiled to his motherland. His uncle, Uchendu, noticing Okonkwo's distress, eloquently explains how Okonkwo should view his exile: "A man belongs to his fatherland when things are good and life is sweet. But when there is sorrow and bitterness he finds refuge in his motherland." A man has both joy and sorrow in his life and when the bad times come his "mother" is always there to comfort him. Thus comes the saying "Mother is Supreme."
Ekwefi is Okonkwo's second wife. Although she falls in love with Okonkwo seeing him in a wrestling match, she marries another man because Okonkwo is too poor to pay her bride price at that time. Two years later, she runs away to Okonkwo's compound one night and later marries him. But, she receives severe beatings from Okonkwo just like his other wives but unlike them, she is known to talk back to Okonkwo. She is the only one who would have the audacity to knock on the door of his obi at night. Having met with grave misfortune with the death of her first nine children, she is a devoted mother to Eznima whom she protects and loves dearly. She marches after Chielo, a priestess who demands that Agbala, Oracle of the Hills and Caves wishes to see Eznima through the dark woods and even makes up her mind to enter the cave where Agbala resides and die with her daughter if need be. Okonkwo worries about them and goes to the mouth of the cave himself after waiting for a certain period, to appear masculine.
Ezinma is Okonkwo's favorite daughter, and the only child of his wife Ekwefi. Ezinma is very much the antithesis of a normal woman within the culture and Okonkwo routinely remarks that she would've made a much better boy than a girl, even wishing that this was the case of her birth. Ezinma often contradicts and challenges her father, which wins his adoration, affection, and respect. She is very similar to her father, and this is made apparent when she matures into a beautiful young woman who refuses to marry during her family's exile, instead choosing to help her father regain his place of respect within society.

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