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culture in things fall apart

By glastz Jul 22, 2014 549 Words

Things Fall Apart: Ibo Society
The Ibo Society

july 22 2014

Things Fall Apart
Wife Beating
Chinua Achebe
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In the novel Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, the Ibo society is a male-dominant society which functions on masculine strength and strong devotions to traditions. Manliness and fearlessness are traits that a great man must have. Okonkwo is able to be greatly respected by the villagers because of his cruel masculinity and bold courage. He achieves fame by throwing Amalinze the Cat and bringing back five human heads from wars. Throughout the story, Okonkwo is "afraid of being thought weak" and he strives to eliminate any feminine characteristics within him and the people around him (Achebe 61). Unoka, Okonkwo's serene and happy father who does not demonstrate any masculine characteristics, is not respected in the society and is absolutely despised by Okonkwo. Okonkwo, the embodiment of masculinity in the Ibo society, "rules his household with a heavy hand" even though "down in his heart Okonkwo is not a cruel man" (12). Because of its showcasing of participants' strength, manhood, and to a certain extent, violence, wrestling is an essential event in the Ibo society. After the victorious wrestlers defeat their opponents, "the crowd roar[s] and clap[s] while drown[s] the frenzied drums," showing that physical strength is greatly prized in the Ibo society (47). Because of the great value placed on masculinity, women are to a great extent inferior to men in the Ibo society. Wives' main duty is to serve their husbands. Women's value is directly tied to their ability to product children, as shown by the fact that the birth of children is "a woman's crowning glory" (77). Wife beating and domestic violence are very common practices. Okonkwo constantly beats his wives for some very trivial matters such as forgetting to prepare meals for him. In one occasion "Okonkwo nearly killed [Ekwefi, his second wife,] with his gun" (48). Often time women are merely properties of men who are even inferior to yams. The value of a man is measured by the number of yams and wives he has, with the former bearing more importance than the latter. When a man suits a woman, he negotiates a bride-price using "a small bundle of short broomsticks," showing that women are only treated as properties and commodities in Ibo society (76). Lastly, the lives of the Ibo people revolve around great traditions and supreme beings. The Oracle in the mountain is greatly respected and feared by the villagers. His decisions are viewed as edicts that people who defy them will be damned. The powerful clan of Umuofia never goes "to war unless its case was accepted by the Oracle of the Hills and the Caves" (12). After the Oracle decrees Ikemefuna's death, Okonkwo, despite his affection for Ikemefuna, obeys and kills Ikemefuna. When Chielo the priestess, sent for by Agbala, comes to Okonkwo's hut to get Ezinma, even the fearless Okonkwo gives way after incessantly pleading Chielo to allow Ezinma stay. Traditions also play a very important part in the Ibo society, as shown by the grand communal ceremonies of egwugwu and Evil Forest, "the most secret cult in the clan" (88). People live by stern accordance to traditions such as the Week of Peace, New Yam Festival and market weeks.

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