top-rated free essay

Significance of Women in Things Fall Apart

By lillax606 Dec 11, 2011 979 Words
Significance of Women
In the blink of an eye everything can change. In areas of the lower Niger, Okonkwo, the main character of Chinua Achebe's novel, Things Fall Apart, experiences this sudden change. Okonkwo lives in a village Umuofia, where men are seen to be superior to women. Okonkwo is banished from his village and seven years later when he comes back he is disappointed to see his manly village turn, “soft like women” (183). Throughout the novel Ibo women can be seen as mistreated because of the way they are treated and talked about. For example, Ibo men believe the worst insult someone can receive is being called a woman. To vague readers Achebe’s novel could seem sexist towards men, but a deeper reader will notice that women are equivalent to men. Achebe represents Ibo women to be equal to men by their prominent roles in motherhood, traditions, and religion. Women in Ibo society must love, care, and educate their child. At night, Okonkwo’s wives and children get together for story time, where the women read to their children. After the nightly routine of story telling Achebe shows the significant role of a mother by writing, “Low voices, broken now and again by singing, reached Okonkwo from his wives’ huts as each woman and her children told folk stories” (96). This scenario illustrates how men hand off the importance of educating their children to women. Okonkwo likes to be in charge, but when it comes to educating, feeding, and caring for his children he trusts his wives enough to fulfill those everyday responsibilities. Later in the novel, when Okonkwo is exiled after mistakenly killing a boy in the village by a misfire, he goes to Mbanta. Mbanta is his motherland. Okonkwo seeks sympathy and understanding so he goes to a place he knows he’ll be welcome. In fact, when he arrives in Mbanta his uncle, Uchendu explains to Okonkwo not to grieve about coming to his motherland by explaining, “When a father beats his child, it seeks sympathy in its mother's hut . . .when there is sorrow and bitterness he finds refuge in his motherland. Your mother is there to protect you . . . And that is why we say that mother is supreme” (134). Uchendu reveals the role of the mother and how important they are. They protect their children with love and compassion.

Many readers overlook the traditional tasks completed by women as major, but a more intricate reader realizes the true meanings of a woman’s job. In the Ibo society a man makes his income by farming and prepares all year for a plentiful harvest season. If it weren’t for the work of women, no man in the village would have a successful harvest. After the week of Peace Okonkwo preps his land for planting and, “the women weeded the farm three times at definite periods in the life of the yams, neither early or late” (33). If the women did not complete their job the men would have no crops to sell. Women are like the un-sung hero. Besides a women’s traditional job of helping with the harvest, bride price is a perfect example of the superiority of women. In other cultures such as those in India and China, the bride price (dowry) is compensated from the women’s family to the men’s family. But in Ibo society its the opposite, the men pay the brides family, “’They dare not bring fewer than thirty pots. I shall tell them my mind if they do’…Then more pots came. Thirty, thirty-five, forty, forty-five. The hosts nodded in approval and seemed to say, ‘Now they are behaving like men’” (116). Men must pay the dowry to get the women’s approval for their hand in marriage, clearly showing superiority in women because it is one of the few cultures that pay from male to female.

Finally, women hold the most vital religious roles. For example, Ani is the earth goddess. She holds the position in which if she is not respected she can ruin everyone’s harvest or punish the village by preventing the annual rains that everyone relies on. Ani is described as, “a greater part in the life of the people than any other deity. She was the ultimate judge of morality and conduct. And what more, she was in close communion with the departed fathers of the clan whose bodies had been committed to earth” (36). She possesses so much power that many of the men are afraid of her. Another important women figure is Chielo, the priestess of Agbala; she is directly in Umufoia to carry out spiritual matters. One night, Chielo comes to Okonkwo’s compound and asks to take Ezinma, “Okonkwo pleaded with her to come back in the morning because Ezinma was now asleep . . . the priestess screams. ‘Beware Okonkwo!’” (101). Okonkwo exposes his weak side by pleading with the priestess. Okonkwo has never shown his weak side to anyone, for anything, expect to Chielo. At glance, the role of women in Things Fall Apart can seem limiting towards women, As Samuel Chell reviews, “It's easy to read but hard to interpret. Achebe does not gloss over the apparently savage, cruel, sexist practices of the Ibo people before the arrival of the white missionaries. Yet readers are quick to overlook these tensions in the narrative” (, but if you develop an understanding of Ibo culture the truth is revealed. Woman hold very essential jobs that reveal a lot about their character. A women’s job to care and educate for their family portrays the trust men have in women; everyday traditions show the equality between man and woman. And finally, the ability of women to hold the responsibilities of a priestess/goddess shows women’s significance over men.

Cite This Document

Related Documents

  • Women in Things Fall Apart

    ...Women in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe, portrays the Ibo society of Africa before the arrival of the white man. The novel depicts the Ibo culture and religion while Achebe weaves the Ibo language, myths and ideas into the English world and approach. It familiarizes the reader with the Ibo society...

    Read More
  • Women in "Things Fall Apart"

    ...Women: The Mothers of Umuofia In Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe describes a rich culture that is remarkably civilized, with customs and values that place considerable emphasis on justice and fairness. Even with such principles, Igbo culture functions as a predominantly masculine society, run by men, where women were assigned little author...

    Read More
  • Things Fall Apart Women

    ...In the novel “Things Fall Apart”, written by Chinua Achebe women are looked at as to do anything and everything for their men. They are to do as the men say. The women are sole providers for the men. They play the submissive role in the relationship between sexes. Women can also do things like farm, trade, and handicrafts. Their main respons...

    Read More
  • Things Fall Apart Women Roles

    ...Women today play major roles in society, but were it like that 100 years ago? Was it like everywhere around the world? In things fall apart by Chinua Achebe shows us that even though women in Umofia don’t play a big role, they are key part of everyday Igbo Society life. Women in igbo society are a small group with no power who we...

    Read More
  • Things Fall Apart

    ...Q: “A text is only valuable if the lessons arising from it are worthwhile” – discuss this statement with close reference to Things Fall Apart An intrinsic aspect of reading any text is the process of evaluating its worth, both as it is read, and once it is finished; the response to a text is usually based, to a large extent, on wheth...

    Read More
  • Things Fall Apart

    ...How could the text be read and interpreted differently by two different readers? Things Fall Apart Language and Literature Things fall apart is a novel written by Chinua Achebe. It is set during the late 19th, early 20th century in a small village named Umuofia situated in Nigeria. This time period is important because it was a period in ...

    Read More
  • Colonization In Things Fall Apart

    ... Colonization is defined as the action or process of settling among and establishing control over the indigenous people of an area. The effects of colonization vary due to cultural values and practices, but most native people’s culture was diminished when they were forced to convert to other religions, traditions and values as well as family r...

    Read More
  • Treatment of women in "Things fall apart"

    ...Written task two: the role of women in Igbo society In Chinua Achebe’s “Things fall apart”, the women of the Igbo tribe may appear as an oppressed group with little power at first glance, and that fact is true to a certain extant. Nevertheless, this conception of the Ibo women seem to be simplistic once the reader notices the many roles...

    Read More

Discover the Best Free Essays on StudyMode

Conquer writer's block once and for all.

High Quality Essays

Our library contains thousands of carefully selected free research papers and essays.

Popular Topics

No matter the topic you're researching, chances are we have it covered.