Women as the Subservient Sex in
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
“’Looking at a king’s mouth,’ said an old man, ‘one would think he never sucked at his mother’s breast.’ He was talking about Okonkwo, who had risen so suddenly from great poverty and misfortune to be one of the lords of the clan.” (17) Women in the Igbo culture were generally viewed as necessary minions operating as subservient counterparts in this patriarch. Chinua Achebe exposes the customs and traditions of this African culture as one where women as wives, daughters, and mothers satisfied the needs of the male. In “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe, the comparison between the dominant male to the submissive/subservient female highlights how patriarchs brainwash women. Women are considered the inferior sex in the Igbo culture in numerous ways. Part I of “Things Fall Apart” explains how the Igbo people associated gender with various objects. According to the Igbo people, the yam is highly esteemed and praised as the king of the crop. The yam is a firm, versatile, long lasting, sustainable, wealth producing vegetable that represents masculinity and prosperity to the Igbo people. On the contrary, vegetation such as the maize, melons, and beans- all perishable, seasonable, and weak crops- were considered feminine crops. This symbolism reveals the role of women in this culture as secondary to that of men. “That was how Okonkwo first came to know that agbala was not only another name for a woman, it could also mean a man who had taken no title” (10). Anything of little to no respect was seen as feminine and therefore inferior. Likewise, Okonkwo considered music feminine perhaps due to its ability to influence one’s emotional state- something Okonkwo firmly rejected. These influences interfered with the man’s responsibility to produce wealth for his family-a labor women were not allowed to perform in this novel. Therefore, music was considered weak or feminine which consequently suggests...
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