Essay on Gender Roles in Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe
2254 Words10 Pages
Upon an initial reading of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, it is easy to blame the demise of Okonkwo’s life and of the Umofia community on the imperialistic invasions of the white men. After all, Okonkwo seemed to be enjoying relative peace and happiness before then. He did have a few mishaps; one of them resulted in him being exiled for eight years. Nonetheless, he returned to his home town with high spirits and with prospects of increased success. However, everything has changed. The white men have brought with them a new religion and a new government. Okonkwo’s family falls apart. The men in his village lose their courage and valor; they do not offer any resistance to the white men. Consequently, Okonkwo kills…show more content…
Even the crops were gendered (Okhamafe 127). Coco-yams, beans, and cassava were “women’s crops” (Achebe 23). Yam, the “king of crops”, was “a man’s crop” (Achebe 23). In Umofia, all that is desirable and admired is associated with manliness. Anything that is demeaning or scornful is considered to be womanly.
Okonkwo life is “dominated by fear, the fear of failure and of weakness” (Achebe 13). When Okonkwo was a boy, his playmates teased him calling, saying that his father was agbala. Okonkwo’s father, Unoka, was lazy. He did not work on his farm; he died in great debt. He did not acquire a single title. He did not have a barn to pass down to his son. Unoka is a type of man who is scorned in Umofia. He is seen as weak and effeminate. As Okonkwo grows older, he is determined not become a failure like his father. His father was weak; he will be strong. His father was lazy; he will be hard-working. Okonkwo earned his fame by defeating the reigning wrestling champion. Okonkwo diligently plants yam, building a successful farm. He builds himself an obi, has three wives and many children. His fame “rested on solid personal achievements” (Achebe 3). Okonkwo will not let one womanly trait sully his reputation. Therefore, he “hate[d] everything that his father Unoka had loved” (Achebe 13). One of these was gentleness. Okonkwo refuses to show any signs of emotion, except his temper. He
Gender Relations in Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart Essay
1498 Words6 Pages
Gender Relations in Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart
In Chinua Achebe's novel Things Fall Apart, the Ibo people's patriarchal society has a strict system of behavioral customs according to gender. These customs strongly restrict the freedom of Ibo women and help to reinforce generation after generation the notion that Ibo men are superior to the women of their tribe.
Among the people of this society, the condition of weakness is strongly associated with the state of being female. The worst insult that a man can receive is to be called a woman. The novel's main character, Okonkwo, is often obsessed with proving his strength as a man because he seeks to escape the reputation of his father who was considered by his fellow…show more content…
He often "wish[es] she [Ezinma] were a boy."(122) For his son, "he wanted Nwoye to grow into a tough young man capable of ruling his... household." (37) The failure of his son to live up to Okonkwo's expectations for him are another factor in Okonkwo's own innate need to be exceptionally masculine.
The division between male and female goes beyond even individual persons in Ibo society to be applied to both physical and moral acts. Certain jobs are reserved only for women whereas only men can perform other tasks. When Ezinma asks to bring a chair to her father, he forbids it because "that is a boy's job."(32) Women harvest certain crops which are not worthy of wasting the valuable time and strength of men. Crimes committed with deliberate malicious intent are classified as male in contrast to merely accidental female crimes. When Okonkwo killed a clansman, he had "committed the female [crime], because it had been inadvertent."(87)
As with the majority of other male / female relations in Ibo culture, sexual relations are marked by a noticeable sense of male domination. It is the man who initiates the sexual activity while the female is supposed to appear passive and uninterested in participating in these acts. The men even mock the women's passiveness in sexual roles by a song:
If I hold her hand
She says, "Don't touch!"
If I hold her foot
She says, "Don't touch!"
But when I hold her waist beads