“I want it long, straight, curly, fuzzy, snaggy, shaggy, ratty, matty, oily, greasy, fleecy, shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen, knotted, polka-dotted, twisted, beaded, braided, powdered, flowered, and confettied, bangled, tangled, spangled, and spahettied!” says the cast of Broadway musical, Hair (Rado & Ragni).
How a person wears their hair can truly define them, it being one of the first things others may notice about them. In certain cultures, hair is regarded as sacred, and in some it is evil. In the book Things Fall Apart, author Chinua Achebe uses literary devices to create parallels between Bible stories and the Ibo culture’s feelings about hair and show the complex symbolism it has.
Samson was a boy born into a Danite family in Old Testament Israel. His mother was not able to have children, yet one day, an angel from God appeared to her and told her she was going to have a child, and a pretty special one at that. She was told that she was to never shave the boy’s head because “the boy will be God’s Nazirite from the moment of his birth” (Judges 13:4).
Throughout the boy’s youth and young adulthood, he came to realize that he had unmatchable strength, yet he was told not to tell anyone the true source of his power: his hair. Though Samson was well known and loved among the Nazirites, he tended to have a very unruly temper and would use his strength in negative ways. So one day, when Samson was visiting the Valley of Sorek, he fell in love with a beautiful woman. Certain people in this valley weren’t too happy with Samson and so told this woman, Delilah, to “seduce him. Discover what’s behind his great strength and how we can tie him up and humble him,” and she would receive payment (Judges 16:5).
In Lord of the Flies, William Golding uses many types of symbolism. He uses examples such as the fire, the conch and hair growth. More specifically Golding states the condition of the conch, the state of the fire and the length of the boy's hair to symbolize the savages that live within in the boys. Golding uses the length of the boy's hair to symbolize savageness in the boys. Initially, the ...
Delilah then began asking Samson, nagging him daily, wanting to know what his secret was, what kept him so strong. For days and days, Samson made things up and lied to her about his weakness. She tried each time to weaken him, only to find that nothing worked. One day, Samson got annoyed and told Delilah, “A razor has never touched my head. I’ve been God’s Nazirite from conception. If I were shaved, my strength would leave me; I would be as helpless as any other mortal” (Judges 16:17).
Once Delilah knew this, she had Samson’s hair cut while he was asleep and he grew weak. The next morning, Samson woke up to the glaring faces of the Philistines who hated him. They gouged out his eyes (Oedipus much?) and shackled him up as if he were in prison, forcing him to put on a show for his tormentors. He cried out to God, who had left him because he cut his hair, asking for vengeance upon the Philistines who he hated so much. With that prayer, Samson “reached out to the two central pillars that held up the building and pushed against them. Saying, “Let me die with the Philistines,” Samson pushed hard with all his might. The building crashed on the tyrants and all the people in it. He killed more people in his death than he had killed in his life” (Judges 16:29-30).
Many aspects of Okonkwo’s life from Things Fall Apart are similar to the life of Samson. For example, Okonkwo, like Samson, was well known and loved among his people. “He was a very strong man and rarely felt fatigue,” and was well known for his fighting (13).
He was able to “throw Amalinze the Cat,” in a wrestling match that was said to be “one of the fiercest since the founder of their town engaged a spirit of the wild for seven days and seven nights” (3).
Samson also was skillful at fighting on a good hair day, as once “a young lion came at him, roaring. The Spirit of God came on him powerfully and he ripped it open barehanded, like tearing a young goat” (Judges 14:5).
Mice and Men Book Report By: Claudia Yaeger 6th Hour C.P. English 11 Due: April 15, 2002 1.) Title: Of Mice and Men Published: Random house, INC Author: John Steinbeck Where book was acquired: Wittenberg-Birnamwood High School Library 2.) What type of book: Fiction 3.) Characters: 1.) George- A small man who travels with, and takes care of, Lennie. He frequently talks about how much better his ...
Samson, much like Okonkwo, could easily tear apart any animal, even the most powerful, as if he were tearing paper. Another similarity between the two men is their lack of power when their hair is cut. After Okonkwo and the other leaders of Umofia were taken captive by the missionaries, “the head messenger, who was also the prisoners’ barber, took down his razor and shaved off all the hair on the men’s heads. They were still handcuffed and they just sat and moped” (194).
The symbolism abounds here, showing how low these once high up leaders had become. These men had been literally been tortured and shaved, but also had been stripped of their dignity, a deeper and more metaphorical way to look at their captivity. Men who had once been so well loved and revered had now been vulgarized and belittled. Okonkwo was no longer the man he once was because of his feminine lack of hair. When Samson was seduced by Delilah, “she got him to sleep, his head on her lap, and she motioned to a man to cut off the seven braids of his hair” (Judges 16:19).
Not only did these men weaken Samson to the level of a woman, they taunted him, provoked him, and demeaned him. Neither man was masculine any more due to his lack of hair, and thus was no longer at the head of their predominantly androcentric society as they should have been. Both Samson and Okonkwo are very mannish figures in their separate communities and both exhibit the highest form of manliness. These two characters, since they are so manly, when juxtaposed, bring out the manliness in each other.
On the contrary, parts of the Bible and Things Fall Apart have very different beliefs at times about hair, making hair a very complex symbol. For instance, Nazirites believed that they should “not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard” (Leviticus 19:27).
Contrarily, an outcast in the Ibo culture “carried with him the mark of his forbidden caste—long, tangled and dirty hair. A razor was taboo to him” (156).
In the Bible, the Nazirite people were a special group of Jewish people that don’t drink alcohol or cut their hair to keep their bodies pure for the purpose God has for them. They weren’t allowed to cut their hair so they could remain close to God. This is very different from the men who don’t cut their hair in Mbanta. They are the very people who are the farthest from the gods, they aren’t even wanted by the once polytheist, now Christian, Ibo men. They are outcasts, characterized by their disgusting, long, unwashed hair. These men aren’t even considered men in Ibo culture, they aren’t able to marry or take on titles, activities which typically define an Ibo man. In the same way, Mr. Kiaga tells his converts that “the same God created you and them. But they have cast you out like lepers” (156).
In general men have several physical advantages over women in stamina, height, strength, and speed. But these attributes don’t mean much when it comes to longevity. It has been said that throughout history, females have outlived males and that the trend extends across a wide variety of species. The average life expectancy of women exceeds that of men. In the United States, life expectancy at ...
When lepers are brought up in the Bible, they were said to be like “King Uzziah [who] was a leper to the day of his death, and being a leper lived in a separate house, for he was excluded from the house of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 26:21a).
These Ibo outcasts were “like lepers,” no one wanted anything to do with them because of their hair. Yet in the Bible, people who had long hair were the opposite of social outcasts. They were the closest to God, the most involved, the best, most upstanding citizens. The Ibo men with long hair are more like the lepers of Bible times, whereas the long haired Bible men are more like the leaders of the Ibo community. Achebe, when describing hair in Things Fall Apart, does not settle on having it being a symbol for just one thing. Like the Christians in the book, hair can be good or bad, depending on the situation.
Women’s hair is also very significant in both the Bible and Things Fall Apart. For example, the Bible says, “But if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering” (1 Corinthians 11:15).
Paul, the writer of Corinthians, praised a woman for her long hair, as it was a covering for her head when she entered the House of God. However, in Things Fall Apart, women’s hair is associated with abominable situations. More specifically, “Okonkwo was provoked to justifiable anger by his youngest wife, who went to plait her hair at her friend’s house and did not return early enough to cook the afternoon meal” (29).
Okonkwo is characterized as being an angry man here, as his wife went to do her hair with a friend and forgot to tell him, so he gets very frustrated and later beats her. Ojiugo had just gone to chat with a friend and be a woman, sharing local gossip and plaiting one another’s hair. Yet when she chose to do this, it provoked negative consequences for both her and her husband, who was reprimanded for beating her during Peace Week. Another instance of women’s hair having a negative connotation in Ibo culture is when Chielo took Ezinma to see the god Agbala. Before the women left, Ekwefi comforted her daughter by “stroking her head, which was shaved in places, leaving a regular pattern of hair” (101).
The Role of Women in Things Fall Apart In society, both males and females take distinct roles. It is those roles that keep “life” functioning; but which role is more important? Often times, women are degraded and forced into the roles viewed “unnecessary”. This is what happened in the Ibo society during Chinua Achebe’s book, Things Fall Apart. The presence of women ...
Ezinma was characterized as having hair that was unruly and neglected. It was shaved in some places and patterned in others, probably not well plaited as her mother’s hair was. The Bible mentions that “it is disgraceful for a woman to cut off her hair or shave her head,” as Ezinma had done (1 Corinthians 11:6b).
In biblical times, it was contemptible for a woman to cut off her hair or shave her head and if a woman did do so, she could be cut off from her people and no longer allowed in the temple. Ezinma wasn’t necessarily cut off from civilization for her hair issues, yet the mention of her hair was slight foreshadowing of the imminent stress to be inflicted on her parents. When she left with Chielo, Enzinma’s mother followed the two women because she feared harm would come to her only child, causing her great stress. Enzinma’s dad also stressed himself out over his daughter’s absence, as he wandered to and from the cave the women were supposed to be at until he found them. Ezinma’s hair was almost like a negative omen for her family, telling of the consequences of the future as a crystal ball speaks to her owner. Achebe uses women’s hair as a foreshadowing to negative events, only adding to the intensity of the androcentricity of the Ibo people and the complexity of hair as a symbol.
In the book Things Fall Apart and in the Bible, hair has various connotations. It is a very complex symbol, as it can be bad, in the case of women or outcasts, or good, as in the cases of Okonkwo and Samson. These people’s hair allows others to know more about their lives, without even having to get to know them, letting them in on the beliefs, joys, and afflictions of their neighbors. But no matter how hair is viewed in Ibo culture and the Bible, everyone can agree, the best thing to do with your hair is “flow it, show it, long as God can grow it, my hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair” (Rado & Ragni).
a) Whilst women werent trained in medicine during this time period, their traditional roles as healers and midwives were still important ones but women only ever performed them. These roles were mere extensions of their status as housewives as can be seen by the way the performed such tasks. Women would use their knowledge of herbs to concoct remedies for the sick and they would record them in ...
Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. New York: Anchor, 1994. Print.
Gary. “Hair Soundtrack, Hair Lyrics.” SoundTrack Lyrics Source #1. Any Movie, Musical, TV, Cartoon! 2011. Web. 28 Apr. 2011.
New International Version. 2011 ed. Bible Gateway. Web. 28 Apr. 2011.
Shakespeare, William. “Hair Quotes – BrainyQuote.” Famous Quotes at BrainyQuote. 2011. Web. 28 Apr. 2011.