An analysis of whether Chinua Achebe, the writer of the classic novel “Things Fall Apart”, fairly represents women in Ibo society.
All over the world, especially in developing countries, women are not treated as equals. It is not any different in the Nigerian society portrayed by Chinua Achebe in his book Things Fall Apart. In Things Fall Apart, Achebe represents the female characters as they existed in Ibo culture, which is without power but often emotionally strong. He shows how the patriarchal structure has been entrenched in Ibo culture and only represents how it exists, so that people must evaluate the culture for themselves.
Chinua Achebe shows women as having little to no power in society in his book, Things Fall Apart. Achebe writes: “And when [Ojiugo] returned he beat her very heavily. In his anger he had forgotten that it was the Week of Peace…It was unheard of to beat somebody during the sacred week” (Achebe 29-30).
Okonkwo severely beats his wife for a small problem, not being home during dinner. However, the only reason he gets in trouble is because it is the week of peace. In fact, it is often encouraged that men beat their women for punishment of “wrongdoings”, and the women have no recourse against it.
Women are not only without protection, but also denied social status. They cannot meaningfully participate in social affairs. This is demonstrated is the way feminine concepts and words are used to refer to weak things. Achebe writes about Okonkwo speaking to a man who contradicted him: “Without looking at the man Okonkwo had said: “This meeting is for men.” The man who had contradicted him had no titles. That is why he called him a woman” (26).
Where did all those romantic fellas go? With all that can be, all that is within us, romance lives forever! So why not take advantage of it. Did you ever look around and wonder why a woman will chose another man over you? Maybe you are more handsome, intelligent, richer and so much more than that other plain fellow what's his name. But he's romantic and obviously knows how to treat a woman and ...
Although the women’s lack of power is very clear when looking at society, it is very obvious in the language employed by the Ibo in Things Fall Apart that women do not have any social power. They cannot do beyond what they are told. This is consistent with real Ibo culture, where social repression of women is happening still today, even though women have gained some power (Okonkwo).
This means that his representation is accurate and therefore fair. So, Chinua Achebe accurately represents Ibo women as having little say in the community in his book, Things Fall Apart.
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« Donatelli From the Book: The ContenderThe Great Gatsby »Despite their lack of a social status, Chinua Achebe depicts women as having worth and being emotionally strong. Although they aren’t seen and respected as equals to men they are often emotionally strong, and are revered for some reasons. After Okonkwo’s exile, Uchendu speaks to Okonkwo on women and their role: “It’s true that a child belongs to its father. But when a father beats his child, it seeks sympathy in its mother’s hut…Your mother is there to protect you…And that is why we say that mother is supreme” (Achebe 134).
Although the full capacities of women are never recognized by Ibo society or men, some qualities of them are recognized and the women were emotionally strong. Achebe writes: “As a matter of fact the tree was very much alive.
Okonkwo’s second wife had merely cut a few leaves off it to wrap some food, and she said so. Without further argument, Okonkwo gave her a sound beating…” (38).
The ability of Ibo women to remain and function in the culture in the face of the ever present threat of violence, lack of social status, and common mistreatment shows a large amount of emotional strength. This reflection of Ibo women that one gleans from Things Fall Apart can also be seen in real Ibo culture, as women are treated and act in very parallel ways. Women carry out the same duties as listed in the book, and are treated similarly. Under these conditions, they would have to be emotionally strong to survive. Thus, Achebe is fairly and accurately representing women in Things Fall Apart.
Chinua Achebe's, Things Fall Apart could be considered a modern-day epic as a result of its world-renowned recognition; eight million papers in print in fifty different languages. Achebe's main character in the novel: Okonkwo compares to the heroic figure of Odysseus, in Homer's epic The Iliad. Okonkwo embodies the early ideals, characteristics, and traditions of his people and / or nation. And ...
Chinua Achebe demonstrates that the patriarchy of Ibo society has existed for a long time and now cannot be removed. He does not pass judgment on this, but merely shows what it is like. He writes on Okonkwo’s thoughts of other tribes and cultures: “’The world is large…I have even heard that in some tribes a man’s children belong to his wife and her family” (74).
The way Okonkwo says this is in disapproval and amazement that some other culture could have these standards. The man he is talking to has an equal reaction. This clearly shows that the patriarchal system of Ibo society is ingrained in the lives and culture of the people so that they don’t even question its existence. Rather, they take it as self-evident fact. Achebe writes on the tradition of the egwugwu: “These women never saw the inside of the hut. No women ever did…No woman ever asked questions about the most powerful and the most secret cult in the clan” (88).
One of the most powerful traditions of the Ibo people includes the exclusion of women, showing how the system of male dominance has become stuck in Ibo culture. To be fair, religious ceremonies are often carried out by certain types of people, but the exclusion of women from ever being a part of it proves the point all the same. Chinua Achebe paints a picture of how women relate to Ibo culture, but only presents it in the story. The only “opinions” he gives are ones that are telling the story, so they are not opinions so much as pieces of information used to aid the telling of the story.
In Chinua Achebe’s book Things Fall Apart, women are repressed by an entrenched structure of the social repression. However, they remain emotionally strong and revered in certain ways. This is consistent with real Ibo society. But because he never condemns or advocates this system, or passes any judgment on it, the reader has to formulate their own opinion on the system and what its implications are. Achebe merely focuses on telling a story of another culture through the lens of that tribe. Therefore, it is a fair representation of women in Ibo culture because he is merely reporting the facts by telling a story.
Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. 1st. United States of America: First Anchor Books, 1994.
Okonkwo, Churchill. “Inferiorization of Igbo Women and its Consequences.” Nigeria Village Square. 09 Sep 2007. 5 Dec 2007 .
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