Things Fall Apart 2 Essay

Things Fall Apart 2 Essay

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Throughout history, from the beginning of time to today, women have frequently been viewed of as inferior, men s possessions whose sole purpose was to satisfy the men s needs. Way back in ancient civilizations, women were thought of as homemakers and nurturers. All day, they were to stay at home, care for the children, and prepare meals for the family. In many places today, women are still not treated as equals, and have almost no rights. In addition to being treated unfairly, women have also been treated harshly. They have been harassed, beaten, raped and taken advantage of throughout the course of history. Many authors have included or written about this aspect in their novels or stories. As history passed, the roles of women began to gain importance and women began to gain rights. Chinua Achebe shows these unequal roles of women as part of the Ibo culture, a Nigerian tribe, in his novel, Things Fall Apart. Through the life of Okonkwo, the main character of Things Fall Apart, the reader is presented with the roles of women through various events that take place in the village of Umuofia. It is important to note the Ibo s social view on males and females. The Ibo believe that women are weak in every aspect of life, while men are strong and determined. They classify crimes and deaths as male or female. Murders and beatings being named masculine, and accidental crimes, stealing, or other small crimes are considered feminine. (Brians 1) Ikemefuna, Okonkwo s son, was brought into the forest to be killed by Okonkwo and another man. Okonkwo had been a fatherly figure to Ikemefuna, since Ikemefuna had been separated from his tribe. As the other man swung his machete at Ikemefuna, Ikemefuna turned, causing the blow to be ineffective. The boy, still alive, came running to Okonkwo screaming, My father, they have killed me! (Achebe 61) Okonkwo did not want to be considered weak, so he drew his machete and finished off Ikemefuna. After returning home from killing Ikemefuna, Okonkwo did not eat for two days. He had already finished all his work for that week, which left him with time only to relax. When did you become a shivering old woman, Okonkwo asked himself, You who are known in all the nine villages for your valor in war? How can a man who has killed five men in battle fall to pieces because he has added a boy to their number? Okonkwo, you have become a woman indeed. (Achebe 65) He feels that he has become a woman because he is feeling remorse and sorrow over Ikemefuna s death. In Umuofia, men are expected to be strong, emotionless, and eager to kill. (Monkey 3) Later in the novel, at a funeral for an Umuofian tribesman, many men, including Okonkwo, take part in rituals, such as aiming their guns into the air and shooting, while the others are singing and dancing. When Okonkwo s shot went off, his gun let fly a piece of shrapnel, which pierced the heart of the son of the man whose funeral it was. The Ibo did not take the killing of another tribesman lightly. If the killing was intentional, it was considered masculine, and the killer was exiled from the tribe forever. If the killing was unintentional, or an accident, such as this one, it was considered a female crime, and the killer was exiled for seven years from the tribe. Killing a clansman was either a crime of two kinds, male and female. Okonkwo had committed the female because it had been inadvertent. He could return to the clan after seven years (Achebe124) The Ibo expected women to make mistakes, therefore, an inadvertent death was considered a female crime. In Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe gave the women in his novel roles similar to those of women throughout the world at that time, but most importantly, similar to the women in pre-colonial Nigeria, where the novel takes place. In Pre-colonial Nigeria, women s positions varied with each tribe. Women held a basically complimentary rather than subordinate, position to men in indigenous Pre-colonial Nigerian society, which based power on seniority, rather than gender. (Rojas 1) In Things Fall Apart, though gender plays a more significant factor in determining one s responsibilities, seniority does play a small factor. Women usually had domestically oriented jobs and complimentary positions to men. In the Ibo culture, women were expected to give birth to sons to prolong the survival of the tribe. A woman s main role was being a good loyal housewife. They were expected to look after the children, clean and have the meals ready by the time their husband was home. If they did not do all of their responsibilities, it was fair game for their husbands to beat them. Wife beating was considered a common solution to disobedient women, and was allowed by the Ibo tribe. (Emeagwali 5) Chinua Achebe describes two instances of wife beating in Things Fall Apart. The first instance is when Okonkwo beats his wife, Ojiugo, and another involves a tribesman, Uzowulu. Okonkwo beats his wife first as a punishment for not having dinner prepared for him, for plaiting her hair instead of cooking diner for him and his children. Any other time, people would not have come over to see why a woman was screaming, but this was during the Week of Peace, and to beat someone during the Week of Peace was unheard of. Okonkwo did not care though. He thought that she needed to be punished anyway. Later, the priest called Okonkwo, and explained to him that he had greatly upset the gods, and in order to prevent them from pouring their wrath on the village, he had to bring many things to the Shrine of Ani. Uzowulu had been accused by his sister-in-law of beating his wife too much. Once, he beat her while she was pregnant and she miscarried. This trial was brought before the egwugwu, or jury, because it was a more severe case. The egwugwu ruled in favor of Uzowulu s wife, and he was ordered to bring a pot of wine to his in-laws and beg for his wife to return. After the case was over, one elder said to the other, 'I don t know why such a trifle should come before the egwugwu, said one elder to the other. 'Don t you know what kind of man Uzowulu is? He will not listen to any other decision, replied the other. (Achebe 94) The elders knew that Uzowulu would still beat his wife after but it was a ritual of the Ibo, to bring serious cases of wife beating before the egwugwu. The Ibo also assigned other important roles to women as well as housewife. They painted the houses of the egwugwu, and every Ibo man s first wife was paid more respect than his later wives were. During the palm wine ceremony at Nwakibie s Obi, none of the other wives were allowed to sit or begin to drink until Nwakibie s first wife arrived. In Pre-colonial Nigeria, the position of a young wife improved as she grew older, bore children, and earned approval from the older members of the village (Emeagwali 8) The most important role was to be there to comfort their children when they were banned from the village or after they were beaten or sad. When Okonkwo was exiled from his village of Umuofia, and forced to return to his motherland, his mother s family accepted him, and helped him to adapt to his new village, despite his nasty attitude. A speech was given by Okonkwo s uncle, directed at him, shortly after he arrived. He asked Okonkwo if he knew why they often name their children Nneka, meaning, mother is supreme. Okonkwo did not know and shook his head. After laughing at his ignorance, Okonkwo s uncle Uchendu explained to him why they did this. He explained to Okonkwo that one s mother is always there for her children. He said, A man belongs to his fatherland when things are good and life is sweet. But when there is sorrow and bitterness he finds refuge in his motherland. Your mother is there to protect you (Achebe 134) He was trying to tell Okonkwo that a man will be happy and sad throughout his life, but when things get really bad, one s mother is always there to take care and comfort him. Throughout his novel, Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe presents the reader with the roles, responsibilities, and treatment of women through the use of various events, and actions of many characters. He shows us through a historical fictional novel the way women are treated in different cultures and around the world.

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