Femininity In Things Fall Apart

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In the Ibo hierarchal society, women are the subject of unequal treatment and patronization. They are considered weak and are not given any power. As the novel, Things Fall Apart unravels, the author, Chinua Achebe reveals the distinct attributes of femininity. Feminine traits are also viewed with disdain in Umuofian society, especially by the protagonist of the novel, Okonkwo. His past experiences shape his disposition and give rise to his stereotypical mentality; however, several events contradict the prevalent perspective of women, leading to Okonkwo facing conflicts within himself.
In Umuofia, men often generalize women and make stereotypical assumptions. The only significance of women to Okonkwo is that they represent the birth of children,
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His fear of weakness and failure is derived from his father, Unoka’s failures, which ignite Okonkwo’s misogynistic views. Throughout his lifetime, Okonkwo associates femininity with weakness because of Unoka, who was called an “agbala” or woman by the people of Umuofia. Since women have this reputation for weakness, Okonkwo lives with constant fear that he will be given the same title as his father. Okonkwo’s first son, Nwoye’s effeminacy reminds Okonkwo of his own father. He says, "I have done my best to make Nwoye grow into a man, but there is much of his mother in him ."(Achebe, 66). Therefore, Okonkwo asks Nwoye to quit listening to his mother's womanly stories and hear the tales of war. It is only when Ikemefuna arrives that Nwoye begins to behave masculine. After much training, Okonkwo is pleased with Nwoye’s changed behaviour and for this, he credits Ikemefuna. Okonkwo’s good friend, Obierika is a contradicting character – with a title equivalent to Okonkwo’s – with a completely different belief system. Obierika does not shy away from his feminine characteristics, just like Unoka, he is compassionate and gentle. With this mentality, Obierika lives a happy family life, while Okonkwo’s life is loaded with…show more content…
Despite Okonkwo’s respect towards these female figures, he abuses one of his wives during Peace Week - a week tributed to the earth goddess, Ani. Ezeani, the priestess of the earth goddess therefore concludes, “The earth goddess whom you have insulted may refuse to give us her increase [in harvest], and we shall all perish” (Achebe, 30). Another dominant and revered female figure is Chielo, “the priestess of Agbala, the Oracle of the hill and the Caves” (Achebe, 107). Chielo’s voice is described as “a sharp knife cutting through the night” (Achebe, 100), giving us a sense of power; the type that is generally associated with men like Okonkwo. Moreover, when Chielo comes for Ezinma, Okonkwo pleads for Chielo to come at another time. Enraged, Chielo shouts and threatens Okonkwo: “Beware, Okonkwo!” (Achebe, 101). It is bizarre to see a woman commanding Okonkwo, but it’s perplexing to see Okonkwo pleading and being threatened by a woman. At this point in time, Okonkwo does not dare question or argue with Chielo, as he knows the consequences of disobeying the Oracle. There is some degree of appreciation for women in Umuofia; however, it is limited to priestesses and
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