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Female: The Stronger Gender In Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”

1685 words - 7 pages

“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. . . . And that is why we say that mother is supreme” (p.134). In Achebe’s 1959 “Things Fall Apart”, female figures appear to have minor domesticated roles; however with these words Achebe calls attention to female strength within the tribe. Feminine power is recognized within the tribe, and fear of this power provides the foundation for the male obsession with displays of masculinity. Achebe highlights significant female goddesses, displays a solid feminine role in education, fully develops strong-minded female characters, and demonstrates masculine catastrophes, therefore establishes female as the stronger gender in the tribe.

Achebe’s whisper to feminine strengths in his novel was influenced by his intended 1950’s Western audience. Cobham suggests, as cited by Krishnan (2012), that “Achebe chooses representations of Igbo society that are most easily digested by a Western audience” (p.8). In the 1950’s with the end of World War II and men returning home, women’s value was regarded mainly as domestic housewives and mothers. Catalano (2002) illustrates the atmosphere in 1950’s United States explaining, “the Cold War placed an added emphasis on family unity as a defense against communism, making the role of women as wives and mothers crucial to the preservation of the United States and its democratic ideals” and submits, many “identify the 1950s as the pinnacle of gender inequality” (p45). For the benefit of his audience, the stock feminine characters Achebe made obvious mimicked that of 1950’s United States: the inferior female, domesticated housewife, and mother.

However, Achebe’s quest for proper Igbo cultural representation necessitates glimpses into the existence of feminine strengths existing within the Igbo culture. These seemly subtle glimpses are presented in a fashion to the critical reader, revealing the significant impact femininity asserts within tribe. One way Achebe achieves this is by revealing feminine deities as a vital part of Nigerian-Igbo culture.

In fact, the most significant tribal deities were feminine, and Achebe reveals tribal perceptions of feminine power particularly through Ani, the earth goddess, describing her as “a greater part in the life of the people than any other deity. . . [and] ultimate judge of morality and conduct” (p.36). Ani was feared within the tribe as much as celebrated. The Feast of the New Yam was an annual celebration honoring the earth goddess. Additionally, offerings were made to this goddess for good health and harvests. Punishments were instigated when violations against Ani were committed: violations against the earth or morality. Okonkwo continuously paid refuge to Ani for his extreme masculine behaviors. Such as, by breaking the Week of Peace, inadvertently killing a boy, and ultimately...

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