Women In African Texts: Looking At The Portrayal Of Women In Joseph Conrad's Heart Of Dark, Chinua Achebe's Arrow Of God, And The African Storyteller's Gamboler Of The Plain

1400 words - 6 pages

Women all over the world have been struggling for equality with men for centuries. Fighting negative stereotypes and male suppression, women are still fighting for a break. Within the texts studied in our class, I will examine this struggle mainly from the viewpoint of African women, universalizing it to the plight all women have been battling. These works at first glance may appear to be unbiased in taking a position as to who is superior, men or women, but on a closer reading, one will notice the dark shadow the male authors cast on women. Women are portrayed as materialistic, sexually loose, immoral, and completely dependent on men in order to function thus implying men are ultimately superior to women.The first text I noticed these characteristics was in Hegel’s The Philosophy of History in which he discusses that according to some African traditions, when a King dies, the wives must die also. The peculiar part was when facing their death, they “go richly attired to meet it” (Hegel 98). Knowing they will die, the women take their valuables with them; do they believe they can take these valuables with them in the afterlife? If they do, this only further supports their highly materialistic views. If they do not believe in an afterlife why wear fancy clothing and jewels? Why not give them to other people rather than let them go to waste? Stanley implies the women are too selfish to pass on their precious belongings to others. Therefore, not only are women materialistic but selfish as well.In Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Kurtz’s African mistress is described by her appearance. Conrad chooses to describe her by what she is wearing “draped in striped and fringed cloths…brass leggings to the knees, brass wire gauntlets to the elbows…innumerable necklaces of glass beads on her neck…the value of several elephant tusks upon her” (Conrad 60). By neglecting all other traits than the physical appearance, Conrad is implying two things: one, this woman is completely satisfied if people only know her by what is on the outside and two, what is on the inside does not merit being told. African women are only valued by what they can offer on the outside. Appearance is key within the society, which is quite similar to the English’s views on women. I believe this enables Europeans to better relate to the mysterious women of Africa. Many European women are also materialistic and by drawing a parallel between the two societies, Europeans, men in particular, are able to “humanize” the savages. If anything, it universalizes the stereotype of all women caring only for pricey trinkets, bobbles, and bangles.I found Achebe’s Arrow of God most interesting when portraying women because as an African male, I thought he would defend this stereotype but he does not. Rather than argue the superiority of African women to English women Achebe encourages the materialistic tendencies of women. Ezeulu’s wife...

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