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Things Fall Apart Essay

740 words - 3 pages

In today's society, women are given the same privileges and respects as men. However, gender equality is a relatively new idea, and differs among various nations, cultures, and historical periods. In Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe explores the controversy over women's roles in the Nigerian society of the Ibo people. Achebe's main character, Okonkwo, finds himself caught in the struggle between his own misogynistic views and the more complicated interpretations of femininity in his society. Although the women in Things Fall Apart seem to be an oppressed group with no power, the deep-rooted beliefs of the culture reveal an attitude of reverence and respect toward the female roles in Ibo society. At first glance, the women of Umofia appear to be completely powerless. Throughout the novel, Okonkwo frequently subjugates the women in his life, beats his wives, and shows that he does not think very highly of the female gender. When a man contradicts him in a meeting, he snaps back saying, "this meeting is for men", implying that in his mind being called a "woman" is a nasty insult. In fact, when Okonkwo feels guilty for killing his adopted son, he attributes his emotions to weakness that is typical of femininity and says to himself, "when did you become a shivering, old woman?" This shows that Okonkwo views women as incapable of so called "masculine" strengths and powers. Such gender stereotypes are perhaps shared by others in the Ibo society; nonetheless, a closer look reveals that the culture actually treasures the women in their world. An excellent example of the value placed on women in the Ibo village is illustrated in the role they play in the culture's religion. For instance, women routinely perform the role of a priestess. The narrator recalls that during Okonkwo's boyhood, "the priestess in those days was woman called Chika. She was full of the power of her god, and she was greatly feared." The present priestess is Chielo, who is also a woman. This ability of women to occupy roles as spiritual leaders elevates them and commands respect from their society. Another example of such reverence for women is unveiled in the...

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