Things Fall Apart, An Examination Of The Treatment Of Women

1253 words - 5 pages

At first glance the treatment of women in an Igbo marriage is appalling, the woman may be beat if she is out of line, she raises the children, does the housework and even some farm work without hesitation. For the Igbo clan, a marriage is the union between a man and as many women as he desires and can afford to buy. A marriage is done for the purpose of having numerous children and love between man and wife is not even a requirement. The wife is given the option to leave if she is unhappy and despite the fact that the choice to leave or to stay seems obvious, the pros seem to outweigh the cons for an Igbo woman.

For the most part an Igbo marriage takes into consideration two factors: religion and the fertility of the couple. Children are one of the main focuses for the Igbo tribe and being married is among the first essential steps towards having children. It is extremely vital for a married couple to have children, actually a woman is not welcomed into her husband's family until she bares him a child. "The birth of the child gives her the title of wife, before this time she may be said to be a wife only in anticipation." (Obi, Celestine). The birth of a male child is much more accepted than the birth of a female child. A male child will eventually do the harder labour, go to war, and carry on the family name where a female child will marry into another family. In Achebe's novel Things Fall Apart Okonkwo clearly illustrates resentment toward his daughter Ezinma simply because she should have been a boy, she is however his favourite daughter. Okonkwo's resentment towards his favourite daughter demonstrates how stressful life would be as another one of his daughters.

When the main importance of a woman's life is to produce children, the life of a sterile woman is deemed relatively insignificant, not to mention particularly stressful. Yet just as horrendous as not bearing any children, it is just as horrendous to have twins or to have what the Igbo clan call an ogbanje child. The birth of twins was abnormal and was unnecessary fertility, the babies were killed soon after birth and the mother would endure extensive rituals so she would not bear twins again (Achebe, xxxvii). An ogbanje child is a child that would die during infancy and the dead spirit would return to the mother's womb to be born again, only to die during infancy. Okonkwo's second wife Ekwefi lost a child due to this ogbanje curse nine times, after the death of her infant son Onwumbiko, the body was mutilated by a medicine man as a warning sign to the ogbanje not to return. It was surprising to see how supportive Okonkwo was to his wife during these hard times. Okonkwo sought the help of two different medicine men and did not simply replace his wife when she was not producing healthy children.

Before a marriage is performed, men have to pay a bride price; this is paid to the family (more specifically to the father) of the woman to be married. This price can be negotiated...

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