In Things Fall Apart, Achebe explains the pre-colonial African woman’s role in Ibo society. He presents women as a sadly oppressed group with no power. Even in these circumstances, women play the most important role of all.
The relationship between males and females in this novel is masculine-based. Men with no title are compared to being a woman (representing weakness) and given no respect. Men are expected to control and rule their women and children. Those that cannot accomplish this are not considered a man. Men are considered important. They are respected more with age and revered with achievement (Achebe, 1994). The highest accolades for the successful farmer, warrior, and man of worth are wives, yam barns, and social titles. A man’s social status is determined by these accolades (Mezu, 2013).
Women are presented in the novel as one that should be seen and not heard. They are expected to complete their household duties, raise the children, and be ready to meet the demands given by their husband without questions or complaints. They are beaten by their husband’s without recourse. They are the core of the rural workforce. Yet, women are considered inconsequential.
The family structure in Things Fall Apart is the husband as head of the household. The men marry more than one wife and have many children. The males in the family have specific roles that only males perform, such as carrying their father’s chair to a wrestling match. They are groomed early in life to be like a man, to dominate and control. The girls are also groomed to perform the tasks of females. They are taught to mother, cook, and clean along with their mothers in order to learn the way of life.
In the novel, there are several references to things, which are either feminine or masculine. Crimes are described as either male or female. If the crime is considered female, it is inadvertent instead of intentional. The earth is referred to as feminine. There are men’s crops, which are the yams and women’s crops, which are coco-yams, beans, and cassava. There are references throughout which depict things as being like a women, which are weak and insignificant. It seems in the Ibo society, anything weak is likened to women and strong was likened to men (Chun, 1990).
Despite the way the women are presented, there are some women, which are highly revered. For instance, Chielo, the Priestess of Agbala was consulted by many to determine their future, consult with the spirits, or many other reasons. She is a spiritual leader who is greatly feared by all. Her authority is unquestionable. An example of this was when she demanded Okonkwo’s daughter, Ezinma be handed over to her. She screamed at Okonkwo and took his daughter, which he allowed (Achebe, 1994). Having a woman as a spiritual leader, occupying the role of a priestess, clearly displays reverence for women being present in Ibo society (Hiatt, 2006).
The Earth goddess, Ani is another example of a...