The analysis of feminist theory in Things Fall Apart presents reason for the sexism that is continuously portrayed. Sexism and problematic gender roles within the novel are repeatedly depicted throughout a number of scenes and characters. With this, we are able to see how sexism exists in various cultures and how the implementation of sexism is detrimental to society. Although, as feminist theory states, rebelling and challenging the patriarchal system is necessary to halt gender roles and sexual restriction (Leitch 24). Ekwefi represents this break from gender roles and stands out as the only female figure that acts boldly in a time of stress. However, exclusively analyzing feminist theory for this text undermines just as vital theories …show more content…
When Okonkwo discovers that Nwoye has found a new faith in Christianity, he claims that Nwoye is a woman and not a man nor his own son and addresses that Nwoye is effeminate and degenerate (Achebe 153). These gender roles for men are problematic because it implies that the men in Okonkwo’s life cannot stray away from highly masculine tendencies or else he will be ostracized or beaten. Feminist theory is applicable to this certain situation because Okonkwo perpetuates the male gender role for his son when Nwoye wishes to break from the roles. Okonkwo illustrates the use of gender roles and lack of feminism in his daughter, Ezinma and his regret of her being a girl (Achebe 137). Okonkwo’s desire for his daughter to be a man is problematic and represents the patriarch’s refusal to view women as equal to men. Throughout Ezinma’s life time, Okonkwo expresses his desires for Ezinma to be born a boy ( Achebe 137). He explictly states to himself that he, “wishes she were a boy,” because she “understands him perfectly” (Achebe 136). Okonkwo expands on this desire as he continue to express how Ezinma is his favorite among the daughters and that she understands the ways of his consciousness and his moods (Achebe 137) . Although these expressions are subtle, Okonkwo’s regret of Ezinma’s gender plays a role in the patriarchal induced gender roles that women are socially lesser than men. Society’s standards
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For several decades, females have been victims of sexism, violence and prejudice. Many cultures nationwide still display discrimination against women, especially in the Middle East and African culture. One book in particular Things Fall Apart, by Achebe portrays Igbo Society and examines masculinity from an African perspective. Throughout the novel, women were voiceless and struggled against injustice; which is set in the era of the first wave feminism. As most are aware, this period of history highlights the inequalities between females and males. A topic that has been analyzed by Chinu Acebe, Levine Nett, J.Case Tompkins, and other feminist theorists. Thus, this paper argues that feminist literary theory is a useful tool to analyze
Ezinma, the oldest daughter of Okonkwo, faces an internal conflict of struggling to adjust to the customs of her culture. He expresses the response of Okonkwo towards Ezinma’s actions by saying, “And after a pause she said: “Can I bring your chair for you?” “No, that is a boy’s job.” Okonkwo was especially fond of Ezinma.” (Achebe 59-60). The phase “a boy’s job” has a negative connotation, and implies that Ezinma cannot do a specific action because it is considered “masculine”. She tends to enjoy helping her father in any way possible. However, cultural norms prevent her from accomplishing that because she is not a male. Achebe demonstrates how Ezinma stands out from the other children in her community by saying, “Ezinma did not call her mother Nne like all children. She called her by her name, Ekwefi, as her father and other grown-up people did.” (Achebe 76). While Ezinma feels that she is following the rules of her culture, it is also clear that she is rebellious
With the arrival of third-wave feminism, gender roles are an increasingly popular topic for discussion, and literature is an effective catalyst for it. This is shown through Chinua Achebe´s 1958 novel Things Fall Apart, which discusses the effects of European colonization on African society, using a fictional group of Igbo villages as an example. His main character is Okonkwo, an aggressive and powerful male figure in the community. He is a prime example of how male gender expectations can negatively affect people. As Achebe states, “fiction [is] entirely fictitious [but] it could also be true or false, not with the truth or falsehood of a news article but as to its disinterestedness, its intention, its integrity” (Franklin 3). Clearly, he writes with the purpose of conveying truths through the broader untruth of fiction, and so could not have unintentionally created a character with such problems that are glaringly caused by gender roles. The way that Okonkwo embodies stereotypical gender expectations for men makes clear how they can be toxic to everyone.
Gender roles played a crucial part to the understanding of the people of Umuofia; especially to Okonkwo. But just as in today’s world, one person of a group cannot define the entire group, it was the same back then, which further proves how the District Commissioner’s view of Umuofia would not represent the entire clan, let alone Africa as a whole. Okonkwo’s motivation behind his views of patriarchy stem from his father Unoka; he wanted to be such a great man of the tribe, unlike his “agbala” of a father. Okonkwo’s son “[n]woye knew that it was right to be masculine and to be violent, but somehow he still preferred the stories that his mother used to tell, and which she no doubt still told to her younger children…but he now knew that they were for foolish women
She does not act like a girl, she acts more like a boy when it comes to her father. For example, “And after a pause she said: ‘Can I bring your chair for you?’ ‘No, that is a boy’s job.’ Okonkwo was specially fond of Ezinma” (Achebe 38). Okonkwo believes that Ezinma should have been born a boy because she would have given great fortune unlike his oldest son Nwoye, who is more a woman that a man. This shows that women are capable to do thing that men do. It is just the men that choose to let the women do what they do or to keep them as house wives. Okonkwo believe that a man who cannot rule over his wives than he has no power at all, “That showed that in no time he would be able to control his women-folk” (Achebe 45). Women should not be controlled by men. They should be able to make their own choices. Women are basically living in a man’s shadow because they let them treat them like they are not important to society. Women are just as important as men are in a
One quotation that expresses Okonkwo’s view of manliness states Okonkwo “was always happy when he heard [Nwoye] grumbling about women. That showed that in time he would be able to control his womenfolk” (53). This quotation shows that Oknonkwo feels pleasure when his son displays signs of power, such as the control of the perceived weaker gender. Ergo, Okonkwo views the subordination of others by his son as an example of “masculinity.” This idea is further supported by the quotation: “No matter how prosperous a man was, if he was unable to rule his women and his children… he was not really a man” (53). Oknonkwo clearly considers utter authority of one’s nuclear family as a prerequisite to meet “manhood.” He literally states that a man without patriarchy in his family is not a man. Therefore, when Nwoye displays the early signs of this dominance, like the grumbling about his subordinate women’s issues, Okonkwo is finally considering his son “masculine” as shown by his happiness.
Things Fall Apart tells the story of Okonkwo, a tribal African yam farmer, through trials and tribulations that change both him and his tribe. The Umuofia clan values traits such as strength, confidence, crop success, and honor. Okonkwo exemplifies everything that the clan wants in a man, and he was well aware of it. He thrives on being the antithesis of the image of his father, Unoka, who was viewed as considerably more feminine and generally a failure because of his failed harvests and love of the flute. Nwoye, Okonkwo’s son, is also considerably more feminine, and therefore lesser, in the eyes of his father. Okonkwo compensated for the failure in his blood line by putting on a front of hyper-masculine fervor; something that leads him down many troublesome roads. While Things Fall Apart is a tale of many things, Okonkwo’s struggle with femininity causes many of the major conflicts the story. Okonkwo’s learned opposition to feminine traits causes him to project machismo in order to cover up for the underlying feminine qualities that he has and is fearful of.
In this scene, Okonkwo and Nwoye are foil characters. Okonkwo remains to believe in the polytheistic Igbo religion, while Nwoye has chosen to become a Christian. Okonkwo considers Christianity to be a “womanly”, therefore
Okonkwo abides by the rules of masculinity long after it suits his life. Okonkwo thought women we inferior to men. During the Week of Peace, Ojiugo lied to her husband; in the novel it states, “And when she returned he beat her very heavily” (Achebe 29). Okonkwo’s anger took over him. His vision of himself was so great that he thought he could beat his own wife, even during the Week of Peace. Okonkwo’s favorite child would be Ezinma, but she cannot be as great as he would want her to be because she is a female. Okonkwo openly said, “She should have been a boy” (Achebe 64). Okonkwo thinks that his daughter is great, but because she is not a boy he can not admire her. He thinks she would have been better a boy because, in his mind, he thinks men are greater beings than women. Okonkwo cannot wait for his son Nwoye to grow up and be as great of a man as he was. The novel states, “He wanted Nwoye to grow into a tough young man capable of ruling his father’s household when he was dead and gone to join the ancestor” (Achebe 53). Even though Okonkwo likes Ezinma, he thinks Nwoye will keep his legacy going after he is dead. Ironically, Nwoye leaves his father’s side and joins the missionaries, while Ezinma stood by Okonkwo’s side. The reasoning for Okonkwo’s exile was due to Okonkwo shooting a young boy
Throughout Chinua Achebe’s novel, Things Fall Apart, it is made very apparent how much the main character, Okonkwo, values manliness. Despite the fact that Okonkwo lived quite a few centuries ago, his story still shares some similarities with the way men today are pressured to be masculine. Okonkwo’s desire to be masculine affects him by causing him to be violent towards his family, view women as lesser than him, and produce a view that men shouldn’t have emotions. In the end, this desire causes his downfall, eventually causing him to take his own life.
Historically, women have been viewed as inferior to men due to a female's lack of physical strength. In the candid novel, Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe clearly defines gender roles; women are the caretakers and cooks- simply existing to satisfy men’s desires. Although “Things Fall Apart portrays the women as weak ,inferior, and being put in their place by men; however, Achebe also notes their importance during several parts of the story. By incorporating powerful dialogues and scenes to develop gender conflicts, Achebe uses the completely divergent character of Okonkwo, who constantly strives to achieve manliness to demonstrate that although women in the Igbo society are important, they are not treated as such. Chinua Achebe, the author suggests that there is a constant conflict which exists between the two genders and the expectations of the roles in which each of them must play.
This perception leads the characters to decisions and changes in their lifestyle in order to avoid others to believe that they had “become a woman indeed” (Achebe 65). This is based on the belief passed down from one generation to another of men that once they were old enough they should demonstrate masculinity because “his father wanted him to become a man” and in order to do this he must forget all attitudes that “were for foolish women” (Achebe 54). One of the reasons why men would be shamed and called a woman would be because they possessed no titles, land or wives. Men who own a vast amount of land and many wives and are able to pay their bride-price are considered successful. The marriages in the ibo culture are negotiations, in which like in other circumstances the compensation is a woman. During these agreements between men, the women’s opinions are not taken into consideration. These customs build up on the main character’s frustration after being exiled from his fatherland to his motherland, and the fear of being considered by others less of a man. This same fear is the one which previously leads Okonkwo to kill a young boy who was sent to give with him and whom he came to care for in his “show of manliness” (Achebe 66). The culture and traditions in the ibo society perpetuate the image of women as
Because Gender roles affect mostly women people don’t often look at the ways it affects men. In “Things Fall Apart” Okonkwo is most affected by Gender roles and the expectations it brings. The idea of roles promote the ideology of “masculinity”. Because of this idea we see Okonkwo as a cruel and horrid man. The narrator explains, “Perhaps down in his heart Okonkwo was not a cruel man. But his whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and of weakness” (Achebe 13). This was caused partly by his father. His father was a infamous man for being “feminine” and indebt. “As a little boy he had resented his father’s failure and weakness, and even now he still remembered how he had suffered when a playmate had told him that his father was agbala”(Achebe 13). Agbala either meant a person with no titles or a women. Okonkwo was mocked and teased because of his father. It's not entirely the father’s fault but more the society. It's so over masculine that everyone’s lives have to be ruled in a certain manner. They make Unoka seem like a terrible person but yet he just was different from the rest. He didn’t want his life to be ruled by the speculations aligned with gender roles. Samantha Olson a Journalist and professional writer
Okonkwo victimizes his family due to his sexism. Okonkwo’s actions and thoughts signifies his idea that men and women are not equal. Throughout the plot he berates his daughter, Ezinma, concerning her gender. Since she is not the son he wishes for he continually abuses her into acting more feminine. When Okonkwo summons Ezinma to his hut and as she sits down “‘Sit like a woman!’ Okonkwo [shouts] at her,” (Achebe 44). Okonkwo forces Ezinma to cook and care for him and usually shows no affection towards her. Okonkwo’s victimization causes Ezinma to feel unwanted and unable to make Okonkwo happy. Yelling to Ezinma and trying to teach her what he wants from her conflicts what she hears her father tell Nwoye. Okonkwo tells Nwoye to become stronger and focus on
In 1990 Judith Butler first published her book Gender Troubles, where she questions gender roles. Butler theorizes that gender, as in male and female, is a type of societal/gender colonialism created to keep people who do not fall within the gender roles from being part of the mainstream society. In her 1999 preface, in which she addresses the impact her book had in the decade since its original publication, Butler expresses the concern she had with the “heterosexual assumption in feminist literary theory (61).” Butler utilizes the works of other feminist philosophers to further demonstrate the inconsistency, and disconnect between fighting for women rights and fighting for human rights. Judith Butler makes an interesting argument on the failure to recognize the spectrum of gender, however, she makes a compelling argument on the use of language perpetuating a patriarchal society.