In his novel Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe introduces his readers to the Nigerian village Umuofia and its culture through the protagonist, Okonkwo, a well respected Umuofian leader. Umuofian culture is centered around pleasing and respecting spiritual life. Everything within this culture and religion has a specific order; however, the Umuofian culture ultimately reaches its demise when Evangelists arrive to convert the Umuofians to Christianity. As seen through the events that transpire in this novel, from Nwoye leaving his family to letting the osu have a place in society, religion has the potential to both build and break a society. Specifically, religion has the power to break apart families, introduce new ideas into society, and bring hope into one’s life.
The novel Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, originally written in his native language Ibo, tells the tragic tale of an African pre-Christian tribe seen through the eyes of Okonkwo. Okonkwo became a very successful clan leader in his village, by working hard and refusing to be lazy like his father Unoka. Achebe uses irony to encourage character development, drive the contrast between Okonkwo’s dreams and his reality as others see him, and explain the culture’s beliefs in the way they treat women vs. the way women are revered.
In addition, it is an insult to a man or boy if they possess any female qualities. Guilt ridden after murdering Ikemefuna, his surrogate son, Okonkwo sternly reprimands himself not to “become like a shivering old woman” – this he considers the worst insult (65). Okonkwo also relates negatively to his oldest son Nwoye, who according to Okonkwo possess weak qualities and thus acts like a woman. He wanted Nwoye to listen to “masculine stories of violence and bloodshed” rather than the stories told by women which were for “foolish women and children” (54). The stories that men told were about bravery and war and young men were expected to listen to this instead of fairy tales that women told. “So Okonkwo encouraged the boys to sit with him in his obi, and he told them stories of the land” – while Nwoye feigned that he liked the stories his father told him to make him a man, he preferred his mother’s that he heard while growing up that kept his spirit gentle.
Chinua Achebe’s novel “Things Fall Apart” chronicles the life of Okonkwo, a strong man whose existence is dominated by fear and anger, and the Ibo tribe, a people deeply rooted in cultural belief and tradition. As events unfold, Okonkwo’s carefully constructed world and the Ibo way of life collapses. The story of Okonkwo’s fall from a respected and feared leader of the Ibo tribe to an outcast who dies in disgrace dramatizes his inability to evolve beyond his personal beliefs, affecting the entire Ibo tribe beyond measure. The “things” that fall apart in Achebe’s novel are Okonkwo’s life – his ambition, dreams, family unity and material wealth – and the Ibo way of life – their beliefs, culture and values.
In spite of pleas from his other wives, reminding him that it is forbidden to beat your wife during the Week of Peace. Okonkwo will face consequences, not for beating another human being, but only because of his timing. He beats his second wife when she refers to him as one of those "guns that never shot". When a severe case of wife beating comes before the egwugwu, he finds in favor of the wife, but at the end of the trial a man wonders, "why such a trifle should come before the egwugwu"(pg.83). The husband considers his wife property. He either wants his wife back or his bride price.
This ideal is a part of the village that women aren’t of high value and important in the village of Umuofia. It states “Without looking at the man Okonkwo had said. “This meeting is for men.” The man who had contradicted him had no titles. That was why he had called him a woman. Okonkwo knew how to kill a man’s spirit.” This shows that being a women or being called a woman is a very bad insult that can “Kill a man’s spirit”. Unoka is Okonkwo’s father, who is much different from Okonkwo that he is a peaceful care-free soul and a musician but because of this care-free way of life, doesn’t provide for the family and is lazy. Unoka is a caring man and cared for his son in the book when Okonkwo had a bad harvesting month. Unoka consoled Okonkwo by saying “Do not despair. I know you will not despair. You have a manly and a proud heart. A proud heart can survive a general failure because such a failure does not prick its pride. It is more difficult and bitter when a man fails alone.” Obierika is Okonkwo’s best friend who is a compassionate friend that gives reasonable help to Okonkwo’s decisions and actions. One example of this is when Okonkwo kills Ikemefuna, Obierika tells him “And let me tell you one thing, my friend. If I were you I would have stayed home. What you have done will not please the
1. In traditional Ibo culture, women are not treated as equals and are equivalent to possessions. In a family, the children always belong to the father, not the mother. “I have even heard that in some tribes a man’s children belong to his wife and her family” (74). Okonkwo appears appalled to this blasphemy. It is common and ideal for a husband to possess multiple wives, and men beat their wives for even the smallest infractions. During the Week of Peace, the goddess forbids wife beating, such as when Okonkwo beat Ojiugo. “And when she returned he beat her very heavily …It was unheard of to beat somebody during the sacred week” (29-30). To live in a culture with so many threats to them, women are required to be mentally and emotionally
Okonkwo, a very demanding character, has just finished a day's worth of labor and comes home expecting food at the table and his youngest wife has not prepared it yet. Okonkwo waits for her arrival when, “she returned he beat her very heavily. In his anger he had forgotten that it was the Week of Peace” (Achebe, 28). This quote displays gender inequality throughout the African villages during the Age of Exploration. The tone seen in the words “beat” and “heavily” give a sense of insecurity and negative connotation towards women during that time. In keeping with Igbo view of female nature, they allowed wife beating. It is clearly evident that tone in the book Things Fall Apart allows Achebe to get his point across that women were on the bottom of the social hierarchy and were treated like property. Women were subjugated to their husbands whims, in this case it meant beating his wife when dinner was not ready. This occurred during a Week of Peace regardless that no violence should
Throughout the novel, the egwugwu are mentioned on several occasions. These “spirits” are really just masked men of the clan, but instead of them being seen as just symbolic figures, they are believed to be actual spirits of their past ancestors, “The egwugwu house was now a pandemonium of quavering voices: Aru oyim de de de dei! Filled the air as the spirits of the ancestors, just emerged from the earth, greeted themselves in their esoteric language” (88). These men or “spirits” are seen throughout various rituals in the book, but their true effect upon the Ibo is not fully seen until a court proceeding at which the egwugwu decide a man’s punishment for breaking a law (87 – 94). In most, if not all, predominantly Christian countries, the citizens have some sort of judiciary system where he or she is punished for their crimes. The Ibo would not be any different if it were not for the reason that the jurors are believed to be the spirits of dead ancestors but in actuality are just men. This practice allows the select few egwugwu to judge their peers as if they themselves were gods. Not only does the judiciary process differ between the two religions, but as does the judgment of one’s actions that effect their spiritual lives. The Ibo believe that one man’s transgression has the potential to cause punishment towards the entire clan. This fear is observed when Okonkwo beats his wife during the Week of Peace, and he is commanded to make a sacrifice to Ani
The role of women in society has grown and changed tremendously with the development of the world. Within the American culture, women’s rights have expanded to the extent of being able to vote for who runs our country or even possibly being the person that does run our country. Although the American culture has somewhat promoted the growth of a woman’s role in society, does not mean women receive the same respect in other cultures around world. For example, in Africa women are viewed lower on the totem pole of importance even though without them the village would fall apart. Chinua Achebe is an author that was born and raised in a village of Nigeria. From growing up there, Achebe understands the culture of Africa better than
Upon an initial reading of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, it is easy to blame the demise of Okonkwo’s life and of the Umofia community on the imperialistic invasions of the white men. After all, Okonkwo seemed to be enjoying relative peace and happiness before then. He did have a few mishaps; one of them resulted in him being exiled for eight years. Nonetheless, he returned to his home town with high spirits and with prospects of increased success. However, everything has changed. The white men have brought with them a new religion and a new government. Okonkwo’s family falls apart. The men in his village lose their courage and valor; they do not offer any resistance to the white men. Consequently, Okonkwo kills
An example of this “ ‘Who killed this tree? Or are you all deaf and dumb?’ As matter fact the tree was very much alive. Okonkwo’s second wife had merely cut a few leaves off it to wrap some food, and she said so. Without further argument Okonkwo gave her a sound beating and left her and her only daughter weeping” (Achebe, 1994, p.38). This emphasizes that Okonkwo beat his wife for a stupid reason for she didn't commit of killing the tree but it was her talking back that made him infuriated. Okonkwo beats his wives in order to show his masculinity and shows to his wives what happens if they contradicting him. Although this may be true not all men beat their wives or think its right to do so. For instance when Egwugwu was deciding a verdict for the punishment of the husband when he beat his wife everyday the Egwugwu said “ ‘Our duty is not to blame this man or to praise that, but to settle the dispute’... ‘It is not bravery when a man fights with a woman’ ” (Achebe, 1994, p. 93). This proves that Egwugwu the most respect/ feared people in the 9 clans agree with how women should be treated. They believe that men are stronger than women and it would be easy for the man to win and that’s not courageous it's
Throughout history, specifically African heritage, wife beating and other forms of abuse are acceptable. Power and strength are pillars of African culture and can not be jeopardized by women and femininity. Many of the men in Umuofia, the main setting of Things Fall Apart, look up to Okonkwo and his actions. In order to demonstrate his strength (or lack thereof), he continually berates his wives. Along with his wives, he also abuses his children hoping that someday they will be as successful as him. Throughout Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo victimizes his family.
Brown is able to give up some of his control to women who join his religion. Okonkwo feels that women should be a man’s property. In Things Fall Apart there is a trial over the in which Uzowulu argues that “‘I do not owe my in-laws anything...One morning three of them came to my house, beat me up and took my wife and children away...‘The law of the clan is that you should return her bride price.’” (90). The women belong to the men, which means the men have control over them. The punishment for beating his wife was close to nothing. The men have complete ownership of their wife, they even buy them. It scares Okonkwo that he might not be able to control his wives. He believes the women shouldn’t learn, therefore the men can know more and have more control over them. Also, he feels that since men do the work in the fields, and are stronger, they are the people who can participate in clan decisions. Mr. Brown agrees with Okonkwo in the way that the missionaries that came to Umofia were all men, so they have a majority of their leaders as men. Mr. Brown strongly feels that women should be able to make their own decisions. He also believes that women deserve to learn how to read and get an education. Since Okonkwo is more concerned over losing his control over the women, he is more scared of giving women rights that Mr. Brown
Women also endured a lot more during their lifetime from their husbands than would have been thought to have been acceptable for the peace of the community and tradition, although some punishment methods may have been a little extreme. The men of the village of Umuofia in precolonial Africa were allowed to treat their wives in ways that modern American wives would not think of tolerating. When one wife to decided to cut a few leaves off a banana tree, capricious Okonkwo flew into a fit of rage and beat her. “Neither of his wives dared to interfere beyond an occasional and, tentative ‘It is enough Okonkwo,’ pleaded from a reasonable distance.” (page 38) She was able to have been beaten and Okonkwo’s other wife weren’t allowed to interfere, less they get a beating too. After his wife received the beating, she got upset and seemingly bold when he told Ikemefuna, the prisoner of conflict to get his gun and she whispered a remark that his guns never shot. Okonkwo was immediately devoid of anything but anger and “he heard it and ran madly into his room for the loading gun and aimed it at her. He pressed the trigger… he threw down the gun, and jumped into the barn and there lay the woman… frightened but quite unhurt.” (Achebe 38-39) Okonkwo committed attempted murder on his wife and, these types of behaviors was not necessarily the norm, but was allowed since it was committed against a woman, and Okonkwo was showing a firm hand.