Not from the creation of mankind, women are considered part of superior human society. Today, women have the right to vote and choose the future of their country but in several societies, women were treated as slaves many years ago. Some societies and cultures still treat women as slaves. Chinua Achebe experienced the life of Ibo society. He was very much conscious of Ibo culture; therefore, he portrayed it skillfully in his novel “Things Fall Apart”, especially the role of women in that society.
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Negative Role of Women in Things Fall Apart
The society sketched in the novel is male dominant wherein the chief goddess is a female god ironically. Thus, a little respect is given to women but it is not sufficient as they deserve more than that. Every woman is treated harshly despite her good behaviour. While considering the detailed presentation of the role of female characters in the novel, it is crystal clear that they were deprived of their rightful shares. Ibo society may have many positive things but there is no denying the fact that justice was not there for women in that society.
Chinua Achebe paints reality while describing the miserable condition of women. In fact, it is not wrong to say that he paints the harsh reality of Ibo society. It was not only cruel to enemies but also to women. The novel tells in elaborate detail that women were haggled in the markets. Their marriages were arranged forcibly with such persons who have good wealth and repute. Many people were against this tradition. Obeirika’s character is mentionable in this regard. He disliked and opposed this tradition.
Examples from Novel
Incidents regarding the role of women in the novel Things Fall Apart are worth mentioning. Beating wives was a part of routine life for husbands. Okonkwo beats his second wife in peace weeks just because of a minor mistake. He was forbidden to do that in those days but he ignored it. He dealt every woman with iron hands. In addition, many other events in the novel show the cruel attitude of men toward their wives. It was a society that did not hesitate to convict a wife in case her husband committed an offence.
Customs related to marriages are enough to deprive females of their privileges. It is evident from the novel that women have no right to choose their husbands. It is true that Okonkwo is chosen by a woman as her husband but her previous life was miserable. If Okonkwo was not in ultimate power, she would have been punished for that act. Her first husband would have killed her for the reason that she left him.
Besides, the word “woman” was used as a symbol of weakness. Okonkwo on an occasion says to his rival that this meeting is for men. An indirect meaning of it is that women are a symbol of weakness and the writer Chinua Achebe portrayed it very skillfully in his novel Things Fall Apart.
Moreover, the example of Ezinma is in front of us. She was the lovelies daughter of Okonkwo but he occasionally wonders why she is not a boy. He wishes her to be a boy instead of a girl. These incidents show the attitude of males against women and symbolise women as weak humans.
Positive Role of Women in Things Fall Apart
Indeed, the attitude of males towards females was much harsh; however, Chinua Achebe also unhides the stunning role of women. After the banishment, Okonkwo takes refuge at his mother’s former house. ironically, Ibo society used to ignore women in every important matter but their supreme goddess was a female.
It is also ironic that the peace of mind was with the mothers and daughters. If a male is depressed he either goes to his mother or to his daughter for consolation. Chinua Achebe introduces a society where a man belongs to his fatherland when things are good and life is sweet; however, when he faces hardships, he takes refuge in the lap of his mother.
In view of the above discussion, the role of women is a picture of weakness in the novel Things Fall Apart. Numerous incidents are there where women are painstaking humans. The attitude of men was not decent towards women. In the whole novel, there is no event, whereby we can say that women are not inferior. Superiority is for men and women are inferior in every sense. The main purpose of women in life was to prepare meals, born children and nourish babies. They were not inclined to bring any positive change in society; hence, it stops them from becoming superior to men. However, a man has both joy and sorrow in his life and when the bad time comes, his mother is always there to comfort him. Thus, comes the saying “Mother is Supreme.”
- Critically evaluate the role of female characters in “Things Fall Apart”.
- Discuss the role of women in “Things Fall Apart” from a feminist point of view.