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Gender Roles in Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe Essay

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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 himself in disgrace and Umofia succumbs to the white men. However, the white men are not the only people responsible for demise of Umofia. The Igbo culture, particularly their views on gender roles, sows the seed of their own destruction. By glorifying aggressive, manly traits and ignoring the gentle, womanly traits, Umofia brings about its own falling apart.

In Umofia, manliness is associated with strength and womanliness with weakness (Okhamafe 127). There is no such thing as a strong woman, and all men should disdain weakness. In Umofia, “all men are males, but not all males are men” (Okhamafe 126). Only the strong men who hold titles deserve to be called “men”. The Igbo word “agbala” is an alternate work for “woman” and for a man who had no title. Women in Igbo society are expected to act a certain way. Okonkwo scolds his daughter, Ezinma, when she does not “sit like a woman” (Achebe 44). He will not let Ezinma bring his chair to the wrestling match because it is a “boy’s job” (Achebe 44). Eve...


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...hen their children would not have forsaken them and their lives would not have fallen apart.


Primary Source
Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. New York: Random House, 1994.

Secondary Sources
Iyasẹre, Solomon Ogbede. “Okonkwo's Participation in the Killing of His ‘Son’ in Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart: A Study of Ignoble Decisiveness.” Understanding Things Fall Apart: Selected Essays and Criticism. Troy, NY: Whitson, 1998. 129-40. Print.

Okhamafe, Imafedia. "Geneological Determinism in Achebe's Things Fall Apart." Modern Critical Interpretation: Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2002. 125-44. Print.

Salamore, Frank. “The Depiction of Masculinity in Classic Nigerian Literature.” Bloom’s Modern Critical Interpretations: China Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. New ed. New York: Bloom's Literary Criticism, 2010. 141-52. Print.


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