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Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart - Women's Role in the Ibo Society Essay

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Women's Role in the Ibo Society


In the novel Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, women of the Ibo tribe are terribly mistreated, and viewed as weak and receive little or no respect outside of their role as a mother. Tradition dictates their role in life. These women are courageous and obedient. These women are nurturers above all and they are everything but weak.

            A main character in the novel, Okonkwo has several wives. He orders them around like dogs. They are never to question what they are instructed to do; they are expected to be obedient. We see this early in the story, when Okonkwo brings Ikemefuna into his home. Okonkwo tells his senior wife that Ikemefuna belongs to the tribe and that she is expected to look after him. She in turn asks him if he will be staying with them for a long period of time. This sends Okonkwo into a fury. He snaps at her in a very degrading manner, "Do what you are told woman. When did you become one of the ndichie (meaning elders) of Umuofia?"(pg.12) Clearly she receives no respect. Later in the story we see this woman try to comfort Ikemefuna. She "mothers" him as if he is one of her own children. She tries to put him at ease and can almost instinctively feel how much he misses his own mother.

            In keeping with the Ibo view of female nature, the tribe allows wife beating. Okonkwo beats his youngest wife one-day because she was visiting with a friend and did not get home in time to prepare a meal for him. Another one of his wives tries to cover for her, when she is questioned as to whether or not the youngest wife has fed the children, before she left. Certainly she does this in effort to protect the youngest wife, knowing full well what she WOULD ...


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...is sweet. But when there is sorrow and bitterness he finds refuge in his motherland. Your mother is there to protect you. And that is why we say that Mother is Supreme"(pg.116).

            The only glory and satisfaction enjoyed by the women portrayed in Things Fall Apart was being a mother. They receive respect and love from their children. They are strong for their children. The women are viewed as very gentle and caring. They are expected to take care of their children with the best of their ability and are trusted totally by their children. This honorable presentation of women is used by Achebe to identify women's role in the Ibo society. This presentation is necessary to show that women indeed play an important role in society.

Works Cited

Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. New York, New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc., 1994.


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