“Things Fall Apart” – Oppression
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We all know that a man is the head of the family and his wives do his bidding (132). Here, Uchendu describes the male dominance and female suppression in Chinua Achebes book Things Fall Apart. Uchendu exemplifies one of the few male characters who understood and displayed gratefulness for the important role women played in his Igbo society. In this Igbo culture based on male prosperity—men were higher up on the social scale and earned more respect and honor if they possessed more riches, titles and wives. Women were regarded as unnecessary except for rearing children and performing tasks such as the equivalent of domestic chores. Suppression of women, false perceptions of their ability, and blatant disrespect for their rights are all reasons that masculine dominance is a highly important theme in Achebes book.
One very prominent reason for the suppression of women in the Igbo tribe was manifest in their lack of opportunity to excel. Women everywhere have a desire to prove their worth—the Igbo tribe warranted no exception. Women were not physically or legally barred but an unwritten code understood and lived by all Igbo was the definite reason for their restricted freedoms. Every wrestling match consisted of solely male competitors–The contest began with boys… (47)…and it ended with boys. The egwugwu who remained masked at all times and maintained a commonly known yet supposedly hidden identity could not even tolerate a woman among them, blatantly disregarding any consult or opinion a woman had to offer to the tribe. Along with restraint from participating in certain activities women of the Igbo tribe were not allowed to take the titles of the clan that represented honor and achievement. Generally women do not possess such strong physical characteristics or competitive, violent natures that were venerated in the Igbo culture.
Many of these manners came naturally to male clansmen therefore these men did not have to work so hard for the respect and dignity they deserved even as human beings. Women are not so commonly blessed in abundance with these traits as men are—they are very talented with child rearing and have the patience to deal with the continuous amount of monotonous women were expected to do everyday. Terms related to women were considered offensive and insulting. Agbala was not only another name for a woman, it could also mean a man who had taken no title (13) All of these examples of disregard for womens worth clearly illustrates Achebes message of masculine dominance in the Igbo society.
Instead of accepting and appreciating the beauty of the difference between the sexes, men had learned from a very young age to treat this difference as a womans inferiority. Every boy reaches a point when they start paying rapt attention to their father and learning from the example he sets for his children. Okonkwo the woman-hater taught his son Nwoye biased and generalizing ways regarding women. Nwoye would feign annoyance and grumble aloud about women and their troubles.(52) One example that reflects this contrast between common personality traits lays in the stories mothers and fathers told their children. Boys/men grew out of their mothers stories on reaching that certain age and moved on to listening to stories appropriate for their gender. Even though some boys secretly loved their mothers stories the fathers stories captivated them and converted them to the male side of the world once and for all. Nwoye 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.(53)
In the Igbo tribe men took advantage of the contrast between and it resulted in relationships resembling that of a master and a slave. No matter how prosperous a man was, if he was unable to rule his women and his children (especially his women) he was not really a man.(53) Men treated their multiple wives like property, and any children they bore belonged to the father as well. Its true that a child belongs to its father.(134) A mother who went through the pain of bearing a child and rearing the child should be granted as an inalienable right the ownership of the child. The fact that women barely had claim to their own children is a sure sign that the males of the society were overstepping their boundaries and becoming like a monarchal society. Achebe incorporated all of these happenings to his story and they clearly exemplify the outstanding theme of overbearing masculine dominance in the Igbo tribe.
With all of these examples emphasizing the theme of masculine dominance Chinua Achebe was implying that complete male monarchy in the tribes was wrong.
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe- No other sources