Gender Roles in Things Fall Apart

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Updated: Apr 16, 2021
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Category: Literature
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2021/04/16
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Gender Roles in Things Fall Apart essay

The role of women has always been surrounded by controversy, some people believe women should get married, have children and take care of the household. Others believe women should have the choice between working a nine to five job, being a stay at home mom or both. Things Fall Apart was written by African writer Chinua Achebe in 1959, it came from the stories that Achebe’s mother used to tell him about the Igbo people. Things Fall Apart tells the story of Okonkwo, an African war hero and his tragic flaw of anger. It also explains the roles of women in precolonial Africa. In Things Fall Apart readers learn that women are generally not equal to the men in their tribe. The women in Things Fall Apart have many roles in their tribe, Achebe shows these roles in the Igbo tribe through agriculture, compassion for criminals and a connection to the earth.

The first role of the women in the Igbo tribe is agriculture. Besides agriculture, women had many other duties. Women would engage themselves in making meals, washing clothes, having and raising children. Out of all the women’s duties agriculture was the most important. Agriculture was important to the Igbo tribe; they lived off yams and different kinds of meat their whole lives. An example from Things Fall Apart is, “his mother and sister worked very hard enough, but they only grew women’s crops, like the coco-yams, beans and cassava. Yam, the king of crops, was a man’s crop ” (Achebe 28).

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Everything regarding the Igbo tribe is based on gender, even the crops. The yam is considered a man’s crop and is a sign of wealth and the ability to provide for their families. This is because the yam is eaten and purchased by everyone, making the men who grow yams rich and the more money the men have the more yam seeds they can get to grow more yam, making them richer and able to provide for their families. In addition, the Igbo women farm coco-yams, beans and cassava, because those crops are easy to grow and not time-consuming, so they still had time to take care of their families. In summary, the first role of the Igbo women is agriculture, they also have many domestic duties. The men grow yams because men are the providers of the tribe, they provide by selling the yams at the market. Well women grow coco-yams, beans and cassava, because they are easy to grow and not time-consuming giving them more time to do their domestic duties.

Besides, having a role in agriculture, women play a major role in the compassion and forgiveness of the exiled criminals like Okonkwo. The second role of women in the Igbo tribe is compassion for criminals. When Okonkwo and his family are exiled to his mother’s land for seven years. After he accidentally shot and killed a teenage boy at the funeral of a tribe leader. Okonkwo’s uncle, Uchendu tells Okonkwo that,

“Then listen to me……’ It’s true that a child belongs to its father. But when a father beats his child, it seeks sympathy in its mother’s hut. A man belongs to his fatherland when things are good and life 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. Is it right that you, Okonkwo, should bring your mother a heavy face and refuse to be comforted?” (Achebe 134).

The text tells the readers that when a father beats his child, the child will go to his or her mother for comfort and protection. This is because the men in the Igbo tribe are not supposed to show weakness, and they believe their job is to toughen up their children. The women of the Igbo tribe are seen as protectors, sympathetic, and forgiving and that’s why if you commit a crime you are exiled to your motherland for forgiveness of your crime. The text states that mother is supreme again this is for the loving and forgiving disposition that women have for their children. Also, if the child that was exiled for a crime refuses to be comforted by his or her mother, then the child is not only disrespecting the dead, but they are disrespecting their mother in her own homeland, which is also seen as a crime. To conclude, the second role that Igbo women have is compassion for criminals, women have this role because they are seen as sympathetic and forgiving, if one of their children commits a crime then the child is exiled to his or her mother’s homeland to be forgiven for their crimes, but if the child refuses to be comforted then they are disrespecting their mother and committing another crime. The Igbo tribe also sees mother as supreme or great.

Another role that the women of the Igbo tribe have, besides agriculture and compassion for criminals, is a connection to the earth. Women are connected to the earth through the goddess Ani. Readers first hear about the earth goddess Ani at the start of the Feast of the New Yam. The Feast of the New Yam is a ceremony that gives thanks to the goddess Ani for a good year of harvest and to pray for another good year of harvesting, Things Fall Apart says, “Ani played a greater part in the life of the people than any other deity. She was the ultimate judge of morality and conduct. And what was more, she was in close communion with the departed fathers of the clan whose bodies had been committed to earth” (Achebe 36).

To readers it is clear that Ani’s influence is important during the new harvest. For the new harvest to be successful all the members of the Igbo tribe have to join in the Week of Peace, during the Week of Peace no one is allowed to do work, no violence, and everyone is supposed to pay respect to Ani. Meaning the harvest is rooted in the significant role that women had to play in the tribe. For a woman to have an amazing role in the success of the yam crop shows the power women have in the tribe (Complex Role Of Women In Things Fall Apart English Literature Essay, UKEssay.com). In conclusion, the last role that women have in the Ibo tribe is the connection to the earth, Ani is the earth goddess and ensures that the Ibo people will have a great harvest every year if they are respectful and peaceful towards each other. Putting a god nevertheless than a woman in charge of the harvest shows how important women are to the tribe.

In Things Fall Apart the women have many roles in the tribe, Achebe shows these roles in the Igbo tribe through agriculture, compassion and a connection to the earth. The first role of the Igbo women is agriculture, they also have many domestic duties. The men grow yams because men are the providers of the tribe and yams are a sign of wealth. Well women grow coco-yams, beans and cassava, because they are easy to grow and not time-consuming. The second role that Igbo women have is compassion, women have this role because they are seen as sympathetic and forgiving, if one of their children commits a crime then the child is exiled to his or her motherland to be forgiven for their crimes, but if the child refuses to be comforted then they are disrespecting their mother and committing another crime.

The Igbo tribe also sees mother as supreme or great. The last role that women have in the Ibo tribe is the connection to the earth, Ani is the earth goddess and ensures that the Ibo people will have a great harvest every year if they are respectful and peaceful towards each other. Putting a god nevertheless than a woman in charge of the harvest shows how important women are to the tribe. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar once said, “The role of women in the development of society is of the utmost importance. In fact it is the only thing that determines whether a society is strong and harmonious, or otherwise, women are the backbone of society”(picturequotes.com). Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is saying that without women societies would constantly be at war because men do not know how to talk out their problems with each other.

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Gender Roles in Things Fall Apart. (2021, Apr 16). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/gender-roles-in-things-fall-apart/