Igbo: Become Gendered in Things Fall Apart
The book Things Fall Apart is a fiction novel written by Chinua Achebe in 1958. The story documented the pre- and post-colonial life in Nigeria between the characters like Okonkwo, Nwoye, Ezinma and etc including their internal feeling, before and after the arrival of the colonist. In the story, Achebe revealed many traditions of the Igbo culture such as how the gender roles between men and women are very prominent in this culture. In fact, their lives were gendered because the gender stereotypes in Igbo affect the characters and social status of both men and women. According to the Igbo culture, a man should have the quality of being strong, violent, and wealthy to provide their family, which is considered masculine. On the other hand, women should be submissive, bear many children and take pride in men, which is considered feminine. If a person does not have that requirement, he/she could be considered as non-traditional.
Throughout Things Fall Apart, Achebe portrayed both men such as Okonkwo, Nwoye, and women such as Ezinma, as someone who was unnecessarily transcended to their traditional role of gender. In the story Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, he portrayed Okonkwo as a strict adherent to the traditional roles of gender, and he did not transcend to the traditional role of gender. Okonkwo had a strong belief in masculinity was because of his father, Unoka. The fear of failure, weakness, and the fear of being feminine that Unoka brought to Okonkwo also lead to Okonkwo’s success, it lives off Okonkwo’s hard work, charity, and also masculinity. According to the story Thing Fall Apart, it says “He was still young but he had won fame as the greatest wrestler in the nine villages. He was a wealthy farmer and had two barns full of yams, and had just married his third wife. To crown it all he had taken two titles and had shown incredible prowess in two inter-tribal wars”(Achebe 8). This quote describes Okonkwo’s ability to work hard after the death of his father to earn his prowess and wealth. To dedicate he is masculine, Okonkwo attempts to work hard, provide for his family, and be brave. The dedication and hard work Okonkwo had shown is considered traditionally masculine. In Things Fall Apart, Achebe portrayed Nwoye as someone transcended to the traditional role of being masculine. Because Nwoye had a different point of view on the traditional role of being masculine is, he differs from his father Okonkwo, so Okonkwo considered Nwoye as feminine. According to the story, it says that “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, and which she no doubt still told to her younger children…”(Achebe 53). This quote shows that while Nwoye was expected to be masculine and violent by Okonkwo, but to Nwoye, the natural and peaceful stories are more fascinating than the stories of violence. This expresses a difference in masculinity between Nwoye and Okonkwo. Nwoye did not reach his father’s expectations and requirement of not being is considered as feminine and non-traditional. Which then stranded the relationship between him and Okonkwo because it was amiss to Okonkwo. Nwoye’s opinion of the way of being masculine lead and transcended to his step out of choosing a non-traditional life path. In Thing Fall Apart, Achebe portrayed Ezinma as both a traditional and non-traditional role of gender.
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The story demonstrated that Ezinma has many similar actions as a boy of Igbo, she talks like a boy, sits like a boy, and the most significant is she asks to take on the job of a boy, which resulted in Okonkwo wished that Ezinma should’ve been a boy. In the story Things Fall Apart, it says that “And after a pause, she said: ‘Can I bring your chair for you?’ ‘No, that is a boy’s job.’ Okonkwo was especially fond of Ezinma”(Achebe 44). This quote suggested that Ezinma herself does not want to have a traditional life of a Umuofia woman due to the fact that she wanted to do a boy’s task. Even though Ezinma wanted to have a nontraditional path of life, she was destined to follow the traditional life of a Umuofian woman. His father Okonkwo, who was a strict adherent of the traditional role, did not allow his daughter to do something simple as bring a chair because to him that is what a boy does. It limited Ezinma’s action of doing what she really liked and stop her from escaping the traditional gender role. Ezinma‘s desire of wanting to have a non-traditional path as a Umofian woman is what made her not traditional, on the other hand, the limitation of her action due to her father is considered as traditional, so she was both traditional and non-traditional role of gender. Overall, in Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, he portrayed both men and women as someone whose unnecessary according to their traditional role of gender. He portrayed Okonkwo as a very traditional man, he portrayed Nwoye as someone who was a non-traditional man and was considered feminine, he also portrayed Ezinma as someone who was both traditional and non-tradition woman. The role of men and women in this society had been changing for the past few hundred years, women, in this case, were the weaker sex, and they were something more akin to cattle, but now as they gain more voices and rights in the society, men and women were nearly equal.