The novel “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe tells the story of the Igbo people in Nigeria and their clash with British culture. The book was published in 1958 and is considered to be one of the most important works of African literature.
It has been translated into many languages and is still widely read today. “Things Fall Apart” is a tragic story that highlights the importance of understanding and respecting other cultures.
In Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, the Ibo culture is a male-dominated society that thrives on masculine power and strong devotion to customs. Manliness and bravery are qualities that a great man must possess. Okonkwo’s cruel masculinity and bold valor allowed him to be greatly revered by the villagers. He became renowned for throwing Amalinze the Cat and bringing back five human heads from conflicts.
On the other hand, his father Unoka was known to be a very lazy and poor man. He was greatly disrespected because he was not able to provide for his family and he was seen as a weak man. The Ibo people believed that it was very important to have a strong male figure in their society in order to maintain order.
This is shown when Okonkwo’s son Nwoye converts to Christianity and joins the new religion which is seen as a sign of weakness by the Ibo villagers. They are not willing to accept him back into the village unless he proves himself to be a man again by renouncing his new religion and going through the process of becoming initiated into manhood. However, Okonkwo does not want his son to go through this because he knows that it would be very difficult for him.
Consequently, Nwoye is forced to leave the village and live with the missionaries. This event leads to a great conflict between Okonkwo and his son which eventually results in their relationship falling apart.
The Ibo society is also very Patriarchal. Women are not seen as equal to men and they are not given the same opportunities. In fact, they are often treated as property of their husbands and fathers. They are not allowed to own land or participate in village decision-making. However, there are some women who are able to challenge the patriarchal system such as Okonkwo’s wives.
One of his wives, Ekwefi, is able to stand up to him and even challenge his authority. She does this by running away from him when he beats her and she also refuses to have any more children with him. However, in the end, she still goes back to him because she knows that she cannot survive without him.
The Ibo society is a very traditional and conservative society. They are very attached to their customs and traditions. This is shown when the villagers react with horror at the changes that the colonialists are bringing to their way of life. The missionaries are seen as a threat to their way of life and they are not welcomed into the village. The villagers believe that the missionaries are trying to destroy their culture and they do not want anything to do with them.
The Ibo society is a male-dominated and patriarchal society which is very traditional and conservative. The arrival of the colonialists and the missionaries brings about a great clash of culture and values. The Ibo people are not willing to accept the changes that the colonialists are bringing to their way of life. This leads to a great conflict between the two cultures which eventually results in Things Fall Apart.
Okonkwo is petrified of being perceived as femininem, and goes to great lengths to ensure that he – and those around him – do not display any characteristics traditionally associated with women. Okonkwa’s father Unoka was the complete opposite; a content and jolly man who paid little mind to society’s expectations of masculinity. This resulted in very little respect from others, something which caused immense shame forOkonwko.
In Igbo culture and society, aggression, violence, strength, and hard work are all characteristics of a successful and respected man. Consequently, Okonkwo’s father’s femininity is considered disgraceful while Okonkwo’s masculinity is greatly admired.
Okonkwo’s masculine qualities are also evident in his relationships with women. He has little patience for his wives and children and often beats them when they disobey him. Okonkwo is very disrespectful towards women and he sees them as inferior to men. He does not believe that they are capable of having intelligent conversations or contributing anything valuable to society. Furthermore, Okonkwo believes that it is perfectly acceptable for a man to beat his wife as long as he does not do it in public.
The clash of cultures is also evident in the relationship between the Igbo people and the British colonists. The British colonists are seen as outsiders who do not understand or respect Igbo culture and traditions. They are constantly trying to change things and impose their own values and beliefs on the Igbo people. This often leads to conflict and tension between the two groups.
Okonkwo, the Ibo ideal of manhood, “ruled his family with a heavy hand,” despite the fact that “down in his innermost self, Okonkwo isn’t a cruel person” (12). Wrestling is an essential component of the Ibo culture since it shows participants’ power, manhood, and to some extent, violence. After the victorious wrestlers have vanquished their opponents, “the crowd roar[s] and clap[s],” drowning out the frantic drums while emphasizing physical strength (47).
Consequently, Okonkwo becomes “the greatest man in Umuofia” (3) after he wins the wrestling championship not just once, but twice. Given that Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart is set in the precolonial Igbo society, it is not surprising to see that gender relations are different from what we are accustomed to in contemporary Western societies. In the Ibo society, there is a sharp division of labor between men and women.
Men are in charge of farming and providing for their families while women are responsible for cooking, cleaning, and taking care of children. This division of labor is reflected in the Ibo language which has “two words meaning ‘to chop down a tree.’ One is used exclusively by men and the other exclusively by women” (21).
The Ibo society is also patriarchal, with fathers having complete control over their families. “It was the duty of every man to plan ahead for his children,” and if a man died without doing so, his children would be taken care of by his clan (22).
In addition, husbands have the final say in all domestic decisions and can beat their wives if they disobey. Although there are some powerful women in the Ibo society, such as Okonkwo’s mother, who is a successful farmer, they are still very much subordinate to men.