For many years, in a lot of societies, women were oppressed, discriminated against, and ill-treated and the Igbo society is no different. Women of the Igbo were either in a high position and worshiped like goddesses, or abused, insignificant, and demolished, and the last is more common. Things Fall Apart is about the culture, tradition, and believes of the Igbo community in Nigeria. The novel follows Okonkwo, a man who his whole existence is shaped by his fear, he is haunted by the memories of his father, and how his father lived his life in debts and died a shameful death. Okonkwo grew to be the perfect picture of a macho man, he is harsh and fiery-tempered, he usually resorts to violence when faced by any kind of conflict. In the novel we are interduce to many female characters, some are related to Okonkwo and some are not, and through these characters we are able to see women roles in the Igbo community as presented in the novel. This paper will discuss how women are presented in the novel.
Throughout the novel, the word woman is used as an insult mostly by the protagonist. Since he vowed to not be like his father, Okonkwo hated everything that makes him look weak, kindness, gentleness, and everything feminine which are women trades. The first mention of the word as insult is in one of Okonkwo’s early memories when a kid called his father an ‘agbala’, a woman. And since then it appears that it becomes Okonkwo’s favorite insult. In the ancestral feast meeting, Osugo a man who is less successful got screamed at by Okonkwo and called a woman because he had no titles. One of the disturbing images of how far masculinity can get, is after the killing of Ikemefuna, Okonkwo could not sleep or eat for a couple of days, and when he remembered Ikemefuna and shivered he got offended by that, and said ‘When did you become a shivering old woman’, ‘How can a man who has killed five men in battle fall to pieces because he has added a boy to their number? ‘. The fear of being called weak made him lose his sanity and humanity.
Another idea that is presented frequently, is that wives are their husbands’ property. Having more than one wife signifies wealth and success, the more the merrier. Having wives is another trophy on the man’s shelf next to being a farmer, and owning yam barns. Throughout the novel, we see that having more than one wife is a thing bragged about. The other side that this kind of mentality brings upon the wives is the justification of physical abuse. There are three different incidences where Okonkwo beats his wives, more incidences regarding his children, and numerous times where he threats to beat anyone and everyone.
Women around the world were, and in some places still are, oppressed and the women of the Igbo are no different. However that does not mean that they did not have any role in their community, there were priestesses that had a very high position in society even though they are few it is still better than none.