Things Fall Apart: Okonkwo In The Male Dominant Igbo Society

1434 words - 6 pages

The Igbo people are one of the largest ethnic groups in Africa, they emphasize on personal achievements, and taking titles which means leadership and respect (Ohadike Don C., p. xxvi-xxvii). In the book Things Fall Apart, the main character, Okonkwo is affected by the influences of the Igbo society and vows to become a man of the highest title and to gain respect from all the lands. Okonkwo and his family live in male dominant society where men are superior to women, therefore, Okonkwo thinks he is the owner of his household, and constantly beats his three wives and children. Okonkwo develops arrogant characteristics and a fear of being weak from the traditions of the society, and throughout the book he puts up a hard exterior and beats his son Nwoye, because he thinks Nwoye is lazy and weak. In the end, Nwoye betrays Okonkwo because of his father’s cruel attitudes towards him and the fact that his father murders his adopted brother, Ikemefuna. Due to the influences of the Igbo society, Okonkwo is afraid of being a man without a title and being buried without dignity, so he strives all his life to achieve his dream, this is the cause of his impatient, arrogant characteristics and inner “fear” which eventually leads to his self-destruction. The influence of the Igbo society develops an inner “fear” and traits among the villagers, especially on men, causing negative impacts on their lives.

The main character, Okonkwo is never close to his three wives or children because of the male dominant society he lives. In the Igbo society, men are superior to women because they are considered as the brave warriors of the land; they go to wars and can have more than one wife. Their titles, homes, and wives are all symbols of wealth (Onyemaechi Uzoma, online). Due to the influences of the society’s traditions, Okonkwo strongly believes a man should control his women, “No matter how prosperous a man was, if he was unable to rule his women and his children, he was not really a man.” (Achebe, chapter 7, p.37). Okonkwo thinks he is the owner of his household and he shows no mercy to anyone who angers him. “He ruled his household with a heavy hand. His wives…lived in perpetual fear of his fiery temper, and so did his little children. Perhaps down in his heart Okonkwo was not a cruel man. But his whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and weakness.” (Achebe, Chapter 2, p.8). Okonkwo beats his children and wives because of his temper which is influenced by the Igbo society; he puts on a hard exterior because he is afraid of being weak and unsuccessful. At one point, he attempts to kill his second wife with a gun because he thinks she is the cause of a tree’s death. In order to prove his power and strength, without thinking of the consequences, Okonkwo beats his youngest wife during the week of peace - a week when the village celebrates peace and who ever disrupts the peace will be punished by Ala, the earth goddess (Lycos, online). “His first two...

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