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Things Fall Apart

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Dominic Surace

Chernick

English 12

20 November 2007

Male dominance v. Female Fragility

Chinua Achebe uses the theme, "femininity is weak, compared to masculinity which is strong" in the book Things Fall Apart, to show how men and women are viewed in African culture. This is an evident theme because throughout the book there are references pertaining women to weakness and men to strength, power, and pride. African culture is set around their beliefs, loyalty to their clans and pride. Strength and weakness can be associated with all of those.

Okonkwo's bond with his father manipulates much of his cruel and determined character. He wants to rise above his father's reputation of being wasteful, and his notably lazy behavior, which he views as weak so thus feminine. This connection is apparent in the clan's language and culture, Achebe mentions that the word for a man who has no high titles is agbala, which also means "woman." Okonkwo's idea of masculinity is not the same as his clan's. He links masculinity with hostility and believes that rage is the only feeling a person should show. The narrator exemplifies this saying, " Okonkwo ruled his household with a heavy hand. His wives, especially the youngest, lived in perpetual fear of his fiery temper, and so did his little children" (Achebe 13). Achebe tells us that Okonkwo acts on a whim and with fury. Others who are in the clan do not behave like this. Obierika, Okonkwos friend, is not like Okonkwo. He is a man who actually thinks in biased situations. Obierika refuses to go with his clansmen to kill Ikemefuna. Okonkwo not only willingly goes, but he maliciously impales him with his machete merely because he is scared of showing weakness.

Okonkwo thinks that by having a strong chi, it makes him more manly or powerful. His tribe thinks that Okonkwo's personal god, or chi, is good (fate has blessed him). They realize that Okonkwo has worked hard to attain all that he possesses. The Igbo saying goes "if a man says yes, his chi says yes"(Achebe), which means your work for what you get. Okonkwo thinks himself as the Alpha Male in his clan due to his successful chi. Having a weak chi or unsuccessful chi meant that one was feminine and not worth anything in their society.

Okonkwo's exile from his clan and family emphasizes his view that men are stronger than women. While in his exile, he lives with kinsmen from his motherland but dislikes being there the whole time. His kinsmen in his motherland don't acknowledge femininity with complete weakness like Okonkwo does. Uchendu says.'" A child belongs to his father. But when a father beats his child,

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