Effects Of Masculinity In Things Fall Apart

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There is a harmful and prevalent issue that lurks undetected throughout society. The excessive emphasis placed on strength and manliness is passed from generation to generation and throughout cultures like a disease. This problem is demonstrated time and time again in Things Fall Apart. Okonkwo’s fear of being perceived as feminine or womanly is the catalyst for his downfall. It can be easy to recognize the harm that the Ibo people’s strict definition of masculinity causes when its effects are made so apparent in a novel, but most fail to acknowledge this as a problem in modern western society.

In Things Fall Apart, it is well-established that Okonkwo is dominated by one specific fear: resembling his father. His father was an alcoholic
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Okonkwo kills Ikemefuna, whom he cared for like a son, because of this fear. After Ikemefuna’s death, Okonkwo is tormented with grief and despair, but he never confronts these emotions, and is in fact frightened of them, because that would make him too much like an emotional woman. This is revealed when he asks himself, “How can a man who has killed five men in battle fall to pieces because he has added a boy to their number? Okonkwo, you have become a woman indeed.” (8.9) This perhaps is the most damaging effect the overt emphasis on manliness has on the men of society. They stifle the feelings that are deemed “unacceptable” for a man to have, like sadness or love or regret, which leaves only anger, fear, and frustration. Okonkwo’s uncontrollable rage and frequent violent outbursts against his wife and children are the prime example of this in Things Fall Apart - “Okonkwo ruled his household with a heavy hand. His wives, especially the youngest, lived in perpetual fear of his fiery temper […]” (2.12). Even though occasionally he does take things too far by Ibo standards even; for instance, when he beats his wife during the week of peace and has to pay a fine as punishment, it is still deemed much more socially acceptable than if he were to break from the stereotype of

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