Gender Roles In Things Fall Apart

Improved Essays
In Chinua Achebe’s book Things Fall Apart the main character Okonkwo lives a successful life in the African society despite the many challenges he goes through. Near the end of the book, it tells of white missionaries who came and how they affected all that Okonkwo had worked so hard for. Even though they are not part of the major plotline, gender roles can be found abundantly throughout the book. In Things Fall Apart gender roles are a large part of the function of society, both in the family and socially.
In African families, there are many gender roles which contribute to the community as a whole. In the household, the man is the leader. He has power over everyone else in his family and can make decisions for them. He protects his household
…show more content…
The men are supposed to be strong, tough, powerful. They try to never show signs of weakness in any way. One way they manifest these characteristics is by using violence. In the book “when the District Commissioner’s messengers arrive at the second village meeting, Okonkwo can only respond with the physical force that defines his understanding of masculinity” (Clare, Counihan). Okonkwo kills the messenger because he thinks it is what a true man would do, that a man would not fear violence. Another thing the men do is lead them in war with prowess, and fight any battles on behalf of the community. “In Things Fall Apart, when a zealous Christian convert kills the sacred python, it is the male village elders who take action” (Vanzanten, Susan). They saw it as their responsibility to protect their village, so they dealt with the abomination without the help of any female villagers. The social perception of women in the book is very different from the men. “It is impossible, especially for the contemporary reader, not to be struck by the portrayal of gender in Things Fall Apart, and the equating of weakness and inability with femaleness” (Vanzanten, Susan). In fact, women are considered to be of such a lower status than men, that they actually use it as an insult. When a clansmen contradicted something Okonkwo had said at a meeting, Okonkwo got mad and called him a woman. Everyone else was upset with Okonkwo for doing that, so he had to apologize (Achebe, Chinua). If the image of women was more positive in their community, the social structure would be very different, and the way the society functions would change dramatically. There are two examples that do a good job of showing the contrast between men and women among the people. The first is how their crime and punishment system works. “Umuofia conceptualizes crime in terms of “male” and “female” violations” (Clare, Counihan). The “male”

Related Documents

  • Great Essays

    This pride leads to a lot a disconnections between people, because the men don’t want to be seen as weak but a strong fearless Ibo man. We especially see this in Okonkwo when he kills Ikemfuna, “Okonkwo drew his machete and cut him down. He was afraid of being thought weak” (61). In the quote Okonkwo was told by the oracle to kill his adoptive son, Ikemefuna, because he would later bring destruction to the tribe. Okonkwo killed his own son just because he wanted to keep his pride and not thought of weak.…

    • 1497 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Great Essays
  • Great Essays

    Gendered Violence

    • 1694 Words
    • 7 Pages

    As humans, we are all susceptible to being victims of violence. However, as a society, we have created the notion that women are the people most susceptible to violence and that men are the people most likely to be the perpetrators of violence. These perceptions of the interaction between gender and violence can be seen throughout institutions in society. While it is simple to follow these notions, gendered violence and perceptions of violence are actually harmful to both men and women. In this essay, I will be using various research sources to support this and emphasize the importance of dispelling these perceptions.…

    • 1694 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Great Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Instead of not going with the men to kill his “son”, he was the one to cut Ikemefuna with his machete. He was dazed with the fear of appearing weak. Okonkwo values his reputation over everything, even his son’s life. If he wasn’t the one to kill Ikemefuna Okonkwo believes the men would think he was weak. Okonkwo equates gentle emotions or fragility with being weak.…

    • 1121 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Great Essays

    The patriarchal society looks up to the good girls to be the influence of what women should behave like in their ideal world. When women hang out with a lot of different men and act ignorant, society does not accept them and shames them. In the two short stories, Daisy Miller and Where are you going, Where Have you Been, authors Joyce Oates and Henry James use a feminist lens to show how when women don't act like the typical “good girl”in society, they are looked down upon and mistreated by the rest of…

    • 1889 Words
    • 8 Pages
    Great Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Street Harassment Essay

    • 870 Words
    • 4 Pages

    Women feel as though men think that they aren’t more than good-looking and beautiful. I know for a fact if I were a victim of street harassment I would not feel good. I would feel as though some men are simple minded and are very rude. Men are disgusting and nasty for thinking like this. Women can’t even walk down the street without feeling like they are being judged whether it’s good or…

    • 870 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Agentic Women Essay

    • 704 Words
    • 3 Pages

    Leadership roles are most often seen as a male character occupation and therefore women are stereotyped upon for not being able to have the qualifications to do that job. This ultimately leads to that backlash effect in which it results in a woman not being able to be hired due to discrimination. Discrimination due to gendered stereotypes focuses on how perceived sex differences can prevent women from being viewed as leaders. In order to overcome this conflict, it would seem women have to act more like men. If women act like men, they are not liked because it violates gendered stereotypes of what women should act like.…

    • 704 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    When Okonkwo reveals to the audience that he do[es] not care for the people the Beast kills” and only wants to “be the most respected man in the village” through an aside, it showed that he was not being as righteous as he made himself out to be (5). He makes himself to be a great leader of the clan, but he is willing to sacrifice other clansmen just to maintain the high position. This is similar to when Okonkwo kills his own son, Nwoye, to save face with the other clan leaders. Okonkwo loses sight of what it means to be a leader as…

    • 1037 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Dunn argues, “a failure to acknowledge the bad that women can do is a failure to take women seriously,” which leads to society being affected as a whole. Woman are naturally and physically weak. This in fact causes the treatment of men’s violence to become different than woman’s violence. A woman’s terror or domestic violence is seen as “self-defense or otherwise inspired by a man.” Because of her assumed role in today’s world as a nurturer and a care giver, when a woman causes an act of violence that cannot be linked back to a man, she is looked upon as a crazy wicked non-human monster. This all comes back to the stereotypical ignorance society has and the gender roles that are set for people since they were young.…

    • 1109 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Great Essays

    The African-American survived due to the fact they helped each other, they took care of each other not only blood relatives but others also. During slavery everyone helped to raise each other’s children especially when parents were sold to other slave owners, other adults in the slave community took care of the children left behind, many slaves protected each other in spite of tribal and language differences. The biggest fear of families then was the threat of a child being sold. Even today African-Americans value family, many survive due to the fact that we help each other, and we take care of each other not only blood relatives but others also. The extended family is crucial.…

    • 2564 Words
    • 11 Pages
    Great Essays
  • Great Essays

    These perception hamper individual ability and thinking towards women. There are three challenging outlook on the character of gender in aggression and brutality. These are individualist, interactionist, and structuralist. 1) Individualistic view: The individualistic view prescribes that gender is inherent and dwell inside an individual. Therefore it indicates that individual differences in being male and female are the means which shape partner violence.…

    • 1509 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Great Essays