The Role of Women in Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart

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More than those of any other African writer, Chinua Achebe’s writings have helped to develop what is known as African literature today. And the single book which has helped him to launch his "revolution" is the classic, Things Fall Apart. The focus of this essay includes: 1) Achebe's portraiture of women in his fictional universe, the existing sociocultural situation of the period he is depicting, and the factors in it that condition male attitudes towards women; 2) the consequences of the absence of a moderating female principle in his fictions; 3) Achebe's progressively changing attitude towards women s roles; and 4) feminist prospects for African women. In the context of this study, the Igbo people whom Achebe describes will represent the rest of Nigeria -- and a great many of the nations of Africa. Sociocultural Background Were Nigeria and Africa oppressively masculinist? The answer is, "Yes." Ghana was known to have some matrilineal societies, such as the Akans; but Nigeria's traditional culture, Muslim as well as non-Muslim, had been masculine-based even before the advent of the white man. The source, nature, and extent of female subordination and oppression have constituted a vexed problem in African literary debates. Writers such as Ama Ata Aidoo of Ghana and the late Flora Nwapa of Nigeria have insisted that the image of the helpless, dependent, unproductive African woman was one ushered in by European imperialists whose women lived that way. On the other hand, the Nigerian-born, expatriate writer Buchi Emecheta, along with other critics, maintains that African women were traditionally subordinated to sexist cultural mores. I ally myself to the latter camp. I believe that, in creating a masculine-based society, Ac... ... middle of paper ... ...Function of Folk Tradition." Approaches To the African Novel: Essays in Analysis. London: Saros International, 1992. Nwapa, Flora. Efuru. London: Heinemann, 1966. ---. Idu. London: Heinemann, 1970. Ogunyemi, Chikwenye Okonjo. "Women and Nigerian Literature." Perspectives on Nigerian Literature. Vol. 1. Lagos, Nigeria: Guardian Books, 1988. Okonkwo, Juliet. "The Talented Woman in African Literature." African Quarterly 15.1-2: pages. Rich, Adrienne. Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution. New York: Norton, 1976. Thiong o, Ngugi wa. Petals of Blood. London: Heinemann, 1977. ---. Devil on the Cross. London: Heinemann, 1982. Walker, Alice. "In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens." In Search of Our Mothers Gardens: Womanist Prose. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1983. 231-243. Weinstock, Donald, and Cathy Ramadan.
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