The novel Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe is a commanding account about the rise and fall of an African tribe. The powerful narrative depicts the life and customs of the people and how they change through the years. Theere are many different ideas and characters that are preseneted throughout the novel. The depiction of women is one aspect that is of extreme relevance. It can be shown through several passages in the novel that the women are actually the unseen power behind the mighty Umofian tribe.
Throughout the novel, the protaganist, Okonkwo, tries to exhibit his power, wealth and independence. He feels that he must be the best in order to overcome the humiliating legacy that his father has left behind. Many times during the novel, he refers to any weak person as agbala which "was not only another name for woman, [but] it could also mean a man who had taken title" (Achebe 13). To Okonkwo, this particular name is the ultimate insult.
In contrast to Olonkwo’s perceptions, there are many illustrations in the novel which point to the power of women. One example is the gods that the members of the trive worship. An extremely important goddess to the tribe is "Ani, the earth goddes and the source of all fertility. Ani played a greater part in the life of the people than any other deity. She was the ultimate judge of morality and conduct" (Achebe 36). First and foremost, the most interesting thing to note is the idea of morality and conduct. The way that members of a community conduct themselves and the ethics which they hold are fundamentally important to the harmony of the people. It is especially fascinating that this goddess, who is the most important in the lives...
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...the man when they are making the children" (Achebe 74). The first thing to note is the fact the men find the idea of the woman being on top of the man during sexual intercourse preposterous. This position obvioulsy denotes one of power and dominance ofver the other individual. When verbalized the men don’t want to admit that a woman would have power over them in any sense. In reality, it would be interesting to see how many men objected to this position.
At surface value, Things Fall Apart seems to be a novel that depicts the downfall of a single man. In reality, Achebe’s masterful writing disguises many hidden meanings. One of the most important of these is the woman. The importance and power of a woman whether it be as mother, role model, wife or god is clearly defined in his writings.
Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. Oxford: Heinemann, 1986.
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