The Specific Gender Roles in the Village Environment in the Novel Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

The novel Things Fall Apart by Chinau Achebe is set in Pre-colonial Nigeria, in a village named Umuofia. The village has, by today’s standards, a very misogynistic and outdated. To the Igbo, however, it is the only way they know. The village environment has very specific gender roles. Men are warriors and farmers of yams, Women farm the weaker crops, cocoa-yams, beans, and cassava. In a village like Umuofia, every house is a patriarchy. One house more so than other. The house of Okonkwo has a particularly patriarchal and masculine atmosphere, which is the focus of much of the novel.

One evidence of Okonkwo’s unequivocal patriarchy is that he prefers corporal punishment and commination rather than simply the revocation of privileges, which is common in modern society. These practices are considered outdated and obsolete in many families, products of an outdated patriarchy. An example of this behavior is found on pages 29-30, after he believes that his youngest wife has taken another lover. “And when she returned, he beat her very heavily. In his anger, he had forgotten that it was the Week off Peace. His first two wives ran out in great alarm pleading with him that it was the sacred week. But Okonkwo was not the man to stop beating somebody half-way through, not even for fear of a goddess.” This clearly demonstrates that his patriarchy and masculinity is more important to him than his culture or even his religion. This, in turn, characterizes him as an unquestioned patriarchal giant.

Another example of this behavior of excessive masculinity is his obsession with being a strong warrior. The beginning of the novella describes how Okonkwo was discovered. He became known throughout the nine villages and beyond after throwing Amalize the Cat. Amalize was an a wrestler known throughout the land, undefeated for 7 consecutive years. Okonkwo also finds much pride in the fact that he can stomach the sight of blood. Combining this with his five human heads he has collected, and he is a very prideful warrior. One last piece of evidence that Okonkwo is an overcompensating macho man is how he treats his son.

Numerous times throughout the novel, he displays aggression towards his son Nwoye. By Okonkwo’s standards, Nwoye is extremely effeminate. Nwoye is a sympathizer and tries to lessen other’s plights as best he can. Okonkwo doesn’t believe in this lifestyle, and regularly attempts to beat sense into his son. His son, like Unoka, does not approve of a warrior lifestyle. This angers Okonkwo to no end.

The village Umuofia has very rigid gender roles. This has many positive and negative consequences. One positive consequence is that the village is very effective and productive. When everyone knows their job and do not question it, things get done more quickly. A side affect of this is that it can lead to unhappy lives. Many times, a person does not like a job they are forced to perform. Another positive side effect is that the population and work force can be effectively increased. In a small village like Umuofia, every death counts. If a person doesn’t add to the population, then the village has a smaller workforce and less men to defend it in the case of war. In the case of arranged marriage, everyone can add to the population. When people wish to marry for love, they become determined not to settle. If a person is determined not to settle, they can spend their whole lives alone, never contributing to society. In the case of Umuofia, they need all the contribution they can get. A disadvantage of this is that it can get in the way of harmonious matrimony. Weddings lose traditional value when one or both parties involved are unhappy with the results. Also, with poor results, domestic abuse is statistically more likely to happen, as is suicide, Gender roles within the community of Umuofia are helpful but they have the good of the community over the good of the individuals.

Okonkwo has an extremely large masculine pride within the novel of Things Fall Apart. Most of this over compensation can be attributed with his paternal issues. His patriarchy can be compared to his father’s inherent lack thereof. Much of this novel is dedicated to Okonkwo’s masculinity and the problems that it spawns.

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The Specific Gender Roles in the Village Environment in the Novel Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. (2022, Dec 02). Retrieved April 19, 2024 , from

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