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Things Fall Apart: Flaws in Ibo Society

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Maggie Gunter

on 20 October 2013

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Transcript of Things Fall Apart: Flaws in Ibo Society

Sexism and Misogyny
What led to the downfall of the Ibo people?
Sexism was deeply ingrained into the Ibo culture.
Men had the high position in society, despite the huge amount of work women did on a daily basis. Women served their husbands, and were not considered on the level of men - sons were always preferred, and got to do special things, like carry their father’s stools for them. Men got to take part in all the important religious activities, such as the egwugwu ceremonies, wars, councils, kola nut breakings, palm-wine drinking - all the socially significant things were reserved for men.
Pride was a major cause of the downfall in Okonkwo's society.
They did not believe that any other group of people could be as strong as their people, or that any other religion could possibly convert their own people
Nwoye was not accepted by his father for believing in Christianity. In fact, is father is very a shamed of him. He is banished by his father, and sent away, never to return.
They give the white men the evil forest to build their church because "[a]n evil forest was, therefore, alive with sinister forces and powers of darkness."(Achebe 148)
The people of the village are so certain that the spirits of the Evil Forest will kill the missionaries by the 7th market day: "At last the day came by which all the missionaries should have died."(152 Achebe)
The after effects: "[H]e says that our customs are bad, and our own brothers who have taken up his religion also say that our customs are bad. How do you think we can fight when our own brothers have turned against us? The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart."(Achebe 176)
Introduction to Societal Flaws
Background Information
'Things Fall Apart' by Chinua Achebe, is a novel center- ed on the lower Nigerian village of Umuofia, and how it's residents react to the takeover by white settlers.
While Things Fall Apart is generally considered a novel designed to show the european destruction of native african society, Achebe is also critical of the traditions of the Ibo, and how their own culture contributed to it’s collapse. The inherent violence, sexism, and condescension in Ibo society was a key factor in the white takeover and subjugation of the Ibo.
Harshness and Violence
Despite a strong familial and religious culture, the Ibo people - and neighboring villages such as Abame and Mbanta - have a very violent and hard life.
People are regularly killed in fights or wars with other clans, as the book says itself,
"Violent deaths were frequent, but nothing like this had ever happened" (Achebe, 124)
Killing rival tribes in gory and hideous ways was accepted, as we see like violence against women or children
Okonkwo’s wife was beaten because she came back late from plaiting her hair, and because she haden’t made arrangements for her children's dinner
Nwoye is constantly beaten for being weak in his father’s eyes.
Okonkwo’s gun accidentally kills Ekeudu’s son at Ekeudu’s funeral when it explodes.
Okonkwo kills five people from the other villages when they are at war and this is considered a great achievement.
Violence in Religious Rituals
Ikemefuna was killed by Okonkwo because Okonkwo was afraid of looking weak.
The Ogbanje child is mutilated for being reborn, and dying again.
Twins are thrown into the jungle in earthenware pots.
People dying with stomach illness were thrown into the evil forest to die
Quote Citation
Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart.
New York: Anchor, 1994. Print.
Things Fall Apart:
The main character, Okonkwo, is a strong man; powerful and recognized far and wide for his force, manliness, and harshness. His father's laziness and poor reputation in the tribe give him a fear of failure and of being thought weak.
Okonkow vs. Obierika

Fears weakness and failure
Doesn’t question religion or tradition, he does little thinking and focuses on doing
Is easily angered, hot-headed and violent
Is hard to like as a character
Is thoughtful, constantly considering morals versus tradition and religion
Sees reason and logic, and is calm and cool-headed
Easy to like as a character
Women as Property
Men also had more than one wife, the number of wives and children you have showing your wealth: “there was a wealthy man in Okonkwo’s village who had three huge barns, nine wives and thirty children”
Women were like property - men paid bride-prices for them, and were free to do with them what they wanted.
The suitors family “surveyed her young body with expert eyes as if to assure themselves that she was beautiful and ripe”, treating her like an animal to be sold, making sure she was worth the price paid” (Achebe, 70)

Things were divided into male and female categories, with weaker, more worthless things being female. Worthless men are ‘women’., and men without titles were considered among the ranks of women

Okonkwo’s accidental killing was punished by seven years of exile instead of death, because “it was a crime against the earth goddess to kill a clansman, and a man who committed it must flee from the land. The crime was of two kinds, male and female… the crime was female because it had been inadvertent. He could return to the clan after seven years.”(124)

Some of the fathers wished that their girls were boys, because some of them understood their fathers best. Such as Enzima understanding her father best, “‘I wish she were a boy,’ Okonkwo thought within himself. She understood things so perfectly.”
(Achebe 173)

Women as a Weaker Sex
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