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Things Fall Apart: Gender and Paternal Roles


Marina Lucena

on 3 October 2014

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Transcript of Things Fall Apart: Gender and Paternal Roles

Things Fall Apart Gender/Paternal Roles
By: Hannah Cerasoli, Gabriella Manuli, Jake Cortigiano, Katie Burkhardt, Alfiya Kothawala, Marina Lucena
Gender Roles Baseline


Raising Children
"To show affection was a sign of weakness - the only thing worth demonstrating was strength."
-Page 20
"Children...a woman's crowning glory"
-Page 57


Symbolism Behind
Control of strength
Control of emotion
"Among these people a man was judged according to his worth..he had won fame as the greatest wrestler in nine villages...had two barns full of yams, and had just married his third wife...had shown incredible prowess in two inter-tribal wars."
-Page 6
Each gender plays a part in society.
Each gender has specific roles to fulfill.
"He had felt very anxious but did not show it. When Ekwefi had followed the priestess, he had allowed what he regarded as a reasonable and manly interval to pass and then gone."
-Page 85
"No matter how prosperous a man was, if he was unable to rule his women and his children (and especially his women) he was not really a man."
-Page 38
Control of Strength/ Masculinity
Control of Emotion/Femininity
Strength = synonymous with manliness
Domineering qualities
Physical strength
“Can you tell me, Okonkwo, why it is that one of the commonest names we give our children is Nneka, or "Mother is Supreme?" We all know that a man is the head of the family and his wives do his bidding. A child belongs to its father and his family and not to its mother and her family. A man belongs to his fatherland and not to his motherland. And yet we say Nneka -'Mother is Supreme.' Why is that?" (Achebe 99)
What are paternal roles?
What are gender roles?
“’When did you become a shivering old woman,’ Okonkwo asked himself, ‘you, who are known in all the nine villages for your valor in war? How can a man who has killed five men in battle fall to pieces because he has added a boy to their number? Okonkwo, you have become a woman indeed.’” (Achebe 47)

Role of the father

What is the significance of paternal roles in
Things Fall Apart
Father's influence in society
Influence of paternal roles on women.
Role of Father
Effect on Women
Always referred to with an emotional connotation
An empowerment of emotions is given to the reader when it is explained that mother is supreme.
Gender Roles Allegories Within
the Text
The cave
Dominating Male Roles... Too Far? (Applications to Marriage)
The death of
Strength is "manly"
Acceptable to abuse this power over wives?
Basic Synopsis
Okonkwo strives time and time again not to be like his father, and is clearly preoccupied with manliness and strength. Chielo decrees that his adoptive son must die, and to prove his manliness, he kills him.
“Okonkwo’s second wife had merely cut a few leaves off it to wrap some food, and she said so. Without further argument Okonkwo gave her a sound beating and left her and her only daughter weeping. Neither of the other wives dared to interfere beyond an occasional and tentative, “It is enough, Okonkwo,” pleaded from a reasonable distance.”
-Page 27

“But in this case she ran away to save her life. Her two children belong to Uzowulu. We do not dispute it, but they are too young to leave their mother. If, in the other hand, Uzowulu should recover from his madness and come in the proper way to beg his wife to return she will do so on the understanding that if he ever beats her again we shall cut off his genitals for him”
-Page 69-70

“Last year when my sister was recovering from an illness, he beat her again so that if the neighbours had not gone in to save her she would have been killed.”
-Page 69
Symbols and Their Meanings
Okonkwo's ability to have affinity
"There was no doubt that he liked the boy. Sometimes when he went to big village meetings or communal ancestral feasts he allowed Ikemefuna to accompany him, like a son." (Achebe 20)
: Okonkwo's conscience
"That boy calls you father. Do not have a hand in his death." (Achebe 41)
"Okonkwo was inwardly pleased at his son's development, and he knew it was due to Ikemefuna. He wanted Nwoye to grow into a tough young man capable of ruling his father's household when he was dead and gone to join the ancestors."
-Page 38
: The Ibo society
"Umuofia has decided to kill him. The Oracle of the Hills and Caves has pronounced it." (Achebe 41)
What this Allegory Describes
"His mother and sisters worked hard enough, but they grew women's crops, like coco-yams, beans and cassava. Yam, the king of crops,was a man's crop."
-Page 17
Okonkwo displays that he has no control over emotion.
Belief that control of strength = control of emotion.

Basic Synopsis
Chielo takes Enzima away in the name of Agbala to the cave. Ekwefi chases them through the dark waits at the mouth until they eventually emerge in the morning.

Causes mother to be more sympathetic and gentle
Causes daughters to forget women tradition and proper conduct

Symbols and Their Meanings
“It’s true that a child belongs to its father. But when a father beats his child, it seeks sympathy in its mother’s hut.”
Page 100
“I have tried my best to make Nwoye grow into a man, but there is too much of his mother in him.” “Too much of his grandfather,” Obierika thought.”-page 48
All revolves around Ekwefi
"'Sit like a woman!' Okonkwo shouted at her. Ezinma brought her two legs together and stretched them in front of her."
Page 32
: Ekwefi's emotional harness
"Enzima was an only child and the center of her mother's world." (Achebe 57)
"Okonkwo never showed any emotion openly, unless it be the emotion of anger."
-Page 20
: Ibo Society
: Social stigma and customs of the Ibo tribe
"Where is my daughter, Enzima? Agbala wants to see her." (Achebe 77)
Scale of Yam
What this Allegory Describes
Though the "manly" culture of Umuofia constantly tries to weild strength to take control away from the female gender, the culture will ultimately collapse if this emotional control is taken away completely (as it does later for that reason). No matter how undermined the female gender may be, the one thing that cannot be taken away is the aspect of emotional control.
The questions that Ibo gender roles pose:
Which role is more important?
Which quality is more important?
Which is more valued?
Must the two balance?
What is the importance of gender roles to T
hings Fall Apart?
Roles are all symbolic of a deeper meaning within the text.
Roles all display the general culture of the Ibo society.
Handle finances
Setting bride price
Discipline children and wives
Representative of family as a whole
Son of Okonkwo
Have many kids
Have many wives
Teach sons about farming
The Psychology Behind Gender Roles
Will to dominate
Will to be bigger
Will to be in power
Taught to seek husbands, so attached to husbands
Cycle of
Effect on Men
Standard to fill
Emotionally detrimental
Ultimately creates a category system among men: those who can fill the standard (thus living in success and status) and those who can't (thus living in poverty and depression).
"He had a slight stammer and whenever he was angry and could not get his words out quickly enough, he would use his fists." - pg. 3
"Okonkwo never showed any emotion openly, unless it be the emotion of anger." - pg. 20
The reality is -
"Okonkwo ruled his household with a heavy hand. His wives, especially the youngest, lived in perpetual fear of his fiery temper, and so did his little children." - pg. 9
"Yam, the king of crops, was a
man's crop." - pg. 17
Society is governed by gender roles and paternal roles.
Ultimately, the society is reliant on paternal roles and recognizes them more so than maternal roles.
Paternal roles
, being more strength-oriented, overpower the tribe in favor of the male
Tribe is influenced by strength rather than emotion
Ultimately becomes why the tribe falls, those left with no emotional control join the church and abandon the old ways.
Things fall apart because there is no balance between strength and emotion.
"...pleading with him that it was the sacred week. But Okonkwo was not the man to stop beating someone half-way through, not even for fear of a goddess." - pg. 21
"It's true that a child belongs to its father. But when a father beats his child, it seeks sympathy in its mother's hut." -pg. 100
"Okonkwo gave her a sound beating...Neither of the other wives dared to interfere beyond an occasional and tentative, 'It is enough, Okonkwo,' pleaded from a reasonable distance." -pg. 27
“…the only thing worth demonstrating was strength.”- page 20

It can be seen that in the novel, Okonkwo is striving for strength, something his father did not seem to have.
Okonkwo eliminating emotions --> increasing physical power
On the other hand, it is important to note that eliminating emotions creates an emotionally vacant and unstable person.
In turn, emotional stability is part of overall individual strength.
Okonkwo failed to realize this need for balance and ultimately cycled back to embody the image of weakness (failure).
Bringing it All Together
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