Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

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An instance of gender inequality is defined as when a person or group of individuals are not treated equally because of their gender (Krishnan, 2012). Women and men are treated differently in this situation. It results from the part individuals play in the society a particular community's social structure has built for them. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe describes how Okonkwo's misguided perceptions of women ultimately led to his downfall. Masculinity was highly regarded in the town of Umuofia, It was put in the same category as bravery and control and was viewed as the main ingredient that aids a person towards self-sufficient. Therefore, it was a great insult to the tribe’s men to be called agbala, a woman (Krishnan, 2012). The people of the village believed that no matter how precious a man was perceived to be, if he had no control over his wife and children, he was not viewed as a man. To them, there is a significant contrast between femininity and masculinity, women are controlled, and men are the one to control them. Okwonkwo, a respected elder of Umuofia, acts as the symbol of control and manliness. Born of a debtor father and regarded as an agbala due lack of achievements. Okwonkwo had to start and build his foundation; He went on to become one of the most prosperous and admired person in the community.

Okonkwo’s greatest fear was being disrespected or being viewed womanly as his father did, therefore, to prevent similar circumstances happening, he consequently made sure to hate everything his wife Unoka loved (Nwoko, 2012). Okonkwo’s father embraced idleness and loved gentleness, thus, he chooses a more aggressive approach and used a warrior approach in all his doings. He would act against anything that would make him womanly or weak (Krishnan, 2012). In search of masculinity, Okonkwo goes even further than the viewed aspects that are used to acknowledge a person is a man. He would defy the tribes believes and custom. Due to his aggressive behaviours, it led to violence sometimes and conflicted with his ethnic people (Nwoko, 2012). Due to Okonkwo’s view of masculinity and femininity, he used to upset his enemies, his people, the gods and even his loved ones that mattered most to him.

From a young age, he had a strong mentality about being right or wrong. To him, being correct results to one being strong while he perceived being wrong as weak. Therefore, for him to be right resulted in being manly and being wrongly depicted to being womanly. All aspects of his life depend on the mental distinction (Krishnan, 2012). The crops he grew are based on his views and thus chooses yams, which according to him stood for manliness. To ensure his sons are not seen as feminine, he encourages them to continuie growing yams. Okwonkwo’s attitude is evenly spread throughout his family. His whole family fears his influence and frequent angry outburst witnessed when he is irritated by something. Okonkwo’s irrational violence can be said to be a product of combinations of factors which include, environment, upbringing and his fear of being labelled a failure or weak, which are all characteristics of women (Krishnan,2012). The concern was deep inside him, an internal fear of him being perceived as resembling his father by the community (Nwoko, 2012). The family, in turn, tries to avoid his violent tendencies against him. Instead, his wives and his all children’s tries all mean possible to make him happy.

Although Okonkwo’s tribe favours masculinity as a value of a person’s strength, he goes further extreme than deemed as a norm and necessary. He also tries to attain a favourable and a good reputation among the tribesmen, he oversteps and violates the religious and cultural practices in ways that are deemed to be taboos within their culture (Osili, 2013). During the week of peace, where violence is avoided in the community. Okwonkwo beats his third wife Ojiugo, in a matter that is insignificance compared to the consequences. He never shows remorsefulness after doing all this to her; this was a sign of weakness. The people of the community disapprove his actions, and he is sentenced to a fine.

Okonkwo’s extreme lack of emotions is shown when he kills his adopted son, Ikemefuna. He loved him as his son but after he is condemned to death, he decides to be involved in his killing not to appear weak and is to be seen as a warrior, he cuts off his head with a machete. He defies the word of his neighbours who feel that it was wronged to be involved in the killing and he should not take part (Osili, 2013). To him, he thinks that the villagers want him to be weak instead of the man he wants to be. Okonkwo’s main problem is not seeing a thing in the right way as they are supposed to be, and in the process he hurts himself and his family at the same time.

In conclusion, Okwonko’s quest to achieve masculinity status, he digs himself deeper into despair. His different perception of the right and wrong destroys him. The final blow is the senseless murdering of the messenger sent by the Christians (Osili, 2013). When reality at last caught up with him, he commits suicide. His death is ironic as it is a death of shame, which is the same as that of his father. Okwonko’s failure that led to his demise at the end through suicide is for him not doing the right thing due to fear of being labelled weak as women. Therefore, he ended like he feared all through his life


Krishnan, M. (2012). Mami Wata and the Occluded Feminine in Anglophone Nigerian-Igbo Literature. Research in African Literatures, 43(1), 1-18.

Nwoko, K. C. (2012). Female Husbands in Igbo Land: Southeast Nigeria. The Journal of Pan African Studies, 5(1), 69-82.

Osili, U. O. (2013). Non-traditional aid and gender equity: Evidence from million dollar donations (No. 2013/076). WIDER Working Paper.

April 06, 2023

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