Things Fall Apart 5 Essay, Research Paper
Polygamy in Things Fall Apart
It is obvious that in reading Things Fall Apart that polygamy was alive and well in the village of Umuofia. Not only was it accepted it was expected.
Men’s wealth was judged by their huge barns [and their] number of wives and children. The more wives a man had, usually meant more children. If a man had several wives and many offspring, he of course had to provide for all of them, hence more land [was] needed for planting crops, and more barns for storing food. Men seemed to benefit greatly from having more than one wife, but did they really? A man was not only judged by the amount of wives, children, crops, and barns that he had, but also judged on how he ruled his women and what control he had over them.
In Things Fall Apart, the tribe was preparing for the New Yam Festival. Okonkwo had three wives at the time of the festival. As Okonkwo sat in his hut, each wife sent a dish in order of importance. Wife number one sent the first dish and so on. Not a bad set up if Okonkwo did not like what his first wife prepared, he had two more meals to fall back on. If a man’s first wife did not produce the sons he longed for, he had other wives to impregnate and hope they would produce the sons he desired. In Things Fall Apart, the book seems to depict men as getting all the benefits of polygamy, or do they?
What about the relationships between the wives? Do they all get along? Are they jealous of one another? Can a man really live with more than one wife in total peace? For example wife number one bears no children. Wife number three bears four sons while wife number two produces two daughters. By tradition, wife number one is to have more respect and power, but wouldn’t a man that desires son’s have to smile more favorably on wife there who gave him these sons?
Surely women being women there must be smugness and a feeling of superiority in wife number three who produced the sons towards wife number one who produced none, even though wife number there is on the bottom of the ladder. Then on the other hand, wife number one or two can get even by passing down the lowest of chores to wife number three, treating her like a slave, certainly that should keep her in her place.
Ah, what about living arrangements? Can any one man live with more than one woman under his roof at a time? Considering that the huts or obi’s were usually one room, how difficult to show any favor to one wife while two others are glaring in jealousy. Obviously the tribes men of Umuofia had experienced these problems somewhere during the history of the tribe and their solution was to build separate huts (from their own obi) for each of their wives.
Actually it may take more of a toll on the polygamus man than what meets the eye. Not only does he have to build huts for each and every one of his wives and her children[, but also] the more wives and children, the more food he must provide. That means more land to clear, more crops to tend to, and more barns to be built to store these crops. According to _Things Fall Apart_, the women grew “women’s crops like coco-yams, beans and cassova. Yam, the King of crops, was a man’s crop” (Achebe 25). Since yams were the largest food staple for the tribes, the men were responsible for the yam crops.
Just keeping the peace between wives would have to be a full time job. Maybe that’s why they beat their wives and no one interfered; it was the only way they knew to bring order into their households if only for a short while, until the next jealous eruption. A lot of extra work for the poor man but then in order to keep peace in his life one would assume it is the price to pay for someone who chooses to have more than one wife.
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