Women In The Ibo Society Essay, Research Paper
Women in the Ibo Society
In Things Fall Apart, the Ibo women were perceived as being weak. They
received little or no respect in the Ibo society and were harshly abused. Perhaps, tradition
and religion established their role in this type of society. In the story, Okonkwo had three
wives. He mandated them around as though they were animals. They never questioned
what they were told and were required to be loyal. The reader sees this at the beginning of
the story, when Okonkwo brings the young man into his home. Okonkwo tells his first
wife that Ikemefuna belongs to the family and she is presumed to look after him like a son.
Ekwefi questioned her husband about Ikemefuna’s stay. Okonkwo went into a rage and
then questions her. “Do what you are told woman. When did you become one of the
ndichie of Umuofia (Achebe 14)?” This example illustrates that the Ibo women did not
One more way to look at the respect towards woman was the comparison to that
of weak man. Okonkwo hated anything feeble or fragile. His classification of his clan and
the members of his family show that in this type of society anything strong was linked to
man and anything weak to woman. His motivation towards success was his father’s
weaknesses. He could never be a loafer and be so woman-like. Because Nwoye reminds
Okonkwo of his father, he feels that Nwoye is womanly, especially after his conversion to
Christianity. Okonkwo thought about, he was a flaming fire. How then could he have
begotten a son like Nwoye, degenerate and effeminate ? (Achebe 153).
Another aspect of Ibo women was the treatment they received. They were very
familiar with the harsh treatment that were enforced by their husbands. Okonkwo beat his
youngest wife one day because she was not in time to fix his dinner. Despite that his other
two wives try to reason with him, Okonkwo kept going until he was pleased. The only
sanction that he was charged with was not the beating of his wife but beating someone
during the Week of Peace. Another example of a beating took place when Okonkwo’s
second wife killed the banana tree.
Viewing the Ibo society, one can see that women were not respected and allowed
wife beating. Despite the lack of respect and so on, women had significant roles in the Ibo
society. The women painted the houses for those that were disguised spirits. They taught
and read to the children, expanding their education. Possibly, the first wife received some
kind of respect because certain ceremonies can not go on unless she is present. The most
important role of an Ibo woman is that of a mother. She is occupied with the maintenance
of the home, nurturing her children, being a teacher, and has many other tasks.
In my opinion, the treatment of the Ibo woman can be that of an Arab or Muslim
woman. They both are in a polygamy relationship and are oppressed in their society. In
Things Fall Apart, the reader clearly sees that women receive no respect. They are
terribly mistreated, and viewed as weak or feeble. One important event was the exile of
Okonkwo to his motherland. His uncle explained the significance of Okonkwo’s exile to
Mbanta. A man belongs to his fatherland when things are good and life is sweet. But
when there is sorrow and bitterness he finds refuge in his motherland (Achebe 134). A
man has both happiness and grief in his life and when he is in remorse his mother is there
to protect and comfort him. In my opinion, these women were nurturers above all and
they were anything but weak.
Things Fall Apart- Achebe
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