Women’s Influence In Things Fall Apart In the novel Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, there are some dominant explanations of the roles of women in pre-colonial Africa. Women also have heavy influence in the society of the Ibo. Okonkwo, the main character, has deep seeded issues about being so macho that there is nothing effeminate about him. The drive and determination that directs his lifestyle are based in his fear of weakness and failure, which the society associates with femininity. Women are also portrayed as having some strong leadership values, respected in various roles, and as comforters. Okonkwo has a strong opinion about his father and the way his father goes through life. He had no patience with unsuccessful men.
He had had no patience with his father. (Achebe, 4) He suffered when a playmate had told him the his father was agbala. (Achebe, 13) Agbala meant woman or a man who had no titles. The Ibo classified their terms as masculine and feminine and agbala was a feminine term used to describe a certain type of man. Okonkwo’s life force was rooted in the fact that he hated everything that his father loved. All that his father had loved and his father’s lifestyle were ultimately described as feminine. Social comparisons with weakness, failure, and unsuccessfulness to femininity suggest that women are weak and inferior.
Okonkwo’s determination to be macho results in his failure. It also makes him devoid of gentleness and compassion that results in the failed relationship with his son, whom he also likens to his father. Women were not only associated with negativity in the Ibo society. Women played major roles in the Ibo society. Many men had more than one wife. Their first wife was the ruler of the women in the family structure. When Okonkwo visited Nwakibie, a man who held the highest titles at the time, he ceremoniously greeted him with a display of sharing a Kola nut and with wine.
When it was time for Nwakibie’s wives to drink the wine, the other wives had to wait for the eldest wife. Anasi wastall and strongly built. There was authority in her bearing and she looked every inch the ruler of the womenfolk She wore the anklet of her husband’s titles, which the first wife alone could wear. (Achebe, 20) The first wife was privileged and was over the other wives. No doubt the first wife also delegated duties to the other wives and children according to her husband’s wishes. It was also a woman who stood as a representative for the Oracle of the Hills and the Caves.
No one had ever beheld Agbala, except his priestess. (Achebe 16) The priestess built and stood next to the sacred fire and proclaimed the will of Agbala. (Achebe 16,17) The Oracle entrusted his will to be carried out by a woman who spoke authoritatively. Many men who did not question what the priestess conveyed from the Oracle consulted the Oracle. Although the most of the men in the society viewed women as weak, they put their complete trust in a woman representative of the Oracle which sometimes directed their every move and whom they consulted every time an important decision was to be made. The Oracle, who was the final word on the fate of many Ibo people, was represented by a woman, which the men absolutely trusted.
Okonkwo grew up and lived in his father’s village. When he is exiled, he goes to live among his mother’s family. Okonkwo is down and somewhat depressed that he has to live in the land where his mother is from. His uncle, Uchendu called him and his cousins together one-day to question them, especially Okonkwo about why he is there. Uchendu says, We are only his mother’s kinsmen.
He does not belong hereAnd so he is bowed with grief. (Achebe, 133) Uchendu also points out that one of the most common Ibo names, Nneka means Mother is Supreme (Achebe 133) A society of people that depends upon the strength and leadership of it’s men acknowledges that Mother is Supreme. Okonkwo must realize that he can find comfort among his mother’s kinsmen. Uchendu states that a mother protects and offers comfort in the midst of sorrow and bitterness. He tells Okonkwo that he should not refuse comfort, because if he does, his family will die in exile. (Achebe 134) Uchendu realized the strength of woman, especially a mother. This society that stresses the leadership of men, where men are in charge of everything also declares that A man has both joy and sorrow in his life and when the bad times come his mother is always there to comfort him.
Thus comes the saying ‘Mother is Supreme’. (http://landow.stg.brown.edu/post/nigeria/women.ht ml) Human Sexuality.