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Interconnectedness of Gender Roles in Agriculture, Parenting, and Definition of Crimes and Punishments in Things Fall Apart Feminist theories

promote equality between men and women. Chinua Achebe, the author of Things Fall Apart does not achieve this per se. (I might consider restructuring your opening paragraph. Elaborate a bit more on feminist theory, or the interests of feminist theory in literature. Furthermore, your opening could be interpreted as suggesting Chinua Achebe is against equality, when in fact I think he was just depicting social realities of the time. I understand that the point of your paper is not to say that Achebe does not achieve equality, however your opening sentences suggest that might be the direction you are heading into. I do feel that your paper does a good job explaining how Achebe displays the complexity of the relationship between men and women. I think you should focus on this if you can) In fact, the novel revolves around very structured gender role in which women appear to be the weaker sex and overly repressed. However, he does emphasize the importance of gender roles in the Igbo tribe. Even though Achebe does not precisely state in his novel, he is successful in showing his readers that the male and female roles of the Igbo people are interrelated. (This statement is somewhat vague. Consider rephrasing. Try to be precise and direct. Consider using the word interdependent or intertwined. The word interrelated is not precise enough. This reciprocal relationship of men and womens roles can be particularly observed in Igbo practices such as agriculture, parenting, and defining and punishment of crimes. (Is this your thesis? Consider including your theory. For example, you could state, Feminist theory is a useful tool to investigate the relationship of

2 men and womens roles in Igbo society, particularly in agriculture, parenting, and in the defining and punishment of crimes) The interconnectedness of men and womens roles is apparent in agricultural practices particularly during planting season. In Umuofia, even the naming of the crops is structured. Yam is a mans crop, and coco yams, beans and cassava are womens crops (Achebe 19). However, since a mans worth is measured by his yams as is repeatedly mentioned in the book, it is important that men and women must work together for harvest to be successful. Although the amount of work and effort put forth by men and women are different, it is not to say that one role is more important than the other. For a productive harvest, it takes a very strong man and someone who rarely felt fatigue (Achebe 11) to work daily on his farms, which demanded hard work and constant attention from cockcrow till the chickens went back to roost (Achebe 28). Womens role in this activity is also important because they are the ones who stake the yams first with little sticks and later with tall and big tree branches. The women weeded the farm three times at definite periods in the life of the yams neither early nor late (Achebe 29). To further differentiate the roles of men and women during harvest season, the novel shows that while masculine strength is needed to tend to the fields, fertility, and growth of the crops is not possible without the blessing of the earth goddess (Achebe29).(Dont forget your quotation marks) Therefore, a successful harvest in agricultural endeavors is only possible when both men and women do their respective responsibilities together. Without the presence of the other, harvest would eventually fail. The mutual connection(try a different word than relatedness.. this word is too vague) of gender roles in the Umuofian community is also apparent in their parenting

3 styles. The differences in childrearing techniques between men and women mesh together to raise children up to be the people they are forced to be at the time. As in any society, there is a disciplinarian and there is someone who tends to spoil his children. Okonkwo represents the disciplinarian in his family. It is mentioned more than once in the novel that he rules his household with a heavy hand due to his obsession with masculinity and fear of showing his emotions. These are then mirrored in the way he raises his children. He abhors laziness, it is a habit he associates with his father whom he equally abhors, so he sought to correct [Nwoye] by constant nagging and beating (Achebe 11). His wish is for his sons to become tough young [men] capable of ruling his fathers household when he was dead to be prosperous [to] be able to rule his women folk (Achebe 45-46). He thinks showing emotion is equated with weakness so he refrains from showing his fondness to Ikemefuna and Ezinma. He even kills Ikemefuna to prove that the only thing worth demonstrating was strengthBut there was no doubt that he liked (Ikemefuna) (Achebe24). Furthermore, to educate his children on manliness, he encourages his boys to listen to his masculine stories of violence and bloodshed (Achebe 46), or to his stories about tribal wars, or how, years ago, he had stalked his victim, overpowered him and obtained his first human head (Achebe 47). He believes that these are the things that make a man, things that would enable his sons to hold their heads in clan gatherings. To believe otherwise, he says that he would sooner strangle him with [his] own hands (Achebe) 28). (You make some great points here. However, are there examples of male parenting beside Okonkwo?) On the other hand, the mothers represent an equally important role in raising children. Again, it is not clearly mentioned in the novel, but where Okonkwo and men are lacking in childrearing, women reciprocates by showing their children their unconditional

4 love, and teach them gentleness through storytelling, and they are equally able to demonstrate surprising strength amidst a culture of violence and chaos. Ekwefi is probably the best representation of all three with regards to her only daughter Ezinma. Ekwefi is the one who spoils her child by giving her eggs, which are considered to be delicacies, [and] which children were rarely allowed because such food tempted them to steal (Achebe 67). Her unconditional love for her daughter is clearly apparent when she dares defy her husband by her continuation to secretly give Ezinma eggs and dares defy Agbala when she follows Chielo who brings Ezinma to the cave after she is told not to (Achebe 69, 89) Defying Agbala also belies great courage as she still follows Chielo despite being seized by terror and being hurt when she hits her foot against an outcropped root (Achebe 91). She has done what any mother would do, worry, protect, and make sure that her daughter is alright without thinking about her own welfare. Moreover, Ekwefi is a woman of great strength, one who has suffered a good deal in her life (Achebe 67). To be able to survive and deal with the sorrow that has come with the loss of nine children shows amazing courage, more so than Okonkwo has ever shown. Finally, Ekwefi educates Ezinma about greediness and fairness through the folk tale involving the tortoise and the feathers (Achebe 85-88). Therefore, both kind of parents strive together to raise their children in the right direction. Their fathers teach them how to be a man and hold their heads high in the community while their mothers teach them to be inwardly strong in the face of many adversities. These two contrasting parental roles interact together to raise children to be the people their parents want them to be. Lastly, in defining and passing judgments on crimes committed by the people, the role of men and women are clearly defined and go hand in hand. There are two kinds of

5 crimes in Umuofia: When committed inadvertently, the crime is female where as when committed on purpose, the crime is distinguished as male. This is why when Okonkwos gun goes off during the warriors funeral, and accidentally kills the dead mans sixteenyear-old son, Okonkwo is said to have committed the female, because it had been inadvertent (Achebe 110). As a result, he is banished from the clan for seven years. His crime also angers the earth goddess who sends her messengers to set fire to his houses, demolished his red walls, killed his animals and destroyed his barn (Achebe 110). The weight of punishment then is measured whether the crime is female or male. It is not mentioned what kind of punishment would befall someone who commits a male crime other than violent deaths were frequent (Achebe109), but it seems like committing its female counterpart is about the lowest and most derogatory crime a man can ever commit as is seen by Okonkwos heavy face, and refusal to be comforted in his motherland (Achebe 117).This is further elaborated when Okonkwos uncle, Uchendu, explains why he has to go back to his motherland.
We all know that a man is the head of the family and his wife 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 his motherland. And yet we say Nneka mother is supreme It is true that a child belongs to its father, but when a father beats his child, it seeks sympathy in its mothers hut. 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. Your mother is there to protect you (Achebe 116-117).

According to Uchendu, Okonkwos clan and the female goddess who exacts justice on his property both have acted in a similar way as a father would when he beats his child and Okonkwo then seeks comfort in his mothers hut, which in this case, his motherland. True enough, he has belonged to his fatherland at the height of his status as a man with the accumulation of his titles, his wives, children, and power, but when he loses all of these

6 and gets banished, he goes back to his motherland. Uchendu demonstrates here the structured roles a mother and a father must play when a crime and punishment is decided, and how both are equally necessary. Without Okonkwos mothers kinsmen whom he seeks refuge and protection from, he and his family would have perished in exile. Therefore, it is evident throughout Things Fall Apart that women are not equal to men. However, a feminist would argue that even though this is true and that gender roles are clearly structured in a pyramid where the males are on top and the females are in the bottom, Chinua Achebe succeeds in illustrating the reciprocal relationship of both when it comes to agricultural harvests, parenting and definition of crimes and punishments. (I like where you are going with this statement, however I think it could use some restructuring.) For a successful harvest, mens physical strength is needed to till the fields while women are needed to weed and maintain it. Moreover, when raising their children, mens emphasis on masculinity, womens unconditional love and strength, and both their different styles of storytelling are roles that are interconnected to result in good parenting. Finally, crimes and punishments are defined as either male or female. When things are good, people belonged to their fatherland, but when the going gets tough, they seek refuge from their mothers kinsmen. True, (Awkward phrasing) the roles are different for each gender but it is not to say that one role is more important than the other. (Overall I think youve done a decent job on your paper. ________________________________________________________________________ The female character Chielo possesses traits that are both feminine and masculine which results in her being one of the most powerful members of Umuofia. When we first meet Chielo, she appears as an ordinary female member of the tribe. She is engaged in casual conversation with Ekwefi, one of Okonkwos wives, and shows characteristically feminine fondness for Ekwefis daughter, Enzima. (Achebe 48). We soon find out that Chielo has

7 another side. Anyone seeing Chielo in ordinary life would hardly believe she was the same person who prophesied when the spirit of Agbala was upon her (Achebe 49). Later in the text we see the masculine, or the more violent and assertive, side of Chielo. She comes in the night to take Enzima away to the Oracle for no apparent reason. When Okonkwo protests, Chielo states: Beware of exchanging words with Agbala. Does a man speak when a god speaks? Beware! (Achebe 101). Any other woman of the tribe would never think of speaking to a man in such a manner. But by claiming that she is under the influence and direction of Agbala, Chielo expresses an awesome authority to which Okonkwo is speechless. One expert believes that the purpose of this encounter is the following: What Achebe implies through the portrayal of Chielo is that women in positions of power are despotic and destructive because they are irrational. By contrast, men in positions of power are shown to be reasonable, impartial, and constructive, as in the court scene in which the egwugwu, the fathers of the clan, settle disputes. (Chapter 31) While such an analysis may be sound, there are other possibilities that put Achebe in a more positive light. For example, it is possible that Chielos encounter was included to show the power and influence women are capable of. Perhaps Chielo was one of the lucky ones. She was in a unique situation where she could enjoy a certain degree of female liberation through the guise of an oracle priestess. Through this position, she could assert herself unlike the other repressed women of the tribe. The pursuit of Chielo by Ekwefi, and later Okonkwo, show the feminine sides of both characters. Unlike her husband, Ekwefi did not heed the warning Chielo gave. She followed her daughter being carried away by the priestess into the night (Achebe 103). Ekwefis pursuit of Chielo actually disregards the masculine traditions of the clan, for Chielo is merely the messenger of Agbala, the male deity whom Ekwefi defies (OseiNyame 157-58). Ekwefi knowingly defies Agbala to ensure the safety of her only child, which is obviously a feminine trait. But after Ekwefi had followed the priestess, [Okonkwo] had allowed what he regarded as a reasonable and manly interval to pass and then gone with his machete to the shrine, where he thought they must be.he had become gravely worried (Achebe 112). Although delayed, Okonkwo also defies Agbala to search and protect his wife and child. By doing so, he shows that he is a caring father and has a gentle, or feminine, side. The primary function of Ekwefi and Enzima is to reveal Okonkwos well-hidden capacity for tender feelings and hence to ensure that, despite his violent temperament, he retains the sympathy of readers (Chapter 29). So although it is hidden, the Chielo encounter clearly shows that the extremely masculine Okonkwo does have a feminine side.

Works Cited

Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. Toronto: Everymans Library, 1992.