In the society today, especially in the African scenario, power is well defined according to the cultural setting of the people. For a long time now, society has granted more power to the male fraternity and indeed very little to the women. Such has been the case for the better part of history, allowing the men to dominate with massive power. In the African society, questioning the traditionally set power structure was taken to be devious and rebellious. Therefore, this led to man exercising superiority over woman for a very long time. Well, until the late 20th century and early 21st century when the issue of gender equality was openly recognized as an important issue which needed to be addressed. Chinua Achebe has brought it out clearly in his book. He created Okwonkwo, who is a protagonist and arguably the main character of the story.
Bloom, Harold, ed. Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart. Infobase Publishing, 2009.
Men versus Women
"Okonkwo ruled his household with a heavy hand. His wives, especially the youngest, lived in perpetual fear of his fiery temper’. The first thing that can be noted from this quotation is the fact that Okwonkwo ruled his household. As a matter of fact, in the most literal form, he did. Okwonkwo is depicted to have monopoly power over everybody in his homestead. He expects whatever he says to be law even if it’s wrong. He runs his household with frequent violence even when such is avoidable. All his three wives lived in perpetual fear of his fiery temper. Okwonkwo’s wives are seen to prefer tolerating his temper rather than questioning it. Everybody knows that anything feminine is a weakness to him, and he cannot stand it. He swore never to be like his father, Unoka, who was a weakling in the clan and now resorts to violence to prove he is powerful. This concept can be extended to the whole African setting as evidence of a man’s dictatorship on a woman. Physical fear is an aspect of dictatorship and Okwonkwo clearly used it to instill fear on his wives. In Africa men continue to dominate over women.
‘His mother and sisters worked hard enough, but they grew women’s crops, like coco-yams, beans and cassava. Yam, the king of crops, was a man’s crop. The women work hard, but they are only allowed to grow food such as coco- yams, beans and cassava. The major crop is the ‘yam, and it’s considered a man’s food. The woman’s role is to be seen but not heard from.“Sit like a woman!” Okonkwo shouted at her. Ezinma brought her two legs together and stretched them in front of her. (56) Women as shown in this context are not allowed to sit in the position that is supposed to be for men. The manner in which Okwonkwo shouts to the girl shows how angry he is that she dares to behave like a boy when she is a girl. Even though it is a parent’s duty to correct the child when she is on the wrong, in this case, Okwonkwo is simply exercising his wrath on the girl for trying to pick up a boy’s habit. The woman’s position is supposed to be in such a way that it shows submissiveness. Okwonkwo therefore is taken to be telling her daughter to know her rightful position as she not allowed to be seated in that manner.
And after a pause she said: “Can I bring your chair for you?”“No, that is a boy’s job.” Okonkwo was especially fond of Ezinma. (59-60). As young as the girl is he has already shown her that a woman is not worthy of doing the society has established to be the job of a man. It is a case of sheer pride on the side of the man to declare that he cannot sit on a chair that has been brought to him by a woman. Political Power and Dictatorship
The people of Igbo already have an established political set up. Politics is associated with power. Men hold more political power as compared to women. Women are not allowed to go to war. From the book, Achebe has not mentioned the existence of any woman leader, now and in the times of Okwonkwo’s ancestors. Every leader in the book is a man. Men rule in their homes and their tribes as well. Women have a responsibility to follow men. In Okwonkwo’s home his wives and daughter has to abide by his rules because they live in fear him.
Similarly men who are much wealthier tend to overpower those who are not. This means that the political setting in this book is addressed based on other social aspects, as well. In one instance, we see that Okwonkwo is a well-respected man in the clan because of his masculinity, charisma and wealth.
Okwonkwo has five heads of dead people that he has killed in war. Occasionally likes to gloat by drinking his wine on one of the heads. In addition, when Okwonkwo was a young warrior he killed Amalinze. It made him famous. The people of Umuofia seem to have embraced the power that comes with physical battle and war. This is not the only point at which Achebe attempts to bring out the significance of physical masculinity when it comes to politics. The people of Umuofia are enraged by the murder of the wife of one of their tribesmen in the village market. They lay out their demand as compensation for the hideous act to the people of Mbaino. Failure to fulfilling the demands will lead to war. That is how they wish to prove that they still hold power over them, regardless of what they did.
In conclusion, the African setting in terms of politics, power and gender has been clearly brought out in the book. Chinua Achebe has tried to show the position of the woman in society. It’s clear that she has no place whatsoever as a leader. She ought to be a follower of men without question. On the other hand, the position of the man is to rule and dominate. Africa has been circulating in this setting for a long time until there was introduced education and women gained some confidence to say no and demand for gender equality in the society.
Gosling, Jonathan. "Things Fall Apart: Chinua Achebe." Fictional Leaders: Heroes, Villans and Absent Friends (2012): 99.