Women In Umofia
The book, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, is about an African man named Okonkwo, who lives in Umuofia, a village in Nigeria. Okonkwo was, to his people, a great man. He had proved himself many a time to be the successful man that everyone expected him to be. However, Okonkwo gets himself exiled by killing a clansman, who happened to be Obguefi Ezeudu’s son. Ezeudu was a great elder, very famous in the village and was also very powerful. The vile act of killing a fellow clansman just furthered the conflict that arose in the story, the arrival and takeover of the missionaries, and complicated the story. Okonkwo fled to his mother’s land for seven years, away from the European missionaries spreading Christianity and taking over the land. We all read about the men and their titles, but what about the women? What about their importance to the village?
I noticed that the women aren’t trusted as much as the men are.
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They are often questioned about imaginary sexual relations and adultery. Whereas the men get off with a slap on the wrist if they cheat on any of their wives. As a matter of fact, the men don’t even get the slap on their wrist. One example of this distrust is the isa-ifi ceremony, on page 132, where a woman, if away for a long period of time, is questioned about whether she was unfaithful to her husband during her long leave. Her husband’s sister questions the bride about her sexual relations after the man asked for her hand in marriage. In doing this ceremony, they blatantly show their distrust of the women of their village. The gwomen are treated like untrustworthy creatures, who are not even trusted enough to go out for a few days without people breathing down their necks, as shown in both the aforementioned ceremony and the weddings that take place in the book.
This brings me to another point: the women are sold off like bags of flour if one man has enough money. Their parents, mainly the father, line up suitors and wait to see who could offer enough money to buy their daughter. I believe that is unfair and sexist toward women in general. There is this one part in the book, on page 117, where a girl, Akueke I believe, is being married off. Her father says, ‘We are giving you our daughter today. She will be a good wife to you. She will bear you nine sons like the mother of our town.’ The sexist nature of the men in the village is shown clearly through that statement; the men refer the women of the village as child merely bearers, rather than the human beings they are.
Another point is really more about the book in general. Achebe makes the women seem frightened and scared half of the time. Like when the egwugwu, which are people who masquerade as the ancestral spirits of the village, jumped into the crowd, the women, who were standing in a circle, jumped away, shrieking and screaming. Also, they are too frightened to go into Agbala’s shrine for fear of being killed. They are portrayed as frightened creatures that can’t fend for themselves. It seems, wherever the author is from, they taught him to think that women are always scared, which is biased because he only knows the women in his life and not the women around the world.
So, in conclusion, the village of Umuofia is extremely sexist and Achebe didn’t portray the importance of women enough in his piece of work, in my opinion. Women are basically what keep the society together. Women bear children, they care for said children when they are but babes, and they, being the patient creatures they are, teach the children what they need to know in order to become successful in the world. Most everyone relies on men to teach their own children, but the women, if my above statements are correct, are more capable of said task. The women are more mature than men also. They do not feel the need to compete with each other and waste time on superfluous activities; including gambling and such. Imagine a world with only men, it would be chaos; sexually and mentally frustrated men who eventually go crazy and kill one another, further endangering the human species; since men cannot bear children, and there would be no women to accomplish said task. See? Women are the foundation of our society. So, I ask you, what about the women? Where will the world be in a few years if females continue to be treated this way?