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Nevertheless, the main focus of this paper is female roles, which frequently overlooked as secondary, but yet one of the crucial aspects in Things Fall Apart.

       A story written by Chinua Achebe which set in Eastern Nigeria during the time of British colonialism in the late 1800s, Things Fall Apart is about a clan which once adhered to the traditional values of the tribe. However, the arrival of the colonizers with their new belief system and new ?civilization? in the village gradually has sapped the identity of the tribe. Hence, things begin to fall apart.

       Nevertheless, the main focus of this paper is female roles, which frequently overlooked as secondary, but yet one of the crucial aspects in Things Fall Apart. Women are revered and yet marginalized in Things Fall Apart, as we will be looking at female?s role as a mother; and as the subordinate companions of the traditional patriarchs. This duality draws out the sense of female?s self-consciousness and how they enter into conflicts with the patriarchal society impositions.

       Women roles are multifaceted and are multitasked in upholding the dominion of motherhood within the community. In sync with execution of the role as mothers, women are simultaneously housewives, educators, and labors. Patricia Hill Collins quotes from Barbara Christian in her book, Black Feminist Thought (1990: 116) that the ?concept of motherhood is of central importance in the philosophy of both African and Afro-American peoples?. The significance of motherhood in the story can be seen through the belief of the clan that ?mother is supreme?. (94)

             ?It?s true that a child belongs to its father. But when a father beats his child, it seeks sympathy in its mother?s 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?? (94)


       The excerpt shows how the role of mother is revered as the protector for sons, and the ultimate sanctuary for them to take refuge. Furthermore, according to Collins, motherhood can serve as a site where Black women express and learn the power of self-definition, the importance of valuing and respecting ourselves, the necessity of self-reliance and independence, and a belief in Black women?s empowerment. (1990:118) Chapter 11 best illustrates how a woman embarks on a journey of self-discovery and learns about self-reliance and independence. In the name of her love to her daughter Ezinma, Ekwefi makes her own decision to follow Chielo who has taken away daughter to see Agbala, the Oracle of the Hills and Caves. The journey is not an easy one for a female who is considered as ?weak? in the story.

       Examine some of the symbols in Chapter 11, we can also associate them with the females? emerging self-consciousness. The sacred cave of Agbala symbolizes the destination that a woman is trying to reach?to discover the ?self? of a woman successfully. The journey of self-discovery is full of challenges and loneliness. Ekwefi feels all alone when she following Chielo. Hence, she longs for ?companionship and human sympathy? (75). One of the greatest obstacles that she has to face is the prevailing patriarchal system. She says to herself instinctively that ?woman, go home before Agbala does you harm.? because she is aware of a woman?s position in an andocentric community. But she does not give in to her fear and she continues the journey.     

       Sometimes she sees a light of hope, when ?the moon was definitely rising, and although it had not yet appeared on the sky its light had already melted down the darkness?.  (74) But sometimes she has doubts, and feels that all her efforts are in vain, because ?whenever she thought she saw their shape it immediately dissolved like a melting lump of darkness.? (74) Finally, we can see that the greatest fear of the journey is to ?enter the underground caves? when she arrives at the cave mouth. In the story we know that Ekwefi does not have the guts not enter the caves and chooses to wait outside the cave. This implies the fact that the power to change and rise above the patriarchal system is in women?s hand and they need courage to make the right decision.

       Nevertheless, according to Collins, the institution of motherhood can be useful to benefit female oppression through its ?controlling images?. (1990:118) For instances the image of mammy, and the matriarch system. Hence, even though the roles of mother is venerated in the story, we can not ignore the underlying fact that the writer confines females through the image of ?mother? that he deliberately designed in his cultural universe; that the ultimate position of females is what the traditional chauvinists assume?home.

       Collins quotes Wade-Gayles 1980, claiming that ?black mothers have been accused of failing to discipline their children, of emasculating their sons, of defeminizing their daughters, and of retarding their children?s academic achievement.? (1990:115) Although mother is viewed as supreme in the story, it comes with it own set of problems. We see the anger in Okonkwo when he thinks of ?how could he have begotten a woman for a son? (108) He feels that it is a curse to have an effeminate son who abandons his ancestors and worships the white men?s god. Okonkwo blames this to Nwoye?s mother. Nwoye?s mother, whose name is never mentioned in the story, ?emasculate? his son, turns him into a ?woman?, which Okonkwo regarded as a misfortune for him. In short, even the concept of motherhood in the story itself comes it own contradictions, which always pull women between two incompatible oppositions.

       First wife is given authority and the ruler of the womenfolk in a family, as we can see in Nwakibie?s first wife, Anasi who wears the anklet of her husband?s title, which the first wife alone could wear. (14) Nevertheless, regardless the respect to the first wife, the fact that women are degenerated and neglected concurrently is unveiled in the story. Are women allowed to partake in men dominated rituals, discussion, meeting, and councils of war? The answer is paradox. In some ceremonies they are given drink, especially the first wife that everyone could not drink before her; but yet women have to leave the ritual after drinking the wine. (14) Furthermore, the writer emphasizes that the ceremony is for the men. As we can see in the following excerpt

             ??It was clear from the way the crowd stood or sat that the ceremony was for men. There were many women, but they looked on from the fringe like outsiders.? (62)

Thus, although women are honored in certain aspect they do not have full participation as men in every rituals, they remain the role of a by-passer, who is silence and distant from the community.

       Women engage in the labor force of the farm which is the source of life for men in order to support his family. Female roles are dualistically constructed by some of the symbols. For instances, the yam and the goddess. The king of the crops in Umuofia is yam, which is the symbol of virility. (23) Okonkwo is punished because he beats his youngest wife during the Week of Peace which honors the great goddess of the earth, Ani. Insults to the goddess may result in the refusal of ?to give us her increase? to the harvest and therefore ?we shall all perish?. (22) The goddess in the story entails the power and strength of females, thus they signify the role of females that is revered. They control the harvest of yam which identical to manliness. (23) In reality, women are the main helpmates of men to flourishing his farm (identical to his manliness). Furthermore, women roles as mothers are influential as they born men?s biological offspring (the sons and the yam), who will be the head of family to succeed his father?s glories and to uphold the andocentric society. But who causes Okonkwo to break the rule during the Week of Peace? It is his wife and female is ultimately the victim of the incident too. It is important to note that the patrilineal society of Achebe?s cultural universe can only exist by way of the females? contributions that it banishes. But in terms of recognition women have been denied a place as their representations are disparaged and silenced.

       The story? chauvinism centers on how men determine what roles women shall or shall not play in the community. Nevertheless, despite facing direct pressure from the patriarchal milieu, women, through their increasing self-consciousness, strive to defy and break through traditional social confinements which oppress them. Okonkwo?s second wife, Ekwefi, a courageous and strong-willed woman, is an emblem of the subtle resistance of females in the patriarchal system.  Ekwefi is a village beauty who loves wrestling and she runs away from her former husband to live with Okonkwo. A woman who finds wrestling irresistible connotates the blood of rebellion within her.  Indeed, she is the only wife that dares to defy Okonkwo. The journey and challenges that Ekwefi experiences demonstrate females? growing awareness of the situation and incidents she encountered, and thus offer the readers courage and confidence that might lead to revolution?to emancipate womenfolk from subordination.

       The incident that Okonkwo aims his gun to Ekwefi because he hears his wife telling Ikemefuna about ?guns that never shot?. (28) She is referring to the fact that Okonkwo has not kill a rat with his gun before. What makes Okonkwo losses his control and aims his gun to his wife? This is because Ekwefi challenges his authority by divulging his femininity, that he has a gun but never use it. For a masculinist like Okonkwo, ?gun? may signify virility, or the weapon that controls womenfolk within the community that must not be challenged.

       When we discuss about duality one of the females? strength is the subtle resistance and defiance to the patriarchal system through personal and psychological forms rather that physical. They evoke the fear of men no matter how they try to repress it.

Firstly, Okonkwo, the main character of the story, is incessantly haunted by a great incomprehensible fear throughout his life. He is apprehension to be associated with his indifferent father, Unoka who connotes womanliness. The clansmen call him ?agbala? which means woman. Secondly, when Okonkwo depressed over the death of Ikemefuna, he tells himself that, ?when did you become a shivering old woman?? and ? Okonkwo, you have become a woman indeed.? (45) Apparently men see women as weak and inferior and it is their greatest fear to be seen as fragile as women. Ironically, they are the so-called victims because of the fear of women. Thirdly, Okonkwo is exile to his motherland after he accidentally murders Ezendu?s son. This implies the fact that females are the refuge for men whenever they face problems, regardless how they feign that they hate anything to do with women. Ure mezu, Rose in her online article ?Women in Achebe?s World? asserts that women in Achebe?s cultural universe are victims of a disproportionate weight on virility and gender stereotypes. I would argue that women do render a subtle resistance and defiance towards the patriarchal community.

       Women suffer from the gender oppression that pervades the prevailing patriarchal society in the story. Okonkwo as a representation of African men chauvinistically believes that women?s place is in the home.  (Ure mezu, Rose) A good wife for men should be accountable and 

leave none of her household duties undone. (Carey, Mathew) Ojiugo, Okonkwo?s youngest wife forgets to return home to cook the after noon meal for him. Therefore she is beaten ferociously by her husband during the Week of Peace. This shows that a woman must obey and abide by the confinements set by men in the phallocentric community, where female subornation is evident. It is the responsibility of the wife to gratify her husband?s inclinations. (Carey, Mathew) Okonkwo?s wives cook his favorite food for him.  Furthermore, we can see that in the story a wife should not attempt to rule, or appear to rule her husband. Therefore when his senior wife asks Okonkwo whether Ikemefuna will stay long with them, she is rebuked not to appear to be the ?ndichie? (elders) of Umuofia.

             ?Do what you are told, woman,? Okonkwo thundered, and stammered. ?When did you become one of the ndichie of Umuofia?? (10)

Questioning is a form of challenge and men do not allow women to degrade them. In spite of this, we never find altercations which started by female in the story. This entails the voicelessness of womenfolk in the masculine-based community. Women?s endurances and dissatisfactions are not heard. They are treated violently when they disobey their husband or do not comply with their wishes.

       As conclusion, the duality of female roles is found in the story when we examine the role of female as mothers; housewives, and labors. Women are sometimes revered at certain aspects, but yet they are marginalized at the same time. Although Achebe?s story is chauvinism in terms of gender differences, the emerging of female self-consciousness and their voice must not be ignored.

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