Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe is based in pre-colonial Nigeria. This novel portrays
African men as being very strong and protective of their families. Okonkwo the
protagonist of the novel ruled his household with a heavy hand. His wives, especially the
youngest, live in perpetual fear of his fiery temper. In the novel women are
restricted to the home and possessed little decision making power. “His mother and
sisters worked hard enough, but they grew women’s crops, like coco-yams, beans,
cassava. Yam, the King of crops, was a man’s crop”(chapter 3). This also tells us that
the women were regarded as weak people because they were not allowed to plant
the King crops. Achebe portrays the female characters in TFA as being weak and submissive though occasionally powerful which is a direct reflection of the nature of the male dominated world in which they lived in which also values the role of women e.g. as a spiritual leader.
In the novel TFA , we see that Okonkwo has three wives who were not allowed to do anything without his permission. If his wives did anything without his permission, they were beaten. “Do what you are told women,” Okonkwo thundered, and got very angry. “When did you become one of the ndichie of Umuofia?” (Achebe.14) This tells us that the women were very weak; they would not talk back to their husbands because they feared getting beaten. Women were treated as maids, Okonkwo’s wives had to do whatever he tells them to do. The women lived in fear; they had no freedom of speech. Okonkwo beats his wife, Ojiugo when she does not prepare dinner for him, she was plaiting her hair instead of cooking and he beat her during the weak of peace. The Igbo believe that a man shouldn’t beat or fight with anybody during the weak of peace. Okonkwo broke the rule by beating his wife. This tells us that Women had to be silent and Obedient to their husbands, they had to live in fear. Women had no option apart from obeying their husbands. Okonkwo’s other wife was beaten because she cut some leaves off a banana tree to wrap food. When he saw the tree, he beat her for killing it, the tree
was still alive, and the wife just cut a few leaves. (Achebe. 38), Okonkwo beat his wives
for small issues that made them fear him. Women had limited power in their own household. Men used to rule the household; Okonkwo used to dominate his household and was feared by all the women staying under his roof.
On the other hand when you start reading the novel further you get to know that women play important roles in the Igbo culture. The author really makes the reader think. Women are also represented as powerful people in the clan. The women
perform the role of priestess on daily basis. Chinua Achebe recalls that during
Okonkwo's boyhood, "the priestess in those days was woman called Chika. She was
full of the power of her god, and she was greatly feared" (Achebe 17), this tells us that
women played a huge role in the Igbo culture.