MHS AP Lit. 2012-2013 discussion

Things Fall Apart (The African Trilogy, #1)
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Ryan Gallagher (RyanGallagher) | 24 comments Mod
Things Fall Apart Part 1 (post # 2)


message 2: by Ashly (new)

Ashly | 8 comments Just as Okonkwo's guilt over killing Ikemefuna seems to lessen, his rarely displayed attachment to his family is again tested When Ekwefi informs him of his daughter's illness. By nature, Okonkwo is not a cold and heartless man; he simply cannot escape the haunting images of his despised father's womanly qualities. I have learned by now that showing compassion is the last thing that Okonkwo wants to do but, for Ikwefi comes natural. Achebe does not hesitate to shed light on Ikemefuna’s motherly instincts. Ekwefi's dedication to her daughter Ezinma exemplifies the important role children play in a woman's life. Ekwefi says that children are a "woman's crowning glory," and before Ezinma was born, her own life was consumed with the desire to have a healthy child. Ikemefuna birth ten children, nine died except for Ezinma. With Ezinma being her only surviving child the bond between mother and child is greater than ever.
Achebe shows that the Ibo nonetheless assign important roles to women. For instance, women painted the houses of the egwugwu and served as priest (84). Womenwere the primary edcutaors in the Ibo society. Through storytelling and other forms of interactions, they educate the children, inspiring in them intellectual curiosity about social ethics, relationships, and the human circumstances. The stories the women tell additionally builds up the artistic awareness of the children, over and above entertaining them. Through their labor, they are an important pillar of the society. The power of women in the Ibo village is found in the role they play in the Ibo religion. The presence of Chielo, the priestess is instructive; she is a spiritual leader, whose authority is unquestioned.
Women in the Ibo society are just as important if not more than the men. The importance of a woman's role appears when Okonkwo is exiled to his motherland. When Okonkwo returns to his mother's clan after being exiled from the Ibo village. Uchendu, reproaching Okonkwo for his sorrow about having to come to live with his mother's clan, explains: “It's true that a child belong 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”. (134). Uchenda's words reveal that women are viewed as the foundation of the clan and its people. They are the constant that can be relied upon; they are the nurturers and caretakers of the people. And these are not insignificant, powerless roles.


message 3: by Iris (new)

Iris Feng | 6 comments Ashly wrote: "Women were the primary educators in the Ibo society. Through storytelling and other forms of interactions, they educate the children, inspiring in them intellectual curiosity about social ethics, relationships, and the human circumstances...."
Ashly, I notice many mutually supportive interactions between women begin to increase as the novel progresses. For example, Okonkwo’s wives frequently try to protect one another from his anger. Before Ezinma’s birth, Ekwefi was not jealous of Okonkwo’s first wife; she only expressed bitterness at her own misfortune. While Okonkwo gathers medicine for the fever, his other wives try to calm Ekwefi’s fear. Ekwefi’s friendship with Chielo, too, is an example of female bonding.

To add on what you mention about motherhood, I think the relationship between Ekwefi and Ezinma is not a typical parent-child relationship. Ekwefi receives a great deal of comfort and companionship from her daughter and. Since she has lost so many children, she loves and respects her daughter even more. Although in this society, being a mother is the biggest achievement in a woman’s life, however, Ekwefi values Ezinma so much more because of the love and companionship that her daughter offers.
Ashly wrote: "By nature, Okonkwo is not a cold and heartless man; he simply cannot escape the haunting images of his despised father's womanly qualities..."
Previously, we see Okonkwo’s behavior the night of the incident with Chielo as it appears to Ekwefi: Okonkwo shows up with his machete and fulfills the role of the strong, manly protector. However, at the beginning of Chapter 12, the narrator focuses on Okonkwo’s internal state and we see his internal feelings rather than his apparent ones, the “cold and heartless man” you described. Because Okonkwo views affection as a sign of weakness due to the influence of his father, he forces himself to wait before following Chielo. Each time he makes the trip to the caves and finds her missing, he returns home again to wait. Then he finds Ekwefi. Okonkwo is not the cruel, heartless man that he presents himself to be; instead he is quite worried about Ezinma’s welfare. His hyperbolic understanding of manliness (the result of his tragic flaw) prevents his better nature from showing itself fully. Chielo’s actions force Okonkwo to acknowledge how important his wife and child are to him and show that vulnerable side of him that he tries to hide.

Okonkwo’s punishment emphasizes the importance of strong, harmonious relations within the community. Although Obierika questions the harsh punishment that Okonkwo receives for such an accident, I think this will relieve the anger and resentment. Despite accidental death of Ezeudu’s son, it is understandable for Ezeudu’s close relatives to be angry with Okonkwo. Okonkwo’s exile would separate him temporarily from the offended community, which would hopefully be restored seven years later.


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