The Impact of women oppression on the societal destruction. A case study of Chinua Achebe’s "Things Fall Apart"

Academic Paper, 2014

76 Pages







General Introduction
1.1. Introduction to the study
1.2. Background to the study
1.3. Statement of the problem
1.5. Definition of terms
1.6. Purpose of the study
1.7. Objectives of the study
1.7.1. General objective
1.8. Research questions
1.9. Significance of the Study

2.1. Introduction
2.2. Ibo’s Society
2.3. Oppression
2.4. Women
2.5. Women oppression
2.6. Forms of women oppression
2.6.1. Patriarchy
2.6.2. The plight of women in Igbo society
2.6.3. Gender-based discrimination
2.6.4. Inequality
2.6.5. Violence against women
2.7. Gender
2.7.1. Gender difference in Igbo society
2.7.2. Gender sensitivity in traditional Igbo society according to Achebe
2.7.3. Gender education
2.7.4. Gendering the Economy

3.1. Introduction
3.2. Research Design
3.3. Data sources
3.4. Data collection

4.1. Analysis of women oppression in Igbo society
4.2. Forms of women oppression in Igbo society
4.2.1. The relationship between men and women in Igbo society
4.2.2. Women beating in Igbo society
4.2.3. Women marginalization in Igbo society
4.2.4. Patriarchal Igbo society
4.2.5. Women mistreatment in Igbo society
4.3. Ways Igbo society gets destroyed
4.3.1. Male dominance and women suppression
4.3.2. Undermining women’s rights
4.3.3. The effects of conflict between Okonkwo and his son, Nwoye
4.3.4. Violence against women in the special days
4.4. The Women of Umuofia and the Women of Today
4.5. Limited Role of women in the ancient Igbo society
4.6. Igbo society under white men’s occupation due to Okonkwo’s brutality and death

5.1. Introduction
5.2. Summary of findings
5.3. Conclusion
5.4. Recommendations based on research findings
5.5. Recommendations for further research



To my Almighty God, To my beloved father, Moïse Rwarakabije, And my beloved mother Laurence Nzaripfana, Thanks for your prayers, support, motivation, And everything you have done for me, I cannot give as you have given to me To all my sisters and brothers, To all my relatives who offered me their different support, And my best girl friend, Berthe, Thanks for your words of encouragement To finish my dissertation and your love toward me; You are one in a million. Thanks all.


First and foremost, thanks go to the Almighty God who always protects me and enabled me to complete this present dissertation by favoring me with the gift of life and blessing me.

My heartfelt gratitude is secondary addressed to Dr. Peter Muhoro Mwangi, my supervisor who helped me from the beginning to the completion of this dissertation. Without his professional guidance I would not have made it so far. His academic guidance was undiluted and he displayed a passion and unwavering support that kept me going all the time. He never tired in encouraging me to attempt new challenges.

The completion of this work is a contribution of many people’s efforts of whom I owe debt of gratitude. Therefore, I would highly like to thank the Kampala university graduate school director, Dr. Jean Bosco Binenwa for all his time spent and inconsiderable advice which stimulated me to work hard and follow my program seriously and successfully.

My gratitude is addressed to my all beloved lecturers who really shaped me in the faculty of English language and literature education, without their contribution of various forms to the improvement of my skills and knowledge I would not be who I am now. Along with that I especially thank my education lecturer Dr. Asiimwe Magunda Specioza whose determination and motivation in teaching and learning process left me something good in my mind.

I am extremely thankful for my parents and all their support. Without them, I would have given up a long time ago. Their financial support and hopeful advice kept me focused and driven. I also would like to thank my sisters and brothers for their financial support and encouragement to finish my master’s studies. Without all mentioned above, I could not have accomplished this goal.

My thanks have no end that is why I cannot leave behind my best friends and student mates in Kampala university language department. Thank you very much for friendship and help.

May Almighty God bless you all accordingly!!


The research’s concern here is on women oppression in the Igbo society and with its impact on the societal destruction. When carrying the research, the forms of women oppression were investigated in this Achebe’s Things Fall Apart whereby inequality, inheritance deprivation for female gender, women beating and other abuses against femininity were mainly based on in this research to investigate the reasons of Igbo societal destruction. Okonkwo who ruled his wives and children with a heavy hand was both a woman hater and oppressor. Hence, this behavior and belief have to be searched on for the purpose of finding out how it might lead his society to get destroyed.

This research bears the following objectives: To identify the forms of oppression in Things Fall Apart, to examine in which ways the society gets destroyed due to women oppression and to emphasize what women can do so as to get equal chances to their counterparts. Referring to the objectives mentioned above, the researcher wanted to answer these questions: the first question was how has the Igbo society demonstrated the forms of women oppression in Things Fall Apart ? The forms of oppression were based on women beating, deprivation of inheritance for female gender and different abuse against women. The second one is, where did the society get destroyed in the Igbo society in Things Fall Apart? It is identified that women role is limited to households and children bearing not in economic and political whereby the women are not able to possess anything like men. The third is how the women oppression contributed to the societal destruction? The protagonist of Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo, a woman hater and oppressor led his society to destruction whereby his son Nwoye abused by him to behave like women became one of the people who got converted into Christianity unlike traditional and other hatred and violence against the femininity contributed much to the society destruction. The findings identified that the Igbo society practiced different women oppression such as inequality, lack of inheritance for girls’ children, and women beating. It was also noticed here that women were socially and economically undermined by men through their patriarchal culture and society. The violence against the femininity pushed Okonkwo to hung himself so that he could not be called a weak or woman for handing himself in white men’s hands after killing the white man messenger. From this death, Umuofia has completely fallen apart in the white men’s hands.

The contribution of this research is to help women be aware of their rights and fight against the culture to which they belong. Men should empower women and consider them like human beings instead of limiting their lives in the kitchen and in the households. It especially motivates the other researchers who are interested in feminism and gender to make a comparison about the women life of the past and today in Igbo society. It is additionally hoped for further researchers to conduct the research in Igbo society for assessing whether the patriarchal culture has changed and women are no longer oppressed these days.



General Introduction

This work deals with Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. It mainly consists of five chapters: the first chapter deals with the introduction. It is supposed to help the reader to have the picture of the whole work through clarifications given about the background to the study, the statement of the problem, the objectives of the study, research questions and hypotheses, and the significance of the study and scope of the study.

The second chapter is concerned with the review of literature. It consists of the view of literature related to the present study and conceptual framework. Here the focus is on the key terms and other studies in the context of the present study.

The third chapter deals with research methodology. It covers the research methods the researcher used while conducting his study. It details the design of the study, the setting of target population and sample selection techniques, instrument and techniques of data collection and procedures of interpretation.

Fourth chapter focuses on research, presentation, interpretation, analysis and discussions. It mainly deals with the presentation and interpretation of data collected. As for as fifth chapter, it is made of conclusion in the accordance with what has been found and recommendations addressed to deferent people concerned with education and other researchers.

1.1. Introduction to the study

In many years ago, there have been several efforts to address the oppression between men and women in Nigeria. Unfortunately, many of these efforts have not produced required results. These failures have been connected to the men perceptions against women where the last ones were publicly considered as weak creatures in their society. In the Old Testament, Genesis 1 (v. 27), God stated that men and women were equally created in the image of God and neither attained more of the image of Him than the other. Therefore, the Bible introduces the equality of the sexes. In the Hindu religion, men and women are created to complete each other. Both state and define as well, however, the role of women as that of a form of support and guide for men. This shows that women are considered significant individuals, but are not completely regarded to be, in a way, at the same level as men. This concept which was introduced based on religious views was then wronged in time when people began to react in a stereotypical manner towards women. People started having views on women which placed them at a much lower level than men.

1.2. Background to the study

Historically the oppression of women by men pre-dated the development of class-divided society. That oppression, in different forms, is still widespread in a world dominated by imperialism. Today, women are divided amongst different classes and different nationalities. Some are in oppressor nations; some (the majority) are in oppressed nations. A small number are part of dominant classes; the vast majority are to be found as part of the exploited classes. The majority in the oppressor nations suffer class oppression. The majority in the oppressed nations suffer both class and national oppression. All women in the oppressed nations suffer national oppression. All women, wherever they are, suffer from male domination to varying degrees.

All over Africa women are treated unfairly. They have to deal with abuse of all sorts: sexually, physically, mentally, and verbally. They are told from the time they are born that they are just tools for men. Oppression means to subject a person or a people to a harsh or cruel form of domination. Although this great tragedy is all over Africa there are few women who broke away from the old traditions and made a life for themselves, but in doing so they lost their families. After a woman decides to not do as tradition she is shunned from community and her family. Overall, what these women have to go through is tremendously awful. People should learn about their issues and see what they can do to help. See what they can do to change a life because no matter how "small" their life may seem to people they're still a person with feelings, thoughts, dreams, and opinions. They can still do the unimaginable and become what they never thought was possible like a doctor or lawyer. Hopefully, someday people will realize that they can help.

Traditional African culture had clearly stipulated the different roles of men and women in society (Bwakali, 2001). For instance, polygamy is still a common practice in Africa (Gaba, 1997). Because of the rules of polygamy, many women end up being at the beck and call of just one man. If one woman cannot have a child, her husband will marry another woman for the sake of carrying on the family lines. This is just something that is known in South African society and something that women grow up needing to expect. Boys and Girls grew up knowing what was required for them in society. Boys grew up knowing they had to be strong and wise in order to take care of and provide for their wives. Similarly, girls grew up knowing that they had to be hardworking and submissive in order to appeal to a man as a wife. Women were victims of injustice not because of what society did to them, but because of what society did not do to them (Bwakali, 2001); Meaning that if society does not change, then it is up to the women to change society. Because women continued to conform to societal norms with which they were brought up, society had no reason to change.

A lot of the problem in South Africa lies within the African women themselves. Because the young men played such a crucial role in the collapse of apartheid, they are eager to collect their dues, and the women understand and respect such a notion. Therefore, the constraints that the post- apartheid society has to give priority to the full employment of young men are supported by the women in South Africa who believe that the young men need the jobs more than they do as women. The expectation that the young men have to collect such dues from society as a result of the end of apartheid is unmatched by women. Therefore, as the post-apartheid state is under pressure to develop local black skills, it will be easier for them to concentrate more on the male component. This concentration will be done obviously at the expense of women; however it will also be done with the cooperation of these women (Meer, 1992). Despite the segregation and oppression that still occurs, the post-apartheid system in South Africa is dedicated to equality, which is one of the basic principles of the new constitution. The constitution guarantees equality for women and allows for affirmative action to address both gender and race inequality. President Nelson Mandela said, “freedom cannot be achieved unless women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression, … unless we see in visible and practical terms that the condition of the women of our country has radically changed for the better, and that they have been empowered to intervene in all aspects of life as equals with any other member of society” (Baden, 1993). Mandela, South Africa’s biggest proprietor in the fight against apartheid is absolutely dedicated to the people of his country. He believes in absolute equality and wants women to have the same rights and the same power as men do in order to participate in society as well as in politics. Sadly, however, despite some progress made toward them, Mandela’s wishes and ideas have yet to really take hold. In fact, women are still treated as “minors” if they marry under the traditional African law. The age of majority in South Africa is 21, however according to traditional law, married women are considered permanent minors and under the control of their husbands. As one woman so tragically explains, “My husband spends all of the money he earns on other women rather than on our five children. When I complain, he threatens to divorce me.” In addition, traditional law says that women have no rights to inheritance. All property, the home and everything in it goes to the husband’s family.

The widow gets nothing and is put under guardianship of the husband’s family. One widow explained that even though all the household property was hers and she paid for the funeral expenses, her late husband’s family received everything. She did not oppose them because she knew she would be in a lot of ‘trouble’. Women do have access to lawyers, but many women do not know their rights and they would more than likely be ostracized by their family if they took any legal action. Moreover, most women cannot afford to hire a lawyer, and all the judges are men. So even if a woman did have the money for a lawyer, chances are good she would not get anywhere with a male judge anyway. This can show the reader this kind of oppression that South African women underwent without any complaints against their brothers.

According to European Scientific Journal (2013), women constitute about half of the population of the Nigerian State and are known to play vital roles as mothers, producers, managers, community developers/organizers etc. Their contribution to the social and economic development of societies is also more than half as compared to that of men by virtue of their dual roles in the productive and reproductive spheres. Yet their participation in formal and informal structures and processes, where decisions regarding the use of societal resources generated by both men and women are made, remains insignificant. The Nigerian society has been patriarchal in nature which is a major feature of a traditional society, (Aina, 1998). It is a structure of a set of social relations with material base which enables men to dominate women (Stacey 1993; Kramarae 1992; Lerner 1986). It is a system of social stratification and differentiation on the basis of sex, which provides material advantages to males while simultaneously placing severe constraints on the roles and activities of females.

Gender based violence is defined as violence that reflects the existing asymmetry in the power relations between men and women and that perpetuates the subordination and devaluation of the female as opposed to the male. This violence exists within the framework of the patriarchy as a symbolic system that engenders an array of day-to-day practices which deny women their rights and reproduce the existing imbalance and inequity between the sexes. The difference between this kind of violence and other forms of aggression and coercion lies in the fact that in this case the risk factor or source of vulnerability is the mere fact of being a woman. Throughout history, various forms of violence have manifested themselves in society as a consequence of certain sectors' or groups' domination over others. In this context, gender-based violence is a key social mechanism for perpetuating the subordination of women, since male hegemony power being considered the generic patrimony of men (Amorós, 1990) is based on social control over women. Therefore, violations of women's human rights are directly or indirectly related to the gender system and to mainstream cultural values. The violation of women's rights and gender-based violence are not new problems; they arise out of attitudes which, until very recently, were socially acceptable and, since they were generally limited to the sphere of private life, were little known. Nevertheless, it is clear that the racial mix (mestizaje) of Latin America and the Caribbean is founded upon a paradigm that has its roots in the rape of indigenous women. Historical studies in some countries show that physical violence or brutality committed by men against their wives was an accepted fact in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and that violence was accepted as a "punitive correction" in cases where women did not comply with social mandates (Cavieres and Salinas, 1991).

According to Oesi, (2005), noticed in this Novel Things Fall Apart that fathers sold their daughters off to marriage, and husbands beat their wives. Most men in Igbo society used tradition as a background to dictate women roles and lives. The Igbo society was a society that put a lot of emphasis on gender roles, and the importance of masculinity and violence, which resulted in the abuse of the female's character and the role of women as child barer. “We all know that a man is the head of the family and his wives do his bidding” (p.132). Here, Uchendu describes the male dominance and female suppression in Chinua Achebe’s book Things Fall Apart. Even though some boys secretly loved their mother’s stories the father’s stories captivated them and converted them to the male side of the world once and for all. For instance, “Nwoye knew that it was right to be masculine and to be violent, but somehow he still preferred the stories that his mother used to tell.”(Achebe, 1958, p. 53) in the Igbo tribe men took advantage of the contrast between and it resulted in relationships resembling that of a master and a slave. “No matter how prosperous a man was, if he was unable to rule his women and his children (especially his women) he was not really a man.”Men treated their multiple wives like property, and any children they bore belonged to the father as well.

“It’s true that a child belongs to its father.”(Achebe, 1958, p.134) a mother who went through the pain of bearing a child and rearing the child should be granted as an inalienable right the ownership of the child. The fact that women barely had claim to their own children is a sure sign that the males of the society were overstepping their boundaries and becoming like a monarchal society. Most men in Igbo society used tradition as a background to dictate women roles and lives. Consequently, when referring to the beating of Okonkwo's wife a disparity exists (Chinua, 1958, p. 30) domestic violence was not frowned upon by the British because it occurred during a week of non-violence, but rather that the crime of beating anyone had occurred at all. Through those happenings, it was very demanding to bring this research of Impact of women oppression on the societal destruction in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall apart. It is moreover raised to supplement other previous researches done but they left some gaps which one of them is going to be handled.

1.3. Statement of the problem

The novel Things Fall Apart (TFA) (1958) as far as the case study of this research is concerned, is written by the late Chinua Achebe (1930-2013) who was a Nigerian author. The setting of the novel is in the outskirts of Nigeria in a small fictional village, Umuofia just before the arrival of white missionaries into their land.

When reading this novel, the researcher of the present study finds a problem related to the women oppression based on how women were poorly considered in the Igbo society. The researcher put much emphasis on different forms of women oppression mentioned by Chinua Achebe in Things Fall Apart and through these forms it was targeted by the researcher to see how much the gender issues contributed to the societal destruction. In doing so, it was very needful to help the reader understand the gap which pushed this research to be concentrating on women oppression in the Igbo society. Many cases of women oppression such as inequality. Women beating, lack of inheritance for female children and abusing femininity were hereby regarded as the big problem between Igbo men and women to the society unity and equality. Once some people in the society think they are stronger and superior to others should undoubtedly result in the disunity among them.

Therefore, in Igbo society women were looked as nothing and only blessed with rearing children and that their lives should be confined to the domestic sphere. The protagonist of Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo was a man who demonstrated the power and heroism in his life whereby he feared to be called weak or a woman. Apart from this, he did not show in his life any trait of kindness except the brutality. Being called a woman denotatively and connotatively in Igbo society, it is like an offense and weakness.

One cannot read Things Fall Apart without recognizing the oppression of women at the hands of the patriarchy. In a culture where virility belongs to males, even the term "female" or "women" comes to represent an insult as it is mentioned above. This is evident when Okonkwo tells Osugo, who feels guilty over killing his surrogate son, not to "become like a shivering old woman" (Mezu 1995, 2). Referring to the background of this study. Blacks are marginalized but women are subjugated not only as blacks but as women also. Women are relegated to an inferior position throughout the novel. They are regarded as mere appendage to a man. They are treated as chattels. Their status has been degraded. Gender divisions are a misconception of the patriarchy. But Okonkwo believes in traditional gender divisions. In Things Fall Apart the number of wives you have affects social status. Okonkwo wishes that his favorite child, Ezimna, should have been a boy.

This is to say; the more some members of the society like women are marginalized and treated as inferior, the more the society gets destructed in different stages such as social, economic and political. When Okonkwo killed a white man messenger, he immediately decided to hang himself for fear of not being handed himself in the white men’s hands so that he could not be called weak or a woman through this submission. Though he did this due to the troubled masculinity he had against womanish title, he ends up his society being converted to the white people’s authority. His death from his troubled masculinity as a famous person of Igbo leads the Igbo society to destruction. This study therefore needs to foster women to have the right of shaping and changing their cultures to which they belong. It is because in Things Fall apart, the authority lies with the men. As far as the Igbo society destruction is concerned, it is obvious that women do not have a say in any important matter. The idea of masculinity also puts women on a remote margin. They are excluded from political, economic and judicial matters of the community as it is mentioned above.

1. 4. Scope of the study

The scope of this study is looked at in three domains; of course, it is talking about women oppression that means the lack of social power in their society.

1.4.1. Time scope

The study will deal with the pre- colonial, colonial, and post colonial period that shows that the post colonial touches the present time.

1.4.2. Geographical scope

This work is classified in one of literary works. It only wants to deal with the society of Igbo, in Nigeria beginning with pre- colonial to post colonial. Nigeria is located in the western of Africa.

1.4.3. Content scope

It is a study which talks about the impact of women oppression on the societal destruction in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, this novel was published in 1958. The study intends to demonstrate all kinds of oppression that the woman encounters in Igbo society, in Nigeria. Along with that, it is very important to let the people know how the society can get destroyed when the given society is monopolized through gender inequality.

1.5. Definition of terms


Oppression is a type of injustice. Oppression is the inequitable use of authority, law, or physical force to prevent others from being free or equal. The verb oppress can mean to keep someone down in a social sense, such as an authoritarian government might do in an oppressive society. It can also mean to mentally burden someone, such as with the psychological weight of an oppressive idea. (Linda Napikoski, Women’s History Categoey). In a social justice context, oppression is what happens when people are pushed down by societies. (The word comes from the Latin root opprimere, meaning "pressed down.")


A "woman" is defined as the "feminine component of the human species who, apart from serving as a vehicle for nurturing human life. Is also a producer, a consumer and an equally endowed agent for fostering a wholesome political, social and economic development in society."The Concise oxford Dictionary defines 'Woman’ to mean an adult human female, the female sex or any average woman. Also a woman has been defined as an adult female person or a female person of any age.


Society is a group of people that may or may not be related to each other but share the same geographical or virtual territory with the same political authority. It may also be a group of people who come together in order to achieve a specific purpose. Also, Society is normally used to refer to the entire human population or to a contextually specific division of people.


Patriarchy is that form of social organization in which males exercise power and thus create for females an inferior status. In all societies, "men have traditionally been the subject of history" as Adeola James puts it (In Their Own Voices, 1990; 3). The distinct gender differentiation often creates women's marginalization. According to Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary patriarchy is defined as a society in which the oldest male is the leader of the family, or a society controlled by man in which men use their power to their own advantage.

1.6. Purpose of the study

The study intends to investigate how women oppression done in Igbo society and what women can do so as to fight for their rights. The researcher has used the novel of Things Fall Apart and few related scientific works as primary data. And the main intention is to help the Igbo men and other different women oppressors to have the spirit of respecting women as the human being. The society at large needs to favor men and women equally for the purpose of having unity among its members. This work also intends to enable Igbo women to change their past bitter living such as being beaten, abused and among others.

1.7. Objectives of the study

1.7.1. General objective

The researcher’s objective is to investigate all about the impact of women oppression on societal destruction in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart.

1.7.2. Specific objectives

This study sought to achieve the following objectives:

i. To identify the forms of oppression in Things Fall Apart.
ii. To examine in which ways the society gets destroyed due to women oppression.
iii. To highlight what women can do so as to get equal chances to their counterparts.

1.8. Research questions

The study sought to answer the following research questions:

i. How has the Igbo society demonstrated the forms of women oppression in Things Fall Apart ?
ii. Where did the society get destroyed in the Igbo society in Things Fall Apart ?
iii. What can be done by women so as to get equal chances like their brothers’ in terms of benefiting from their society?

1.9. Significance of the Study

The study is a work of literature which shows the life of people of Igbo society, In Nigeria and the Africa at large. The researcher, therefore, hoped that the findings of this study will be of value to the students and readers of the texts under study and those which featured as peripheral readings. They may use the information from the findings to help them analyze and understand literary works.

To the feminists

It will help the readers to know how those above people especially women were treated during colonial and postcolonial, apart from that women right people or every person will stand for fighting against women oppression in Nigeria and all over the world as well. The present study will interest the feminists to continue writing about how men can definitely reduce the oppression against women. They must encourage women awareness of their political and legal rights and to claim them.

To the African governments

As far as oppression is concerned, this study will inform the concerned governments to establish new laws protecting women rights and punish all those chauvinists of women oppression. The governments should be combating cultural practices that oppress women and initiating the new conceptualization of equality among men and women. The governments will establish the law of women empowerment in political, economic, and social as well. These may be achieved accordingly due to the contributions of oppressors and oppressed ones in terms of fighting against gender inequality and culture of patriarchy. This research can enable the government researchers from the corners the world to know how they should handle the issues of women oppression in their countries and among others. In doing so, the Nigerian government should later on be convinced to establish firm laws which support women rights and equality so as to put an end to women oppression at home, in families, country and the throughout world.

To the researcher

The researcher will get more information about women oppression and suggest the ways women can be considered like their brothers. Once this study gets finished, it will additionally help the researcher to fulfill and acquire some requirements related to a good author in the domain of literature such as conducting a research in various genres of literature by the help of analysis and criticism. This study brings the spirit of respect, equality and human rights of all genders to the researcher.

To Kampala university’s library

After doing a final correction of this research, this research is expected to be submitted to Kampala University library and considered as one of its properties, and then other students or researchers who will feel in need of this research, they may consult it from there according to their different carriers and purposes

1.10. Theoretical framework

Orodho (2005) defines a conceptual frame work as a model of presentation of relationship between variables in the given study. As far as the title is concerned, the women oppression is hereby taken as the independent variable and dependent variable of this research is societal destruction. 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. In doing so, Igbo women are not significantly considered in the society as men. This men supremacy of showing virility against woman leads to the destruction of the society whereby Okonkwo hangs himself for fear of not being called a woman towards the white people and his clan. Once Okonkwo as a hero of Umuofia and woman oppressor loses his life, it immediately indicates the destruction of the Igbo society. The word woman is used in Things Fall Apart to demonstrate someone who is weak and who does not play any significant role in their society. Being called a woman in Igbo society is a burden that is why Okonkwo often likes to fight against the weak and womanish characteristics in his society. Okonkwo’s son, Nwoye is blamed so many times by him to have the women’s behavior. Besides this, Okonkwo appreciates his daughter Ezimna to have quality of men though she is born a girl. This also shows the reader that Okonkwo does not consider females as important human being in the society building.

As far as Igbo society is concerned, Nigeria is yet to put in place any relevant gender mainstreaming policy. It is obvious that this men supremacy or domination against women shows the disunity between the members of the family or society through to the bad picture women have for their counterparts. This disunity was taken in this research as the destruction of the society politically, economically and socially. After showing these women stereotypes in Igbo society, the study has to identify what can be done by women themselves to get out from that inequality life which became a rampant issue in some African countries.

Some people say that women must accept their inferior position in society because it is part of their culture. This is very problematic, in some of the countries particularly in Nigeria; women also face cultural constraints on their mobility. According to the CEC Report (2007), the role of women in employment and economic activities is often underestimated because most of women work in the informal sectors, usually with low productivity and incomes, poor working conditions, with little or no social protection as it is identified in Things Fall Apart. Women, in Igbo society even in the whole Nigeria, had only to occupy the housework and produce children. Therefore, this study should precise what women can do so as to have real freedom within in their own cultures.



2.1. Introduction

All over Africa women are treated unfairly. They have to deal with abuse of all sorts: sexually, physically, mentally, and verbally. They are told from the time they are born that they are just tools for men. Oppression means to subject a person or a people to a harsh or cruel form of domination. Although this great tragedy is all over Africa there are few women who broke away from the old traditions and made a life for themselves, but in doing so they lost their families. After a woman decides to not do as tradition she is shunned from the community and her family.

Overall, what these women have to go through is tremendously awful. People should learn about their issues and see what they can do to help. See what they can do to change a life because no matter how "small" their life may seem to people they're still a person with feelings, thoughts, dreams, and opinions. They can still do the unimaginable and become what they never thought was possible like a doctor or lawyer.

This chapter should therefore trace the question of women oppression as one of the causes of societal destruction within the African, and in particular, the Nigerian context with its specific region known as Igbo.

2.2. Ibo’s Society

Afigbo has stated in his book entitle Prolegomena to the study of the culture history of the Igbo-Speaking Peoples of Nigeria, Igbo Language and culture , there, he states that Ibo society is both hierarchical and patriarchal. Social status is achieved in the community through the earning of titles. The Ibo, which can also be called the Igbo, live in Ibo land in Nigeria. Ibo land is the home of the Ibo people and it covers most of Southeast Nigeria. This area is divided by the Niger River into two unequal sections – the eastern region (which is the largest) and the Midwestern region. The river, however, has not acted as a barrier to cultural unity; rather it has provided an easy means of communication in an area where many settlements claim different origins. The Ibo are also surrounded on all sides by other tribes (the Bini, Warri, Ijaw, Ogoni, Igala, Tiv, Yako and Ibibio)

2.3. Oppression

The dictionary definition (Webster's Third International Dictionary) defines oppression as an "Unjust or cruel exercise of authority or power especially by the imposition of burdens; the condition of being weighed down; an act of pressing down; a sense of heaviness or obstruction in the body or mind." The Latin origin has oppressed us as the past participle of opprimere, or to press down. Amongst the synonyms: the word subjugation.

The Social Work Dictionary, ed. Robert L. Barker defines oppression as: "The social act of placing severe restrictions on an individual, group or institution. Typically, a government or political organization that is in power places these restrictions formally or covertly on oppressed groups so that they may be exploited and less able to compete with other social groups. The oppressed individual or group is devalued, exploited and deprived of privileges by the individual or group which has more power." (Barker, 2003)

The Blackwell Dictionary of Sociology has an excellent definition of social oppression: "Social oppression is a concept that describes a relationship between groups or categories of between groups or categories of people in which a dominant group benefits from the systematic abuse, exploitation, and injustice directed toward a subordinate group. The relationship between whites and blacks in the United States and South Africa, between social classes in many industrial societies, between men and women in most societies, between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland - all have elements of social oppression in that the organization of social life enables those who dominate to oppress others. Relationships between groups and relationships between groups and social categories, it should not be confused with the oppressive behavior of individuals. A white man may not himself actively participate in oppressive behavior directed at blacks or women, for example, but he nonetheless benefits from the general oppression of blacks and women simply because he is a white man. In this sense, all members of dominant and subordinate categories participate in social oppression regardless of their individual attitudes or behavior. Social oppression becomes institutionalized when its enforcement is so of social life that it is not easily identified as oppression and does not require conscious prejudice or overt acts of discrimination." One of the purposes of the exercise we'll do is to help use better identify the feelings that oppression produces in us and in our clients. (Johnson, 2000b). In the Igbo culture, men believe they need to be very masculine and to do this they do not show any feelings other than anger. They never show happiness or sadness because this is considered being feminine and showing weakness. If any man shows feelings, he is called a woman, which is a huge insult in the Igbo culture. Women are considered weak and unimportant because they show feelings and do not to do all of the hard labor like men do. They only care for the children and make their husbands.

2.4. Women

The concept of “women” is derived from our perception of the sex in animals or plants that produce or are capable of producing eggs and bearing young ones. It also relates to any re- productive structure that contains elements to be fertilized by male elements. Hence the word women incorporates adult females, girls and babies since they all have attributes of feminine gender, (Arinze, 2008). In Nigeria, the concept and role of women are biologically, culturally, historically, institutionally and situationally defined. Biologically, women in Nigeria are understood as the concept explained above i.e. feminine gender. Culturally, women are perceived as profane creatures that de- serve no respect and as such should be treated as sub-ordinates to men. They should not be heard in any discussions or decision-making. Their place is always in the kitchen. They cannot think for themselves and their thoughts are considered worth- less. They should not eat certain foods or meat. They should not have access to any inheritance including land. The married ones are regarded as men’s property that could be beaten up or thrown away at the least point of provocation. Any wrong doing in society is attributed to the women especially bad behaviors of children in society. Historically, women were under- stood as inconsequential creatures who could not contribute meaningfully to societal development. But today some women in top national, state and local government positions have proved that women possess the potentials for societal development. So, women are today understood as useful partners in societal development. Institutionally, women in Nigeria are seen as an institution in themselves. They are regarded as the second class citizens of the society doing things in groups and in their own way. They should not be regarded as having the same nature with male folk and as such are not equal in the eyes of the society. Women are perceived as catalysts in certain situations and as agents of doom in other situations. For instance, in conflict resolutions and management the women are seen to be the force that could calm down the situation after all efforts of the males have failed. But at the time of benefits and dividends sharing, women are conceived to be sub-ordinate and inconsequential group in society. Against these various perceptions of the concept of women in Nigeria society, the various treatment of women in society were derived. Hence, the idea of discrimination, degradation, disrespect, deprivation of rights and privileges etc. emerged. The idea of gender is simply derived from the state of masculine and feminine. It is a division into male and female groups in society. It has to deal with sex structure in human being making them behave the way they do. Thus it refers to men and women in society which in turn affect their perceptions of domestic violence and women in Nigerian society. Philosophically, women in domestic violence in Nigeria should be understood from the African world View or philosophy. This world view is based on the theistic charter that explains the interaction or relationship of human beings in the society including marriages from the system of values existing in that society, (Dukor, 2010). Thus, for Africans, every sex group, Dukor continued, is organized on the existence of certain division of labor, and distribution patterns of privileges and duties. These subsequently require skills, habits and legal standards for satisfying needs, Hence, in pre-colonial Africa, Nigeria inclusive, the epistemological foundation specified that there was no intention for inequality, injustice and lack of freedom

2.5. Women oppression

Women are exploited and face oppression every day. In the workplace women are forced into low paying, insecure and unskilled jobs. Women's problems do not stop at the workplace. When we come home they have to face another shift of housework with little help from their husbands or boyfriends. If this is not enough, women have to deal with violence. Thousands of women a year are raped, beaten or emotionally abused.

In a social justice context, oppression is what happens when people are pushed down by societies. (The word comes from the Latin root opprimere, meaning "pressed down.") Here are 1 ways people tend to be pushed down. Note that in many cases, these categories overlap in such a way that one person has to deal with multiple forms of oppression.

Sam, R. and Paul, S. (1990) says that historically the oppression of women by men pre-dated the development of class-divided society. That oppression, in different forms, is still widespread in a world dominated by imperialism. Today, women are divided amongst different classes and different nationalities. Some are in oppressor nations; some (the majority) are in oppressed nations. A small number are part of dominant classes; the vast majorities are to be found as part of the exploited classes. The majority in the oppressor nations suffer class oppression. The majority in the oppressed nations suffer both class and national oppression. All women in the oppressed nations suffer national oppression. All women, wherever they are, suffer from male domination to varying degrees. Class exploitation and national oppression are products of imperialism. Thus, women who suffer class exploitation and national oppression have a vested interest in overthrowing imperialism in order to rid themselves of those two types of exploitation and oppression. A separate question arises as to whether women, as a group oppressed by men, have a vested interest in overthrowing imperialism as part of the struggle to rid themselves of male oppression.

The new era of capitalism, and its subsequent development into imperialism, was built on pre- existing sexist societies. The form they took mirrored those sexist societies. The forms of male domination may have changed but the new systems perpetuated that male domination. Indeed, it is clear that capitalism and imperialism were male-dominated from the outset. Through the “family wage” system, capitalism formalized a new type of economic subordination of women to men. In other respects, capitalism increased the forms of the oppression of women. A system based on a one-sided emphasis on individual competition and inherent violence was to the disadvantage of those already at the bottom of the system, i.e. women. The development of mass communications and advertising under capitalism has enforced a stereotyped image of women and turned them into commodities. Women as women have been manipulated and exploited in the labor force. “Women’s work” is traditionally low-paid. Women have, at specific periods of history, either been encouraged into or excluded from the workforce. It has to be recognized that women have struggled within capitalism to win various reforms (for women). They have done this despite opposition from both capitalism and male attitudes.

The key area in which imperialism will be defeated is in the oppressed nations of the Third World. The women in the Third World are the largest group of the most oppressed and exploited people in the world. Women make the largest contribution to the agricultural sector of the pre-capitalist forms of society, incorporated into the imperialist system’s peripheral sector. That sector is essential to the production of super profits from the peoples of the world. Women’s subordinate role in pre- capitalist society was taken on board by imperialism, integrated into it and perpetuated by it. Women’s work was made harder, further split from male activities. The form of integration destroyed and devalued specific tasks that were traditionally women’s role, without replacing them with other roles that were valued. Women’s role was further marginalized. Women’s role in the family and agriculture was excluded from wage labor in general. Men were used in wage labor which was recognized by the system as valued labor. That oppression was created by men, and perpetuated by men, for their own advantage, under imperialism. It must be recognized that the destruction of national oppression and the ending of class exploitation do not automatically lead to the ending of male domination.

The struggle of women against male domination must go on now under imperialism, continue throughout the struggle to overthrow imperialism, and remain a major issue in the period of striving to build socialism. Obviously, in the real world, areas of struggle will always have aspects of class, national and women’s struggles. The emphasis will differ from struggle to struggle. Men must always recognize that they are oppressors of women, and that women have the right to decide their own priorities in fighting their particular oppression

2.6. Forms of women oppression

2.6.1. Patriarchy

The word “patriarchy” has been recreated in the past two decades to analyze the origins and conditions of men’s oppression of women (Kamarae, 1992). Originally used to describe the power of the father as head of household, the term ‘patriarchy’ has been used within post 1960s feminism to refer to the systematic organization of male supremacy and female subordination (Kamarae, 1992; Stacey, 1993; Aina, 1998; etc.). The term has been defined as a system of male authority which oppresses women through its social, political and economic institutions. Feminists’ theorists have argued that in any of the historical forms that patriarchal society takes, whether it is feudal, capitalist or socialist, a sex gender system and a system of economic discrimination operate simultaneously. They characterize patriarchy as an unjust social system that is oppressive to women. As feminist and political theorist writes, "The patriarchal construction of the difference between masculinity and femininity is the political difference between freedom and subjection." (Carole, 1988).

2.6.2. The plight of women in Igbo society

According to Olumide, (2014) the patriarchal paradigms that prevail in the Igbo society, it is not surprising that women have a lower place in the socio-political hierarchy of Umuofia. ‘Between boys and girls the comparison is all in favour of the former, the latter only counting as a useful accessory in the life of a man’ (Basden 1983:78). It is a kind of place where ‘men … consider … submission to masculine superiority as the only possible attitude for a woman’ (Firkel 1963:194). The general attitude towards women (and hence femininity) is that they apprehend attributes of effeminacy, dependence, self-abnegation, submissiveness and vacillation. That is why men who are perceived to possess these attributes are called ‘women’ male chauvenists like Okonkwo, which is pejorative. Indeed, a man who has no title is called ‘agbala’, meaning woman in Igbo. There are sustained references to these attributes whenever there are ‘unmasculine’ men to be admonished. The female personality is not viewed as a necessary balance to the male, but an inferior complementarity. When Okonkwo fails to make his son behave like ‘a man’, he describes him thus; ‘I have done my best to make Nwoye into a man, but there is too much of his mother in him (TFA, p.147).

The most powerful woman in Umuofia is undeniably Chielo, who as an ‘ordinary’ woman sells in the market, but also functions as the priestess of the powerful god Agbala. It is only when she functions as the priestess of the god that she relates with the men, not as a woman but as the voice of a god. Hence she speaks with an authoritative or superior tone. All the other women are not so lucky. Ability to control the woman/women in a man’s life is one of the chief attributes of masculinity, ‘no matter how prosperous a man was, if he was unable to rule his women and his children (and especially his women) he was not really a man’ (TFA, p.37).

Prejudice and discrimination contribute to the collapse of the group. In Things Fall Apart (1969), women are viewed mainly as child bearers and help mates for their husbands. Let us focus on Ekwefi, Okonkwo’s second wife, and Ezinma (Ekwefi’s daughter). As two major females Ekwefi and Ojiugo, she characterizes the image of women, and several people consider her as minor female character.

If Ezinma had been a boy I would have been happier. She has the right spirit.” (TFA, Chapter 8, page 66). Achebe places the characteristic of Ezinma to tease the circumstances at the time. The woman, who lives under pressure and places in a subordinate position, can get up and feel stronger than Nwoye, Okonkwo’s first son, even than Okonkwo. Ojiugo is the youngest of Okonkwo’s wives. There are a little bit stories about her, only about the Okonkwo’s brutal beating. What happen to Ekwefi, it also happened to Ojiugo. When Ojiugo goes to her friend’s house, Okonkwo looking for her to ask his meal. Okonkwo was very angry when he looked for her everywhere. And after she returned, he beat her very heavily.

Okonkwo was provoked to justifiable anger by his youngest wife, who went to plait hair at her friend’s house and did not return early enough to cook the afternoon meal. (Chapter 4, page 29). In his anger he had forgotten that it was the Week of Peace. He did not forgive her fault. With his arrogance, he still defends his self. He should hear the wise man say ‘ if man cannot forgive woman with her little bit mistake, he never enjoy her greatness virtue ’. It proves that woman’ role as female in society was emphasized in domestic sector. Woman is expected and constructed to take care of the children or manage household. The woman’s place is only in the kitchen. It is the woman’s range.

According to Somera, K. (2010) overall, male against female discrimination contributes to Okonkwo's tragedy, but I don't think it contributes to the collapse of the tribe. White against black racism and Christian monotheism against tribal polytheism contribute more toward the collective unraveling of culture.

Whether this is gender discrimination or sexism depends on which culture is framing the question. Our independent modern culture, which champions integrated gender roles and feminism, would certainly call this male prejudice against women. Specifically, Okonkwo has rigid roles that he feels he should play, as well as his wives and male and female children. For example, Nwoye acts a bit feminine and Enzimna acts a bit masculine, but Okonkwo makes sure that neither crosses over into the gender duties of the other. These roles contribute to Okonkwo's fear of being weak, which--in turn--leads to his exile and eventual suicide. These differences alone, though, do not cause the group to fall apart. In short, they tolerate what we call sexism.


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The Impact of women oppression on the societal destruction. A case study of Chinua Achebe’s "Things Fall Apart"
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Jean Damascene Ngendahayo (Author), 2014, The Impact of women oppression on the societal destruction. A case study of Chinua Achebe’s "Things Fall Apart", Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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