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Chinua Achebe ad the Importance of Being Igbo in Things Fall Apart

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Abebe 1
Chinua Achebe and the Importance of Being Ibo.
In hopes of explaining to the world what the Igbo people really are, Achebe illustrates the
cultural factors that define his culture. The topic of family is one of the central topics of Chinua
Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart, particularly the role of each family member within the tribal
cultural context. Okonkwo, embodies the role of the man of the house by being a father, a
husband to three wives , a follower of the rules of the tribe, and a leader. Women are subservient
and dependent on their husbands. Children are to respect their elders, and the latter are seen
under a light of respect. These are the values that Achebe intends to present so that his culture,
now under an Imperialist rule, can at least be known and respected for who they really are. Like
the Western counterparts in many countries, males are the leaders, females are the nurturers, and
children are the key to the future.
Okonkwo epitomizes the role of the male leader. He is strong, big, stoic, and courageous.
He is husband to three wives, with who he is firm, as well as he is with his children (1609). Like
any other Western hemisphere man, Okonkwo is the main provider for his family. He does this
well, as he is hard-working, very successful, and well-respected. We know that he does this
voluntarily, in fear of letting his nature take over. He has witnessed his father; indigent, lazy, and
broke. He refuses to follow the example, nor to let any inherited trait from his father dominate
his personality. This is a reason also why Okonkwo has no patience toward people who come
close to his father’s traits. Okokwo, like all other males, will find his balance in the female of
the household
The women of Umofia depend on their men for their stability and protection. Ekwefi,
who is Okonkwo’s second wife, has led a life of sadness in that she has lost nine of her ten
children. Through Okonkwo, Abebe shows that the average Ibgo mother is no different than a

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Abebe 2
mother from the Western world. Ekwefi dotes upon daughter Ezinma, spoils her, and treats her
like a longtime friend (1637). Okonkwo loves speaking of the virtuosity of his wife as a mother,
and he also favors Ezinma. However, Okonkwo as a man of the house is allowed to punish his
wife when she does not abide by all of his rules. However, she finds the strength and solace to
keep going through her nurturing, and through her beloved daughter Enzinma.
The children of the typical Igbo family, as represented by Ezinma and Nwoye, are
expected to follow their family’s path and remain in the village. With the exception of Nwoye
who represents the non-traditional aspect of Okonkwo’s family, Ezinma does exactly as her
mother: grows up, gets married, settles in the village and leads the life of a housewife. Nwoye,
however, denotes a sensitivity that reminds us of a modern day child; he does not agree with the
archaic and wild rules of the tribe, hates his father for having committed the crime of killing
Ikemefuna (1667), and ends up converting to Christianity at the hands of the newcomer
missionaries. Regardless, we see clearly that Abebe again shows us how the dynamics of the
Igbo are no different than those of typical families; there are rules, expectations, and regulations.
Regardless, we see clearly that Abebe again shows us how the dynamics of the Igbo are no
different than those of typical families; there are rules, expectations, and regulations that apply to
every member of the community.
Finally, the elders of the tribe also constitute part of the family. Those within each family
are looked up to for respect; it is the elders who make up the main leadership of the tribe and
their word is rule whether people agree or not. The death of Ikemefuna was a mandate of the
tribe, and Okonkwo followed the rule stoically. Since Okonkwo’s father was a terrible exception
to the rule, Okonkwo fights very hard to avoid becoming like him. His disappointment is then
directed toward Nwoye, whom he would like to see avoiding the grandfather’s fate. Like any
Western father, Okownkwo sees how the past may repeat in the future; the love of a father is the
same in every culture.
There is nothing terribly different in the family dynamics of the tribe and a typical
nuclear family. If anything, the roles are well defined and clear. The husband is the head of the
household, the woman is the nurturer, and the children are the future. The elder represent the past

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Abebe 3
and the embodiment of life, for which they are looked up with respect. Achebe achieves a
presentation of the Igbo family values that show us that they are like everyone else.
Work Cited
Chinua, Achebe . “Things Fall Apart.” The Bedford Anthology of World Literature edition 2.
Paul Davis, Gary Harrison, David M. Johnson, John F Crawford. Boston, MA:
Bedford/St. Martin's, 2009. Print. Pages 1597 – 1665.

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