In Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, women of the Ibotribe are terribly mistreated, and viewed as weak andreceive little or no respect outside of their role as a mother.Tradition dictates their role in life. These women arecourageous and obedient. These women are nurturers aboveall and they are anything but weak. In the novel Things FallApart, Okonkwo has several wives.
He orders them aroundlike dogs. They are never to question what they areinstructed to do; they are expected to be obedient. Weclearly see this early in the story, when Okonkwo bringsIkemefuna into his home. Okonkwo tells his senior wife thatIkemefuna belongs to the tribe and that she is expected tolook after him. She in turn asks him if he will be staying withthem for a long period of time. This sends Okonkwo into afury.
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He snaps at her in a very degrading manner, "Do whatyou are told woman. When did you become one of thendichie (meaning elders) of Umuofia?"(pg.12) Clearly shereceives no respect. Later in the story we see this woman tryto comfort Ikemefuna. She "mothers" him as if he is one ofher own children. She tries to put him at ease and can almostinstinctively feel how much he misses his own mother. In keeping with the Ibo view of female nature, the tribeallows wife beating.
Okonkwo beats his youngest wifeone-day because she was visiting with a friend and did notget home in time to prepare a meal for him. Another one ofhis wives tries to cover for her when she is questioned as towhether or not the youngest wife has fed the children beforeshe left. Certainly she does this in effort to protect theyoungest wife, knowing full well what she faced. Okonkwodoes not let them down, he beats his youngest wife severelyuntil he is satisfied. Even in spite of pleas from his otherwives reminding him that it is forbidden to beat your wifeduring the Week of Peace. Okonkwo will faceconsequences, not for beating another human being, but onlybecause of his timing. He beats his second wife when sherefers to him as one of those "guns that never shot".
When asevere case of wife beating comes before the egwugwu, hefinds in favor of the wife, but at the end of the trial a manwonders "why such a trifle should come before theegwugwu"(pg.83). The husband considers his wife as aproperty. He either wants his wife back or his bride price. The omniscient narrator acknowledges a near-invisibility ofwomen in Things Fall Apart.
Describing a communalceremony, he confesses, "It was clear from the way thecrowd stood that the ceremony was for men. There weremany women, but they looked on from the fringe likeoutsiders"(pg.77). They are not.