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The Concept of Masculinity in Things Fall Apart

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While such reasons of beating a wife maybe flimsy, Okonkwo beats his wife just to show her who was powerful in the household. In this regard, Booker indicates Okonkwo “shows coercive power when he beats up his wives” (249). Bloom notes, “Okonkwo is struggling to right the father’s wrongs, to make up to his family for those weaknesses and become a model for male Igbo righteousness” (147). In this regard, the fear of failing like the father consumes Okonkwo and drives him to embrace masculinity albeit in an ignorant way.

Thus, the concept of masculinity plays the role of showing strength and the lack of weakness in a man. For this reason, Okonkwo wants to shape his son, Nwoye, to be like him since he fears weaknesses. In effect, Okonkwo becomes a very demanding person. Hence, Okonkwo considers Nwoye lazy and more like a woman, which is a character Okonkwo associates with Nwoye’s grandfather. Achebe supports this point by noting that “Nwoye was twelve years old but was already causing his father great anxiety for his incipient laziness” (p. 10). Evidently, Okonkwo could not deal with such tenderness from a man; especially a man who is a relation.

On one occasion, Okonkwo was unhappy with the size of the yams his son was cutting. Effectively, he told his son that, “If you split another yam of this size, I shall break your jaw” (32). In effect, such a statement illustrates Okonkwo’s catastrophic flaw in disposition, which exemplifies his obsession with masculinity. However, Bloom notes that this is overcompensation, which “is a common behavior among those seeking to restore family honor and Okonkwo was no exemption” (148). According to Booker, the concept of masculinity depicts economic power as “seen in Okonkwo’s enterprising spirit” (250).

In this regard, the strength in Okonkwo helped him prosper and provide for his family, even in instances when there was drought and famine in Umuofia. Case in point, Achebe notes that Okonkwo borrowed “a hundred seed of yams, toiled hard on his farm, and realized a bountiful harvest” (18). This is in sharp contrast to his father who could not feed his family and lived in continuous debt.

Indeed, Bloom supports this view and notes that, “Okonkwo blames his father for wasting his time by making music on his flute, socializing and communing with nature instead of amassing wealth and prestige for his family. Instead of making money, he borrows it and accumulates debt” (144). Thus, Okonkwo’s father lived in contrast to the beliefs of the Igbo people and expectations on men.

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