Masculinity vs. Femininity in Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart

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Masculinity vs. Femininity in Things Fall Apart

If viewed on the surface the story line of Things Fall Apart is a tragedy, but when viewed in a wider perspective it is a story of deeper conflict. The main issue is that the British have come to establish a mission and receive converts. Less evident is the conflict this intrusion inserts between the Ibo and British. The underlying issue is masculinity versus femininity. By this I mean to say that the Ibo are an agrarian people who are a patriarchal and see any sign of weakness as being less than desirable. The protagonist in the story, Okonkwo, is the champion of this thought. As what would happen to him seems to happen to the Ibo. When Okonkwo disagrees he is usually correct
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The greatest evidence of his Chi is when he kills the messenger from the governor. This may have been an act of self preservation resulting from the indignation of being detained, but it was his Chi that said yes.

"In that brief moment the world seemed to stand still...." "In a flash Okonkwo drew his machete...descended twice on the man's head."(p.204) Clearly it was Okonkwos' Chi that outweighed that of his clansmen because the narrator then stated, "He knew the Umuofia would not go to war." (p.205)

Foregoing Chi and focusing on obvious conflict a few stark events come to mind. First the church itself alters the structure of Ibo society by threatening to dilute the native language through assimilation. Language and the telling of ancient stories are the thread that holds the Ibo together. This is evidenced when the narrator describes a delicate conversation between Okonkwos father Unoka over the settlement of a debt. "Among the Ibo the art of conversation is regarded very highly, and proverbs are the palmoil with which words are eaten."(p.7)

Clearly the Ibo would prefer to speak in reference to common traditional values and respect. The conflict here is the direct nature with which the western culture speaks, avoiding any reference to an anecdote relevant to the situation, thus separating the two cultures for lack of any common

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