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There was no festival in all the seasons of the year which gave her [Ekwefi] as much pleasure as the wrestling match. Many years ago when she was the village beauty Okonkwo had won her heart by throwing the Cat in the greatest contest in living memory. She did not marry him then because he was too poor to pay her bride-price. But a few years later she ran away from her husband and came to live with Okonkwo. (5.14)
Ekwefi is attracted to strong, capable men. Okonkwo’s victory against the unbeaten Cat made him something of a celebrity in her eyes and she acted on her wishes, running away from her husband to come and live with Okonkwo. Interestingly, although Okonkwo’s wrestling skill is attractive and gains him status, it doesn’t mean he’ll be a good husband. Can you imagine running away to elope with a man only to find out that he’s easily enraged and has no qualms about beating his wives?
Okonkwo cleared his throat and moved his feet to the beat of the drums. It filled him with fire as it had always done from his youth. He trembled with the desire to conquer and subdue. It was like the desire for woman. (5.38)
Okonkwo characterizes his desire to wrestle as a desire for sex. This passage also gives us a very clear insight into how he views women: as objects to “conquer” and “subdue.” Clearly, Okonkwo doesn’t see women as his equals.
“Sit like a woman!” Okonkwo shouted at her. Ezinma brought her two legs together and stretched them in front of her. (5.56)
Gender is so coded into every aspect of Igbo society that Okonkwo loses his patience with Ezinma when she fails to sit like a woman. This is also a sign that Ezinma sometimes trespasses into the realm of men with her unfeminine actions.