Things Fall Apart
How we cite our quotes:
Whenever the thought of his father’s weakness and failure troubled him he expelled it by thinking about his own strength and success. And so he did now. His mind went to his latest show of manliness.
“I cannot understand why you refused to come with us to kill that boy,” he asked Obierika. (8.20-21)
When fearful of being like his father, Okonkwo has to reassure himself strongly of his own masculinity. Strangely, Okonkwo considers joining in the murder of Ikemefuna as being a “show of masculinity.” Considering that one traditional aspect of masculinity is being the protector of one’s family, killing Ikemefuna might just be cruel and gruesome, rather than masculine.
“It was always said that Ndulue and Ozoemena had one mind,” said Obierika. “I remember when I was a young boy there was a song about them. He could not do anything without telling her.”
“I did not know that,” said Okonkwo. “I thought he was a strong man in his youth.”
“He was indeed,” said Ofoedu.
Okonkwo shook his head doubtfully. (8.43-46)
Okonkwo considers any sign of affection and dependence between husband and wife as a reflection of the husband’s weakness and womanliness. It seems like Okonkwo isn’t in for a good future – or happy marriages – if he thinks that strong loving relationships must be avoided to reach his ultimate goal of complete manliness.
As he was speaking the boy returned, followed by Akueke, his half-sister, carrying a wooden dish with three kola nuts and alligator pepper. She gave the dish to her father’s eldest brother and then shook hands, very shyly, with her suitor and his relatives. She was about sixteen and just ripe for marriage. Her suitor and his relatives surveyed her young body with expert eyes as if to assure themselves that she was beautiful and ripe.
She wore a coiffure which was done up into a crest in the middle of the head. Cam wood was rubbed lightly into her skin, and all over her body were black patterns drawn with uli. She wore a black necklace which hung down in three coils just above her full, succulent breasts. On her arms were red and yellow bangles, and on her waist four or five rows of jigida, or waist beads. (8.65-66)
Akueke is the perfect example of an ideal Igbo girl. She is shy and voluptuous and wears her clothes, hair, and accessories in the style of a fashionable young woman. When deciding if they want her to marry into their family, the suitor and his relatives “survey” her, so they just look at her. We might recommend that they try an extensive interview, but they seem to be satisfied that she’ll be a good wife based on her shy behavior, “succulent breasts,” and her dress.