Things Fall Apart
How we cite our quotes:
The elders, or ndichie, met to hear a report of Okonkwo’s mission. At the end they decided, as everybody knew they would, that the girl should go to Ogbuefi Udo to replace his murdered wife. As for the boy, he belonged to the clan as a whole, and there was no hurry to decide his fate. (2.11)
While the young boy’s fate remains undecided, the virgin girl’s fate is quickly sealed. For someone else’s crime, she must give up the life she has known, her maidenhood, and her hand in marriage to a complete stranger. This new girl seems to be considered a complete replacement for Ogbuefi Udo’s former wife, implying that women are essentially all the same and therefore interchangeable. Basically, women are passed around like un-unique objects in the Igbo world.
Okonkwo ruled his household with a heavy hand. His wives, especially the youngest, lived in perpetual fear of his fiery temper […] (2.12)
In the Igbo world, men are the dominant sex and they “rule” over their families, including their wives. Women are relegated to a more or less servile position, often living in fear of their husbands. Though Okonkwo’s quick temper with his family is never portrayed as admirable, he unquestionably has the right to be aggressive at home.
Even as a little boy he had resented his father’s failure and weakness, and even now he still remembered how he had suffered when a playmate had told him that his father was agbala. That was how Okonkwo first came to know that agbala was not only another name for a woman, it could also mean a man who had taken to title. (2.12)
In Igbo culture, women are considered weaker than the men and thus it’s an insult to men to be called an agbala. Okonkwo is acutely aware of what it means to be a man in the Igbo tribe and is ashamed that someone might call him or his male relations agbala.