Study Guide

Things Fall Apart Family

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For the Igbo, there are a few key ideas that form the basis of an ideal family: mutual respect for each other, a reverence for all past fathers, and unity. The father is not only the provider for the family, but defender of its honor and teacher of his sons. The mother’s main duty is to add to the family line by bearing healthy children and also to please her husband. Children are the inheritors of the future and are raised to continue the values of the older generation. This family unit is the most fundamental unit of society and its structure can be expanded to fit a whole community or even a pantheon of gods.

Questions About Family

  1. What role do women play in the family? What sorts of responsibilities do they have? In return, what kind of power or respect do they command?
  2. How are children represented as innocent and closely connected to the earth? Consider Ikemefuna and Nwoye in particular.
  3. What is the relationship between mother and child and how does this play into the idea of Nneka – ‘Mother is Supreme’?
  4. How might one view the clan as an extension of an individual’s family?
  5. Does Okonkwo’s family fit the model of an ideal family? In which ways does his family meet the ideal, in which ways does it deviate?

Chew on This

Although wives must always act subservient to their husbands, the mother proves to be the most venerated role in Igbo society, even over that of the father.

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