Women's Role in Ibo Culture

"No matter how prosperous a man was, if he was unable to rule his women and his children (and especially his women) he was not really a man" (Achebe 45). In Ibo culture, men have much more power than women do. The men are the people that make all of the town's decisions. The men are the ones to harvest the yams, the most important crop to the Ibo, and the women harvest all of the other crops. In Things Fall Apart, written by Chinua Achebe, women are generally looked down upon, since wives are a means of status and are supposed to have children; however, the Priestess of Agbala was a very important woman.

In Ibo culture, the more yams and the more wives that a man had, the more successful he was. The narrator of the novel stated this fact about the main character, Okonkwo: "He was a wealthy farmer and had two barns full of yams, and had just married his third wife" (5). This quote shows that yams and wives showed the success and status of a man. The narrator made a point of showing how Okonkwo wanted to return after his exile: "He would build a bigger barn than he had before and he would build huts for two new wives" (147). Okonkwo believed that since he had gained two more wives, he would be able to gain back his success upon his return to his home village.

Ibo women were supposed to have children. Okonkwo's second wife, Ekwefi, only had one child to survive infancy; this was her daughter, Enzinma. The narrator told that: "The birth of her children, which should be a woman's crowning glory, became for Ekwefi mere physical agony devoid of promise" (67). Ekewfi was disappointed that none of her children lived until Enzinma was born. The narrator made it a point to say that: "By the time Onwumbiko died Ekwefi had become a very bitter woman. Her husband's first wife had already had three sons, all strong and healthy" (69). Ekwefi was jealous that she was not able to have children that survived.

Although, in general, women had very little power or status in Ibo culture, one woman did have a high status; this woman was the Priestess of Agbala. The narrator told of the Priestess: "No one had ever beheld Agbala, except his priestess" (13).Only the Priestess could see the Oracle Agbala when the members of the village needed questions answered, so she held power. When the Priestess, Chielo, came to retrieve Enzinma, and Ekwefi wanted to go with her daughter, Chielo said: "How dare you, woman, to go before the mighty Agbala of your own accord? Beware, woman, lest he strike you in his anger." This quote shows that the Priestess demands respect.

In general, Ibo women are powerless, since wives, along with yams, show how wealthy a man was and were to have children; however, the Priestess of Agbala was a powerful woman. In the Ibo culture, men are more powerful. Men are more in control of the decisions of the village. Men have more rights. All in all, women still have poor status in some cultures.