Themes of Masculinity
Being a real man is an important theme throughout the book.
Quote: Yam, the king of crops was a man's crop.
Analysis: In Things Fall Apart masculinity rested on one's ability to support a family. Okonkwo, who considers himself the ultimate man of the tribe, naturally prospers as a Yam farmer. Okonkwo is motivated by fear of others thinking he is like his effeminate father. Okonkwo reminds me of my 4' 10" neighbor, in denial of his shortness, who drives a giant red truck, owns two pitbulls, wears a Superman shirt, and lifts weights 4 hours a day.
Quote: Okonkwo never showed any emotion openly, unless it be the emotion of anger. To show affection was a sign of weakness; the only thing worth demonstrating was strength.
Analysis: Okonkwo, like many modern day troglodytish men, mistakes bravado for bravery, machismo for manliness, and anger for leadership. These mistaken concepts allow him to succeed for a season; when times change, however, he is unable to adapt.
Quote: 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... Nwoye knew that it was right to be masculine and to be violent, but somehow he still preferred the stories that his mother used to tell, and which she no doubt still told to her younger children.
Analysis: Things Fall Apart masculinity is based on more than prosperity. A man must control his family. Okonkwo rules his family with force, but he cannot control them. Nwoye rebels. It's the modern day equivalent of a football player's son becoming a figure skater, ballet dancer, or soccer player.