1. How did prejudice and discrimination, racism and sexism, contribute to the collapse of the group? In Part 1 of Things Fall Apart, The Ibo tribe was segregated in terms of gender roles. Only men could farm for yams and women could cultivate cassavas and beans. Men took part in the wrestling and women prepared for these events. Specifically, Okonkwo had rigid roles that he feels he should play, as well as his wives and his children. These roles contributed to Okonkwo’s fear of being weak, which leads to his exile and eventual killing himself.
These differences alone, though, did not cause the group to fall apart. They just tolerated what we call sexism. Religion was a major unraveling agent in Parts 2 and 3. The white Christian colonists felt that the Ibo are polytheistic and, therefore, pagan. The British knew that the tribe has one major god and many other gods doing his service. Conversely, the tribe has little religious prejudice against the Christians. At the beginning, the Ibo largely ignored the Christians because they have set up camp in the evil forest and, as a result, the Ibo felt the missionaries are going to be obliterated.
The survival of the church and the converts obtained were a major contributing factor in the tribal split. The Christians exposed the tribe’s practice of killing twins and cruelty to outcasts. Men against women discrimination contributes to Okonkwo’s tragedy. There is some white against black racism, but it is not as developed as the religious differences. White against black racism and Christian monotheism against tribal polytheism contribute more toward the collective unraveling of culture. 2. How did one achieve upward mobility in the tribe?
In Things Fall Apart, a person achieved upward mobility in the tribe by cultivating a large and prosperous farm, by dispensing practical wisdom or profound sagacity, and by acquiring a reputation as a fearless and noble warrior. Upward mobility depends up on prosperity, wisdom, skill at fighting and hunting, and strong patriarchal command of the household. In Things Fall Apart, a male member of the Ibo tribe may advance in terms of wrestlers thrown, cowries collected, wives obtained, children sired, titles garnered, heads taken in war, and yams harvested.
Males were thus upwardly mobile within the tribe. Females, however, could only be mobile within the family, depending on which wife there were by age. Men could attain upward mobility through great physical labor in the fields, at war, and during the wrestling matches. Females have limited mobility and could only hope to marry a titled male. A wife will give birth to several male children who survive. Only then will she be granted her own obi and status among the other wives. For example, Okonkwo had three wives and several children who live in separate obis on his compound.
He had an obi full of yams for which he has had to toil mercilessly. He had limited cowries, shells used for money, because he had need to repay his father’s debts. Okonkwo had two titles. These were the main status symbols in the tribe. Also, Okonkwo took five heads in battle. And, he first achieved fame by throwing the Cat during a wrestling match. Having been the son of an agbala, no title man, Okonkwo’s hard work had allowed him to move up the social ladder of the tribe to become one of its most respected leaders.
3. What were some examples of criminal behavior in the culture? How did they control crime? In Things Fall Apart, the Ibo tribe integrates their judicial system into their culture. It is not a standalone institution like it is Western civilizations. The tribal elders regulated crime using the death penalty, exile, and reparations. Okonkwo was guilty of three murders which was Ikemefuna, Ezeudu’s son, and the British messenger. The first killing was intentional, but since it was sanctioned by Chielo, the Priestess of the Oracle of the Caves, no penalty was administered.
The accidental killing of Ezeudu’s son resulted in Okonowo’s exile for seven years. This was considered by the tribe to be the feminine version of murder. The third murder, the killing of the British messenger, might well have been the male version of murder and, therefore, punishable by death by the tribe, but the British judicial system had taken over at that point and, of course, Okonkwo commits suicide. This last killing was the greatest abomination of the tribe, and Okonkwo’s body would have been left unburied.