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Things Fall Apart

by Chinua Achebe

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Based on Obierika's daughter's uri, what role do women play in this society? Defend your reasoning.

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The celebration surrounding Obierika’s daughter and her uri— or a betrothal ceremony—initially appears to be centered on the bride. Indeed, the women seem to be very important to the ceremony, and this suggests that they have some power over the proceedings:  

“It was the day on which her suitor (having already paid the greater part of her bride-price) would bring palm-wine not only to her parents and immediate relatives but to the wide and extensive group of kinsmen called umunna. Everybody had been invited-- men, women, and children. But it was really a woman's ceremony and the central figures were the bride and her mother” (110).

However, upon closer examination, the celebration is a ceremony based on the suitor paying over half of the “bride-price.” The fact that there are dowries attached to marriages indicates women’s status as commodities within the tribe.The women of Umuofia are relegated to a marginalized position within the society, viewed more as extensions of men’s wealth than as individuals with agency. Certainly, the more wives a man has, the greater status he obtains within the community. Moreover, ruling over women is another sign of a successful man in Umuofia. At one point, Okonkwo reflects on Nwoye's development as a man:  

“He wanted him to be a prosperous man, having enough in his barn to feed the ancestors with regular sacrifices. And so he was always happy when he heard him grumbling about women. That showed that in time he would be able to control his women-folk. 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” (53).

This marginalization is found throughout the novel, and is subtly present in Obierika’s daughter’s uri.

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