How do the villagers define a successful person? Who is seen as successful? How does this compare with the definition of success in the U.S?

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MaudlinStreet eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Success comes in different categories in the Ibo village. One way is through farming. A man with many acres of yams, good harvests, and barns in which to store his excess is considered successful. Similarly, a man with many wives and healthy children is also considered successful on the domestic front. A man who has killed many enemies in battle finds success on the warfront. Taking titles is a tradition that reflects success as a leader in the community. Overall, there is a sense that if a man can provide for his wives and children, harvest great bounties of yams, and hold several titles in the village, he is a great success. Women are excluded from this ranking-"success" is probably not a term that would be associated with females in the society.

Okonkwo is considered a success in the village. He has 3 wives, holds titles, plays a role as an egwugwu, and harvests many yams. Yet his fierce physical nature and temper are looked down upon by some in the village. They see him as overcompensating, fighting his fear of ending up as his father. Perhaps the best example of success in the village is Okonkwo's friend, Obierika. He holds the same titles as Okonkwo, has many wives and bountiful crops, but he is respected, rather than feared. His wisdom brings him a success that Okonkwo can never match.

Oftentimes, success is equated with money earned in the U.S. People with wealth are respected and deferred to in many matters, be they financial, political, or social. If you drive the most expensive car, own the biggest home, etc., "successful" may be an adjective applied to you. Connected to this, those who meet educational goals are also seen as successful. Professions which require specialized study, such as doctors and lawyers, are seen as the ultimate status of success.  But it's not all based on power or finance. Each individual holds their own standard of success. It may be defined as being the first in your faimly to attend college, or own your own home, or opening your own business. It may be responsibly raising a family, or simply being content as an independent person. One final contrast between Ibo and U.S. societies is the fact that women are certainly considered successful in the U.S.

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Things Fall Apart

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