What is the role of women in Anthills of the Savannah?

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Achebe's novel, women are more moral than and, in some senses, superior to men. Beatrice Okoh is the heroine of the novel. She detests some of the traditional ways of her African country, a fictitious nation called Kangan. For example, Beatrice regrets the way in which her mother resented her because she was the fifth daughter born in the family. Beatrice also senses the potential for women's progress. Her parents gave her the name "Nwanyibuife," which means "a female is also something," and she wants to live up to the promise of her name. Beatrice is determined to make something of herself and says, "That every woman wants a man to complete her is a piece of male chauvinist bullshit I had completely rejected before I knew there was anything like Women's Lib." Though she is dating Chris, she is committed to her job and rejects the notion that men define women; in addition, she understands the limitations of the men in the novel, who are portrayed as arrogant and flawed. As Beatrice tells the three main characters, Sam, Ikem, and Chris, "Well, you fellows, all three of you, are incredibly conceited." It is only Beatrice who has the foresight to see that women must be given a role in the government if their country is to make progress. She says, "But the way I see it is that giving women today the same role which traditional society gave them of intervening only when everything else has failed is not enough." She sees the flaws of the men running the country and knows that they have failed because they are not providing the people with what they need or embracing the power of women. Beatrice is an intelligent and perceptive character who represents the promise and morality of women in the novel.

dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Women play an important role in Anthills of the Savannah. The author, Chinua Achebe, is notable for portraying women as  strong, believable characters.  Women are instrumental as keepers of tradition in the tribe, even as the role of tradition is changing in the face of modernity, a history of oppression, and corrupt governments.  It is also the women especially who maintain a sense of morality and humanity during times of difficulty.

Beatrice Okoh is the most completely developed woman character in the novel.  She is the fifth daughter in her family, and it is significant that her father, having wanted a son, named her "Nwanybuife", which means "A Woman Is Also Something".  Beatrice is well-educated, intelligent, and independent.  Although she navigates the modern world with confidence, she is attuned to her culture and the common people of her tribe.

Through Beatrice and other strong women characters, Achebe develops the theme of the importance of women in the future of Africa.  Ikem tells Beatrice that women, who have always been oppressed, play a crucial role in "the future of nations".  At the end of the narrative, it is significant that, at the naming ceremony of Ikem and Elowa's baby, Beatrice does the naming, even though that role is traditionally fulfilled by a man.  Even more significantly, she gives the girl child a boy's name, "Amaechina", which means "May the Path Never Close".

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Anthills of the Savannah

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