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A single example of the ambiguous position of women in Achebe's Things Fall Apart can be gleaned from the incident between Okonkwo and his "most senior wife" in the second chapter. The incident reveals, through one woman, how women are both venerated and marginalized.
The Mbaino had just fulfilled the terms of their compensation for having killed "the woman," the "wife of Ogbuefi Udo." Okonkwo had been granted care of the compensatory boy Ikemefuna. He had "called his most senior wife" to him to instruct her to care for Ikemefuna.
The wife's ambiguous position is shown in that she was once venerated and chosen to be Okonkwo's senior wife. Yet now, she is marginalized as he denounces her for speaking to him to get clarification. In addition, since she is the "most senior wife," Oknokwo marginalized her as a woman more pronouncedly by adding more wives to his household.
"Do what you are told, woman. ... When did you become one of the ndichie of Umuofia?"
The earlier mentioned incident with the "wife of Ogbuefi Udo" might serve as a second example. After her murder, she is so venerated that a war is contemplated as revenge for her. Yet she is so marginalized that Ogbuefi Ezeugo doesn't even bother to name her--calling her only "a daughter of Umuofia"--in his speech denouncing Mbaino and calling for a decision against them:
"Those sons of wild animals have dared to murder a daughter of Umuofia. ... That woman was the wife of Ogbuefi Udo."
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