In Things Fall Apart, in what ways do you think Okonkwo's second wife respects and disrespects her husband?

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lsumner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Ekwefi, Okonkwo's second wife, fell in love with Okonkwo years ago at a wrestling match. Ekwefi was considered the village beauty. She was impressed by Okonkwo's great wrestling abilities. She left her husband to be Okonkwo's wife. She respected Okonkwo more than her husband at the time. She so desired to be Okonkwo's wife. Because of Okonkwo's great strength and masculine features, she admired him. She was overcome with love for him.

After becoming Okonkwo's wife, Ekwefi suffered from losing children. She had only Ezinma to survive. Along with her sorrow of losing children, Ekwefi has to deal with Okonkwo's anger issues. He loses his temper quite often, especially during religious ceremonies when he cannot work. During the Yam Festival, Okonkwo beats Ekwefi, accusing her of killing a banana tree.

Okonkwo is edgy as his family prepares for the feast because he would rather be working in the farm. He accuses Ekwefi, his second wife, of killing a banana tree. He beats Ekwefi and leaves her crying with Ezinma, her only daughter. The beating serves as an outlet for Okonkwo’s anger.

She loses respect for Okonkwo as she cries. Ekwefi also becomes angry at Okonkwo for beating her. She mutters something about his gun not working. She is trying to insult his hunting. Oknokwo fires his gun at Ekwefi and misses. In moments like these, Ekwefi has no respect for Okonkwo. She retaliates when he beats her:

Okonkwo picks up his rusty gun, and Ekwefi mutters something about guns that never shoot. Okonkwo hears the remark and pulls the trigger. His shot misses Ekwefi.

No doubt, Ekwefi has disrespect for Okonkwo when he beats her. She is not impressed with his anger. Although she was once attracted to Okonkwo's strength, she is not in awe of him as she once was. Okonkwo's anger causes his family to fear him. This fear, however, is not respect.

Ekwefi has overcome much heartache, losing nine children. She has learned to stand strong:

The years have been hard on her. She has become a courageous and strong-willed woman, overcoming disappointment and bitterness in her life.

No doubt, Ekwefi has mixed emotions now that she is Okonkwo's wife. The strength that she was so attracted to years ago is frightening when Okonkwo uses it against his wives and children.