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In Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, masculinity plays a prominent
role in Ibo society as it defines a man’s strength and character. Nwoye struggles
with the idea of masculinity as he wants to please Okonkwo by being aggressive
and violent but ultimately rejects the role of masculinity by joining the
Christian movement. Throughout the novel Okonkwo constantly tries to instill
masculine traits into Nwoye. When Okonkwo is telling Nwoye and Ikemefuna
“masculine stories of violence and bloodshed” (53). Nwoye states that he, “knew
that it was right to be masculine and violent, but somehow he still preferred
the stories that his mother used to tell (53). This excerpt demonstrates Nwoye
rejection and lack of masculinity. In Ibo culture a man, must embrace violence
and bloodshed, or he is viewed as feminine. Nwoye completely rejects the
violence and bloodshed by stating that “he still preferred the stories that his
mother used to tell” (53). His rejection of the stories is further shown, when
he says, “And so he feigned that he no longer cared for women’s stories” (54).
If Nwoye was truly masculine, he would not have to put on a false front about
liking his father’s stories. Okonkwo becomes increasingly worried about Nwoye
as the novel continues. When the Christian missionaries come to town, Nwoye is
mesmerized by their religion and becomes a Christian without thinking twice.
When Okonkwo’s uncle Uchendu says, “It’s true
that a child belongs to its father. But when a father beats his child, it seeks
sympathy in its mother’s hut.” (134). Likewise, Nwoye seeks refuge in
the Christian religion after getting beaten by his father. Nwoye lack of
masculinity is on full display here as he seeks sympathy in the Christian
religion. If he was masculine like Okonkwo he would have with stood the
beatings from his father and not looked for a way out. Masculinity is how men
are defined in Ibo society, Nwoye’s lack of masculine traits cause him to not
be able to fulfill his role of masculinity and thus seek refuge in the Ibo
religion.

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