In response to our brief in-class discussion, regarding the misogynistic characteristics of the African ethnic groups present in the novel, I thought it best to address a passage that discusses Mbanta’s concept that “Mother is Supreme.” This passage adds to what we had previously come to know as a woman’s role in the clan. This passage depicts a whole new version of women that we have yet to see in Things Fall Apart.
We have read about women cooking, bearing and raising children, and obeying orders without ever really reading about their impact on society, until this passage. It is now evident that a mother’s role is much more multifaceted and important than what we had discussed in class. Uchendu, a leader of the Mbanta clan, explains “But when there is sorrow and bitterness he finds refuge in his mother land. Your mother is there to protect you. She is buried there. And that is why we say that mother is supreme.”(98) Achebe’s inclusion of this narrative provides the reader with insight into the value of women in the clan, which we had yet to really see. Furthermore, I do not think Achebe’s usage of the word supreme was accidental. By definition supreme means “most important or most powerful.” Achebe wants us, as readers, to recognize the significant role that females play not only in the clans but also on the novel as a whole. This passage stands out primarily due to its uniqueness in that Achebe had not previously shed light on the prominence and importance of women in the novel.
Now to briefly play devils advocate in the fifty or so words I have left: One could argue that this passage is just furthering the sexism that we already knew to be present in the novel in that it is associating sorrow and bitterness with women.
However, I personally see the inclusion of this passage as an important message to the reader that a women’s role in the culture Achebe has depicted is much more than what we had previously concluded.