Gender Roles in Literature Essay

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  8
Wordcount:  2042 Words
Date:  2022-04-15

In many societies, the concept of gender roles is quite an issue of debate especially in this period where the debate of gender balance especially in African countries is a great issue. What is gender roles? The societies, individuals, law, and the people of a particular gender attribute these functions or positions to people of a certain sex. The roles of people belonging to a certain sex are determined by social and religious factors that are unique to particular communities. In the society in the general, there are particular responsibilities in the family that is attributed to the masculine and others are attributed to the feminine exclusively. For example in most African and Asian communities, the woman of the family is responsible for preparing food and taking care of the children. The male counterparts are associated to being a protector, leader, and the bread weaner of the family. The main objective of gender roles is to create an established difference between what is thought to be appropriate for both genders. This means that the roles that are attributed to the men are seen to be the appropriate role of the men and those for the women is seen to be appropriate for women to them. The change in the society bring up changes in the roles of the two genders since external pressure forces a change in the roles. For example, the pressure of war forces the women to also take up the roles that are perceived to be manly. Economic harshness also brings about changes in the set gender roles.

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In today's societies, many of the set rules that had been set to define the roles of men and women have been made void by the development of constitutions that bring gender balance. The fight by women in several societies and religions has led to the roles to be also ignored since most of these set roles worked to their disadvantage. In this text, we discuss the view of gender roles in the literature by analyzing several texts that were written by authors of African or Caribbean backgrounds. The text seeks to determine the gender roles that have been identified as being attributed to the genders by the authors or the societies in which the authors belong. The text makes use of the following books:

  • "Things Fall Apart", by Chinua Achebe.
  • "Meguel Street", by V.S Naipaul.
  • "River and the Source" by Margaret Ogola.
  • "Nervous Conditions" by Tsitsi Dangarembga.


This research paper is based on the books listed in the introduction, which have scenes that properly portray the gender roles of the two genders. The authors give a clear description of how their societies behave towards the different genders. The books also give a clear boundary between the 'appropriate' responsibilities for men and women. These incidents involving gender roles arise since the authors are bound to describe what happens around them hence bringing out what their respective societies viewed about gender roles. The authors of the books that have been listed above are of African or Caribbean. This section provides a brief history of the authors. This is a brief description of the authors' background.

First, Chinua Achebe. The author of the book "Things Fall Apart," which he wrote in the year 1958. Chinua was born in 1930 in Nigerian in a place named as Ogidi. Chinua came to an age when Nigeria was facing challenges of social conflicts. The country also experienced continuous political change and Achebe gained interest to write on politically related issues. The writer is also the author of several other books such as "No Longer at Ease" written in 1960, "Anthills on the Savannah" written in 1988, and finally "Trouble in Nigeria" written in 1983 (Chinua 3).

The second author Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul is a Trinidad born writer, born in 1932. Author of the book "Meguel Street." He studied for four years at the Oxford University in England where he had been awarded a scholarship. He began his writing career after completing his studies at the university. He has received several appreciations for his writings, including a Nobel Prize that he received in the year 2001 and the Booker prize that he was awarded in 1971. He is also the author of other books such as "An Area of Darkness", "India: A Wounded Civilization", "Magic Seeds", "A Bend in the River", and finally "A House for Mr. Biswas" (Naipaul 1-2).

Thirdly, Margaret Ogola. Author of the book "River and the Source." Born in Asembo village in Kenya in the year 1958. Ogola was a profound writer who made texts that were award winning. The author was a pediatrician by profession and did writing as a part-timer. She had an undergraduate degree in Medicine and Surgery from the University of Nairobi, Master of Medicine from the University of Nairobi and later studied Post Graduate Diploma in Planning and Management. The author has received various awards for her publications such as the Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature in the year 1995 and Commonwealth Writers' Prize in the same year. She is also the author of other publications such as "I Swear by Apollo" and "Place of Destiny" (Ogola 2-3).

Lastly, Tsitsi Dangarembga. Tsitsi is the author of the novel "Nervous Conditions." Tsitsi was born in Zimbabwe which was formerly known as Rhodesia in the year 1959. She was born in a village known as Bulawayo. Tsitsi was however raised in England where she spent most of her life when she was a child. She began her education while she was still in England and later completed her studies back home, Zimbabwe at Hartzell High school. She also went ahead and studied medicine at Cambridge University. She started her writing in 1985 where she was also involved in theater when she published "The Letter" and a play named "She No Longer Weeps." The author's biggest success came with her publication the "Nervous Conditions" (Dangarembga 3).


The authors of the literature texts provide a clear view of some of the "appropriate" roles that were set for members of their respective societies. This text extracts the roles in the various societies and analyzes them. The roles are biased towards women since the societies that the authors belonged to had little or no value to women. The roles are based majorly on African societies that were there before and after the coming of the colonial powers. The gender roles are discussed below.

First, the male children have the role of going to school. The masculine children in the literary texts are supposed to go to school as opposed to their female counterparts who remain at home. This role is not received positively by the feminine community since the males acquired skills in formal education. The female students are biased in the learning institutions and by the society. Educating a woman in the societies is considered not important and therefore ignored. Educated and intelligent women are seen by the society as lost and they had a lower chance of getting a spouse. The main objective of the society was to educate the male children and marry off the female children. Parents, especially the fathers preferred education the male children and biased against their female counterparts. This leads to resistance from the women in the societies. In the "Nervous Conditions," Tambu a girl belonging to the Shona community is highly displeased for she is denied the chance to go to school because her parents lacked the money to pay her fees. Tambu's brother Nhamo gets an opportunity to go to school for Babamukuru, her uncle had offered to pay for his schooling. This actually makes Tambu be very angry towards her brother who later dies due to illness (Essays, UK.). Tambu comes to the realization that the requirements of women in the Shona community were considered irrelevant. Tambu, however, gets an opportunity to go to school after Nhamo"s death. After Nhamo died Tambu was the offered the opportunity to take his place at the school that had been under colonial control. This role is also depicted in the book by Ogola "River and the Source." It is during the colonial times and there is a shift in tradition and there is an introduction to formal education. Awiti is enrolled in a primary school, we see that in the class of thirty-six students there are only two female students. This situation actually becomes worse when the other girl drops out in order to get married and Awiti is left as the only female student in the class of 11. The bias in education also comes out when Awiti joins college. In the class of thirty-four students, there are six female students and twenty-eight male students. The villagers also feel like Awiti is taking a wrong path since many of the men in the village did not want to have wives who are educated and intelligent. This, therefore, mean that she had the risk of lacking a husband. This is therefore clear the societies in the respective publications considered education as a male thing that should not be attempted by the females. This means that the male children were tasked with the role of going to school and get educated while the female remains home.

Secondly, the males in the society where the leaders and the decision makers while their female counterparts are just followers of the men. Women are not allowed to make major decisions, these decisions are made by their husbands if married, or else they are made by their fathers. Even the views of the women are not taken into consideration when making decisions that affect them. The father of a woman would decide to whom she should get married with or without consent. The leadership positions in the community were held by men exclusively and passed along generation to generation from the father to the eldest son. In the "River and the Source" by Ogola, the communities are led by chiefs. At Yimbo the chief Odero Gogni is the chief at the time of Akoko, he inherited the position from the late father, Adinda Gogni. In Sakwa where Akoko is married of to the chief's stool is held Owour Kembo, the stool is to be inherited by Obura who unfortunately dies before getting the stool. Owang' Sino then becomes the next chief in line and dies also leaving a toddler Owour Sino to be the chief. Since Owour Sino is too young to be the chief his grandfather, Otieno becomes the custodian of the stool (Ogola 30 -37). This lineage of only male children the female children and the mother are to allow having the stool. During the discussion on the bride price to be paid for the hand of Akoko, she is consulted neither whether Owuor Kembo is the proper man to be her spouse nor if the thirty heads of cattle are the amount she would require for her hand. These decisions are made between the male family members from her family and that of Owour Kembo (Ogola 5). A man in this society had the liberty to get another wife without any input of his present wives, this shows that women were set aside for both the family and community decision-making processes.

Third, men are to be the figure of the family, since the reputation of the family was laid upon them. On the other hand, women are to take care of the children and act as their basic educators. The men, on the other hand, are the image of the family any embarrassment and shameful acts were directed to the man by the society. The man would take action to correct the shameful act. The man is also the symbol of authority in the family level. The man protects the family at the household level, this meant that widows were vulnerable to be mistreated by other men of the community. Widows, therefore, had to be inherited to prevent her and the children from being harmed. The women had the role of raising the children in the right way since they were in closer contact than the fathers were. According to Chinua in the book "Things Fall Apart," women were treated as inferior people in the society. Women had the role of educating the children, shaping them to be adults that the society...

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