Reading As A Woman: Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart And Feminist Criticism

by Linda Strong-Leek

Introduction

Does “reading as a woman” change one’s perspective on a text? Can a woman read as a woman after being conditioned, generally, to read as a man? In his On Deconstruction: Theory and Criticism after Structuralism, Jonathan Culler (1982) addresses these issues and forms several interesting conclusions. What does it mean to read as a woman? Culler’s answer is brief and relatively problematic: “to read as a woman is to avoid reading as a man, to identify the specific defenses and distortions of male readings and provide correctives” [1]. Though Culler fails to outline these defenses and distortions, he does provide some fundamental guidelines for such a reading. Accordingly, to read as a woman requires that one approach a work from a feminist vantage and therefore, not regard the work from the purview of patriarchy. Consequently, in order to read Chinua Achebe’s 1969 literary masterpiece, Things Fall Apart, as a woman, one must query readings which suggest that Okonkwo is the only major figure in the novel, and alternately analyze the motivations of principal female characters who are thoroughly developed within the work [2].

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Linda Strong-Leek is an Assistant Professor of English at Florida International University in Miami, Florida, U.SA.