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Mears, Mary D.
Choice and discovery
h [electronic resource] :
b an analysis of women and culture in Flora Nwapa's fiction /
by Mary D. Mears.
[Tampa, Fla.] :
University of South Florida,
Title from PDF of title page.
Document formatted into pages; contains 172 pages.
Dissertation (Ph.D.)--University of South Florida, 2009.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic dissertation) in PDF format.
ABSTRACT: My dissertation is in the tradition of redressing the critical imbalance that has undervalued or neglected African women writers by considering Flora Nwapa's three best-known novels, analyzing from a feminist and dialogic perspective what choice and discovery mean for Nwapa's female characters in Efuru (1966), Idu (1970), and One is Enough (1981). Flora Nwapa writes about women and their lives, issues, and concerns within a traditional Igbo culture radically affected by British colonialism. As she explores and analyzes many of the characteristics of her tribal group, she posits the women's desires for change, choice, and acceptance within a society in which they wish to participate fully as human beings not just in the roles traditionally allowed them-as workers, wives, and mothers.Instead, they wish greater freedom than traditional Igbo customs allow in the domestic and public realms; but their beliefs and values have been transformed by Christianity, western education, and an increasing emphasis upon the individual. The women in Nwapa's novels speak to the needs of both collective and individual female identity within their culture. They seek love and respect from the community and acceptance of the choices they make. As Nwapa's novels evolve, her female characters become increasingly independent, aggressive and self-styled: they become women with a mission to realize themselves. I have drawn upon the criticism of Barbara Smith, Obioma Nnaemeka, and Barbara Christian to ground my study. The definition of African feminism comes from Carole Boyce Davies' introduction to Ngambika. The discussion of language, dialogue, and heteroglossia relies upon the work of Mikhail Bakhtin and Mae Henderson.The dissertation focuses upon all important characters in Efuru, Idu, and One is Enough, but especially on the dialogue and actions of central female characters in order to analyze the never-ceasing polyphonic dialogue that Nwapa's female characters have between self and society, between self and self-consciousness, and among themselves. In a world where they struggle to blend their traditional culture and institutions with western influences, they seek both independence and a communal cohesiveness in which many voices and choices can survive in a complementary manner.
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Advisor: Rosalie Murphy Baum, Ph.D.
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
Choice and Discovery: An Analys is of Women and Culture in Flora Nwapas Fiction by Mary D. Mears A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy Department of English College of Arts and Sciences University of South Florida Major Professor: Rosa lie Murphy Baum, Ph.D. Hunt Hawkins, Ph.D. Lawrence Broer, Ph.D. Deborah Plant, Ph.D. Date of Approval: March 25, 2009 Keywords: African women, identity, language, gender studies, voices Copyright 2009, Mary D. Mears
Dedication This paper is dedicated to my fam ily members who have encouraged me throughout the years. To the memory of my pa rents, John and Mary F. Mears, my oldest brother, John Mears, and my youngest brother, Clifton Mears, I thank you for all the love and encouragement you gave to me. For those who are still with me, thank you for understanding and going the extra miles with me: my brother Bernard Mears, sisters-inlaw, Anne and Sarah, and special nephews, Larry Kellam and Justin Moore. To Anne who said, Its about time, but I am glad that you did not give up, a nd to Larry, the son I never birthed, but the best nephew/son, you have been a source of constant inspiration to stay the course. Finally, to others who told me to finish the degree just for my own satisfaction, I thank you for your support.
Acknowledgements I wish to extend my gratitude to the faculty members who served on my committee: Professors Deborah Plant, Hunt Hawkins, and Lawrence Broer, and especially Professor Rosalie Murphy Baum, w ho directed my dissert ation with dedication and enthusiasm. I also wish to acknowledge words of wisdom from Professor Jack Moore, who started me on the path many year s ago. Finally, I wish to thank the Macon State College family for helping me in so many ways that are innumerable to mention, especially my former division chair Professor Laurence Fennelly, former deans Dr. Robert Trammell and Dr. Thomas Ishe rwood, and secretary Catherine Frost.
i Table of Contents Abstract iii Introduction 1 Chapter I Defining My Approach to Flora Nwapas Novels 15 Chapter II Review of Critical a nd Theoretical Literature on Flora Nwapas Novels 37 Chapter III Cultural Practices of th e Igbo Influencing Nwapas Novels 54 Notes 70 Chapter IV Voices of Tradition and Change in Efuru 72 Courtship and Marriage in Efuru 74 Motherhood in Efuru 80 Second Wives in Efuru 84 Efuru as Dialogic Text 91 Chapter V Voices of Tradition and Change in Idu 100 Courtship and Marriage in Idu 102 Motherhood in Idu 104 Second Wife in Idu 110 Changes in Family Structure and Behavior 113 Unexplained Illnesses and Untimely Deaths 116 Aberrant Behavior and Natural Disaster 120 Water as a Symbol 124
ii Idu as Dialogic Text 126 Chapter VI Voices of Modernity in One is Enough 131 Courtship and Marriage in One is Enough 134 Views on Motherhood 138 Second Wife in One is Enough 141 Changes in Family Structur e: Single Life and Economic Independence 142 One is Enough as Dialogic Text 145 Conclusion 152 Short Story Collections and Women Are Different 154 Never Again and The Lake Goddess 159 Coda 162 Works Cited 165 About the Author End Page
iii Choice and Discovery: An Analysis of Wome n and Culture in Flora Nwapas Fiction Mary D. Mears ABSTRACT My dissertation is in the tradition of redressing the critical imbalance that has undervalued or neglected Afri can women writers by consid ering Flora Nwapas three best-known novels, analyzing from a feminist and dialogic pe rspective what choice and discovery mean for Nwapas female characters in Efuru (1966), Idu (1970), and One is Enough (1981). Flora Nwapa writes about women and their lives, issues, and concerns within a traditional Igbo culture radically aff ected by British colonialism. As she explores and analyzes many of the characteristics of her tribal group, sh e posits the womens desires for change, choice, and acceptance wi thin a society in which they wish to participate fully as human beings not just in the roles traditionally allowed themas workers, wives, and mothers. Instead, they wish greater freedom than traditional Igbo customs allow in the domestic and public real ms; but their beliefs and values have been transformed by Christianity, western edu cation, and an increasing emphasis upon the individual. The women in Nwa pas novels speak to the n eeds of both collective and individual female identity within their cult ure. They seek love and respect from the community and acceptance of th e choices they make. As Nwapas novels evolve, her female characters become increasingly indepe ndent, aggressive a nd self-styled: they become women with a mission to realize themselves.
iv I have drawn upon the criticism of Barbara Smith, Obioma Nnaemeka, and Barbara Christian to ground my study. The de finition of African feminism comes from Carole Boyce Davies introduction to Ngambika The discussion of language, dialogue, and heteroglossia relies upon the work of Mikhail Bakhtin and Mae Henderson. The dissertation focuses upon all important characters in Efuru Idu and One is Enough but especially on the dialogue and actions of centr al female characters in order to analyze the never-ceasing polyphonic dialogue that Nwapas fe male characters have between self and society, between self and self-consciousness, and among themselves. In a world where they struggle to blend their traditional cultur e and institutions with western influences, they seek both independence and a communa l cohesiveness in which many voices and choices can survive in a complementary manner.
1 Introduction Sub-Saharan African literature is incr easingly popular among critics and general readers throughout the world. Until fairly recentl y, feminist issues in African literature have not received the attention they deserve, for example, in the works of Flora Nwapa, Buchi Emecheta, Grace Ogot, and Ama At a Aidoo. According to Florence Stratton, women writers have too often been written out of the Afri can tradition and dismissed by critics like Eustace Palmer, Eldred Jones, and Gerald Moore, who have attempted to point out flaws in the characters, plots, themes, a nd dialogue of these write rs and accused them of triviality (81-82). At the same time, thes e critics have often pr aised the treatment of characters, plots, themes, and dialogue in me ns writings that I and critics like Stratton and Lloyd Brown consider similar in quality to the work of female writers. One only needs to read Palmers and Jones critiques of Flora Nwapas Efuru (1966) and Elechi Amadis Concubine (1966) to experience the under valuing of the women writers. Lloyd Brown, in his book-length study Women Writers in Black Africa (1981), points out that women have been excluded from most studies of Africa n literature. In his introduction, he explains how women writers have often been overlooked: The women writers of Africa are th e other voices, the unheard voices, rarely discussed and seldom accorded space in the repetitive anthologies and the predictably male-oriented studies in the field. Relatively few literary magazines and scholarly journals in the West and in Africa itself,
2 have found significant space or time for African women writers. The ignoring of women writers on the continent has become a tradition, implicit rather than formally stat ed, but a tradition nonetheless--and a rather unfortunate one at that. (3) Brown gives several reasons for this situ ation, such as male-o riented selectivity, Eurocentricism, colonialism, and traditional mores that reflect male supremacy in most African cultures. However, Brown contends th at such practices pe rpetuate ignorance of much African literature, and specifically of female African writers, throughout the world. Too many people are not even aware th at African women writers exist. Browns groundbreaking work is still re spected although it is dated, and more recent scholars like Mary Modupe Kolawole, in Womanism and African Consciousness (1997), and Molara Ogundipe-Leslie, in Re-Creating Ourselves: African Women & Critical Transformations (1994), agree with Brown even though Kolawole offers new reasons for the undervaluing. First, she notes that women face diverse problems on the continent due to colonialism, as well as regi onal, ethnic, and religi ous practices. Thus, the multiple voices that are fighting to be heard are handicapped. Kolawole emphasizes that African women who have transcended the bor ders of silence are intercepting certain existing notions that suggest women should remain silent and let the men speak for them. She believes if critics examine contempor aneous feminist discourse, its validity in representing African womens reality, and the way women are negotiating their own space, they will see a change is occurring (7 ). Kolawole gives special credit to Irene DAlmeidas Francophone African Women Writers: Dest roying the Emptiness of Silence (1994) that provides an extensive study of th e emergence of African womens feminine
3 ideology for making a difference in attitudes. DAl media is credited with destroying the so-called voicelessness of African womens ideology. She emphasizes the role of literature for self-expression, self-definiti on, and self-discovery in the works of Francophone-African women writers like Ke n Bugul, Calixthe Beyala, Aminata Sow Fall, and Werewere Liking (5). Ogundipe-Les lie also believes Af rican women are not voiceless, but cultural critics do not look in the right places. Ogundipe-Leslie asks, Are African women voiceless or do we fail to look for their voices where we may find them, in sites and forms from which the voices are uttered? . We must look for African wome ns voices in womens spaces and modes such as in ceremonies, workso ngs . kitchens, watering sites, kinship gatherings, and womens politic al and commercial spaces. . (11) My dissertation will be in the tradition of redressing the critical imbalance that has undervalued or neglected African women writers by considering Flora Nwapas three best-known novels, analyzing from a feminist perspective what choice and discovery mean for Nwapas female characters in Efuru (1966), Idu (1970), and One is Enough (1981). Efuru is the first novel published in English by a Nigerian woman. As a result, in 1978, Nwapa was given the chieftaincy title Ogbuefi, meaning killer of cow (Umeh 12). According to Edeh and Umeh, this titl e is usually given to men except in Oguta society where women of wealth and integrity can acquire it. Nwapa also received other prestigious awards from the Nigerian government. Efuru is a novel with a heroine who consci ously decides to br eak one major rule of tradition: she decides to get married before the brideprice is paid to her family, but this is the first of several customs she manipul ates as a matter of choice and freedom. The
4 novel ends with Efuru livi ng happily among her people while helping them and worshipping Uhamiri, who gave her wealth and happiness but no children. Idu examines traditional beliefs as expressed through the conversations of village women. Several characters, male and female, disobey traditional cu stoms, and the voices of the women analyze whether their actions are right or wrong or whether times have changed because of western influences. Thus, th e voices are not sure what to expect from the tribal young, and they question if it is fa ir to judge the youth harshly. The first two novels are set in rural Oguta where life is sl ow, and the river and market are prominent in the lives of the people. By contrast, One is Enough is set in a modern urban environment, such as Lagos. The environment presents its own view of what is expected and acceptable from its inhabitants. By portraying di verse settings for females who make choices, Nwapa is emphasizing that one approach will not suffice for all. People need the freedom to choose what works best for them in a given envi ronment while still respecting tradition and ancestors. Therefore, One is Enough emphasizes the decision of one woman, Amaka, who decides to take responsibility for her own future by leaving her rural village, by divorcing her husband, and by moving to Lagos. Six year s of a childless marriage was enough for her. After arriving in Lagos, Amaka learns the conniving methods of achieving success as a business woman. She d ecides never to marry again even though she does have children. She concludes that women can be happy, fulfilled, and successful without being married as long as they have their own money. In my dissertation I will focus on the c onsciousness of all important characters, but specifically on the dialogue and actions of central female characters in order to
5 analyze the conversations that Nwapas female characters have betw een self and society, between self and self-consciousness, and am ong themselves. I am seeking to determine what the characters discover by making certain choices. The term self-consciousness as used in this dissertation mean s ones awareness of self and society and the role one is expected and desires to fulfill in society. I will focus on questions Nwapa raises by the speech and actions of her characters. Are th e conflicts ever resolved? If so, how? How does the resolution of the conflict affect the community and the individual? Flora Nwapa writes about women and their lives, issues, and c oncerns within the traditional culture of Oguta society. As she explores and analyzes many of the characteristics of her tribal group, she posits the womens de sire for change, choice, and acceptance within a society in which they wish to participate fully as human beings not just as women traditionally e xpected to participate in a limited, culturally-defined way. The women in Nwapas novels speak to the needs of collective and individual female identity within their culture. They seek love and respect from the community and acceptance of the choices they make. As Nwapas works evolve, her female characters become more independent, aggressive, and self -styled: increasingly, they are women with a mission. Clearly colonialism is responsible for ma ny changes that Nwapa describes in her works. Some of the changes are due to the sp read of western education and Christianity, beginning in the mid-1840s but later in Igbo vi llages. The ideas and customs taught in the schools often contradicted trad itional Igbo values, beliefs, and habits, thus creating tension and ambiguity in individuals, fam ilies, and the whole community. The changes were most noticeable in social, cult ural, economic, and political arenas.
6 Christianity gave the Igbo social options not available through traditional beliefs and customs. Multiple birthstwinsbecame acceptable and mothers kept their children; the mothers were no longer ostr acized by the community. In addition, Christianity encouraged young people to get ma rried in church or in court whereas the traditional custom was for the families to meet, discuss details, and then agree that the couple should marry. According to Victor Uchendu, the young people preferred the church ceremonies and monoga my because of economic op portunities, education, and religion (49). Another major change was that the young educated girl s were being taught to marry before having children; traditional custom did not necessarily dictate this order. Moreover, educational training prepared indi viduals to receive a degree, find employment in civil service, and live th eir lives to suit themselves. Ag ain these actions did not agree with traditional expectations where the young people were to re turn to their villages and help the family. In the first decades of the 1900s many educated women and men moved to cities and worked as teach ers, civil servants, contract ors, and nurses The educated individuals wanted to follow the western lifestyle of living alone, not marrying, and not having children, or at least not immediately. Thus, many Igbo married later in life, and many couples chose to live as nuclear families instead of as part of extended families. These changes brought about because of educat ion and Christianity created a state of moral and social confusion that Flora Nwapa examined in her novels. Uchendu maintains that during the colonial a nd post-colonial periods th e Igbo supported individual achievement and initiative but says it was rooted in group so lidarity (103). In addition, Uchendu believes there have been many differe nt options for people and the people were
7 willing to accept changes result ing from European contact ( 104). He sees change as the means of attaining progress and success. In terms of progress and success, Tony Falola and Matthew Heaton in A History of Nigeria discuss the growing number of Europe an-educated Nigerians during the first decades of the 20th century, referring to them as the African middle class: African in heritage, but with many European tastes a nd values (128). These Nigerians worked in the colonial administration, lived in cities built European style homes, and bought luxury items (128-29). Culturally, however, the Eur opean-educated Nigerians were caught in a double bind and lived lives of double consci ousness. Even though they enjoyed the benefits of education, they re alized that the colonial gove rnment would allow them to have only certain jobs and viewed Africans as inferior (129). Over time this educated group began to display signs of ethnic pride by wearing traditional garb, demanding that indigenous languages be taught in their schools along with English, and changing customs in church services that better re flected the Nigerian culture while teaching Christian values (130). Christianity and colonial education al so influenced the economy. The British employed tactics that changed the types of crops that were desirable, manipulated the cash flow, and changed the roles that wo men played in the economy. The British destroyed the informal businesses by exporting raw materialscash crops and mineralsand importing European finished goo ds (119). Roads, railways, and harbors were improved and built to move products from interior regions to the coast and larger cities; and many men left villages to help carry out the business plans implemented by the Europeans. According to Falola and Heaton, th e new European plans caused men to work
8 for lower wages, have to pay a middleman to transport products from interior regions to cities, and accept cash in British currenc y, thus undermining the Nigerian economy and traditional methods of conducting business (119 ). A ripple effect occurred when women had to take over the production and cultivat ion of cassava farms which had been mens work. Cassava was thought of as a subsiste nce crop, so it was secondary to palm oil, groundnuts, cotton, and cocoa. In the past, wome n had cultivated and controlled the palm oil business. Femi Nzegwu in Love, Motherhood and the African Heritage also discusses how the subordination concept was applied to women in Ni geria because of European training: women were relegated to lower, less prestigious jobs than men. During precolonial times, women had held positions of authority with in their age-groups, communities, and womens organizations. In addition, they controlled many informal businesses, such as palm oil, but thr ough the appropriate Eur opean cultural-based schooling of Africans, the structure of Afri can society and the pos ition of women therein become irrelevant, relegated to a position of political marginalizat ion of both thought and action in the ordering and maintenance of societal norms and values (85). Politically, Falola and Heaton explain how the British dismantled the traditional method of governance by chiefs and kings, instead employing a concept called indirect rule. Certain chiefs, kings, and others were selected to be intermediaries or warrant chiefs, but their power existed only if th e Nigerians followed the orders given by the British. Some men selected to be intermediaries, however, did not have any special rank within the traditional village; thus, it was difficult for Nigerians to respect such individuals who had been appointed by th e British (113). Anti-colonial activities beginning in the 1930s but including the Wo mens War of 1929and post-colonialism
9 with independence in 1960 and the Nigerian Ci vil War, sometimes called the Biafra War, from 1967-70seriously affected political and economic ideals and institutions. Divisions arising from regiona lism, ethnicity, and religion; differences between rural and urban values and styles of life; and de pendence upon European companies for the countrys export economy threatened to unde rmine a national identity. In addition, according to Adeline Apena, the Nigerian Civil War transformed social values and almost revolutionized gender relations and attitudes towards sexuality (284). Apena identifies many social effects: the emergen ce of a new breed of women (for example, Amaka in One is Enough and Dora and Rose in Women Are Different ), desire for material wealth, flexible attitudes towards sexual advances, urbanization and economic growth, greater mobility, money marriages, and an erosion of communal values in favor of individual ambitions. Post-col onialism, then, further compli cated national, ethnic, and religious identity and culture as polyphonic voices spoke for traditional ways, modern ways, and many varying attempts to blend the two. Femi Nzegwu agrees that the introduc tion of European education and values created a shift in power relationships be tween men and women and brought about a disintegration of tradit ional norms and values. The status and role of women were greatly affected (161). She believes the change in social mores actually be gan during the colonial period but became more commonplace after coloni alism and the Biafra Civil War. Thus, one may sense a few changes in ideology and actions in a work like Efuru when Efuru reminds her doctor friend that young people now marry later than th ey did several years earlier. The change is also clear in Gilb erts double standards shown by his actions towards his second wife and children as well as his mothers comments to her friends that
10 young people today just act and think differently. These chan ges are most pronounced in One is Enough and Nwapas later works. In discussing post-colonial but especially colonial effects, critics and historians-Uchendu, Apena, Nzegwu, Falola, and Heat onagree that Europ ean education and Christianity displaced the ro les of women and men in th e community. The new ideas, often apparently contradictory, taught wome n to be submissive to husbands, obtain higher education, and achieve pos itions of prestige in their careers, sometimes at the expense of motherhood and marriage. These ch anges also influenced men because too often the men left their families to pursue higher education in different countries, thus creating single-parent families. In this context, women had to develop creative ways to survive. Personally, I think Nzeg wu finds more negatives with the effects of colonialism than does Apena. Both recognize that Nwa pa wrote works that navigate womens positions in a changing environment. Although Nwapa gives few hints in Efuru with Amaka in One is Enough she seems to be asking the community to embrace many of the colonial and post-colonial changes while stil l respecting and maintaining some traditional customs. She wants to blend a few habits, keep a few old customs, and accept some new ones; there is room for all to work together This study will consist of an Introduction, six chapters, and a Conclusion. Chapter I introduces critical approaches and theories helpful to my analysis, drawing upon studies of feminist critics and black feminist critics as well as the work of Jonathan Dollimore, Mikhail Bakhtin, and Mae Henders on. Particularly helpful wi ll be Elaine Showalters Feminist Criticism: Essays on Women, Literature and Theory (1985), Deborah McDowells New Directions for Black Fe minist Criticism (1985), Barbara Smiths
11 Towards a Black Feminist Crit icism(1982), Barbara Christians Black Feminist Criticism (1985), Cheryl Walls Changing Our Own Words (1987), Patricia Hill Collins Black Feminist Thought (1990), Carole Boyce Davies and Anne Adams Graves Ngambika (1996), Filomena Steadys The Black Woman Cross Culturally (1981), Jonathan Dollimores Political Shakespeare: New Essays in Cultural Materialism (1985), Mikhail Bakhtins The Dialogic Imagination (1985), and Mae Hendersons Speaking in Tongues: Dialogi cs, Dialectics and the Black Woman Writers: Literary Tradition (1990). Chapter II considers the literary cri ticism of writers who have focused upon Nwapas work: those who have not appreciated her style and narrativ e structure, those who have understood certain aspects of her wo rks, and those who have totally supported her themes, style, and structure. Among t hose I examine, Eustace Palmer and Eldred Jones often disagree with Nwapas major con cepts or characterize them as trivial while Susan Andrade and Joseph Asanbe offer criti cism of a mixed nature. Lloyd Brown, Gay Wilentz, Mary Kolawole, Florence Stratt on, Obioma Nnaemeka, and Marie Umeh are critics who seem to understand Flora Nwapa s purpose as she allows her female characters to express their de sires for changes for women in Oguta culture. Within this critical context, I will disc uss the images, themes, actio ns, and diction of Nwapas characters and analyze the consciousness of these characters as well as the veiled messages they direct to society. I should note here that a number of African writers like Ama Ata Aidoo, Buchi Emecheta, and Flora Nwapa have rejected th e term feminist because of its negative connotations, its identification with wester n individualized philos ophy, and its exclusion
12 of men. According to Clenora Hudson-Weems it is the consensus of Africana women scholars that they must reconsider histori cal realities and the ag enda for the modern feminist movement (18). It is believed that on e major tenet of this approach is to help the Africana womanist see herself as a companion to the Africana man and work diligently toward continuing their establis hed union in the struggle against racial oppression (38). Thus, the views of Carole Boyce Davies on what constitutes African feminism are especially important in understanding Nwapas fiction. Chapter III briefly reviews cultural ma tters necessary to understand Nwapas fiction, especially the importanc e of religion and spirituality in Nigerian culture and the pre-colonial matriarchal nature of African culture. Uchendu e xplains that Igbo believe in manipulation and compromise to achieve what he calls cosmological balance (15). The balancing is often done by giving homage to ancestors. The chapte r also discusses the role of Uhamiri, a water goddess who is wors hipped by all Igbo people. The dissertation explains how Nwapa changes the purpose of Uhamiri in her fiction. According to my reading of Flora Nwapas works, her fe male characters seek compromise through manipulation of certain traditional practices. Chapter IV focuses upon the choices women make in E furu and the outcomes of these choices. I will examinefrom a femi nist, cultural materialist and dialogic perspectivethe actions of the characters to determine if the choices offer happiness, confusion, conflict, or pain as the characte rs struggle with traditional and non-traditional options. I will also consider Mae Henderson s communal female voice while centering the novel in its African contex t. The characters seem to speak of personal change for
13 women while still respecting some traditional habits a nd desiring to live peacefully within the community. Chapter V, like Chapter IV, focuses on the choices people make, especially the women. However, in Idu one male character, Amarajeme, makes a choice that reflects the ills of the society. The overall subject is parenthood and what happens if one is not a parent. In addition, the chapter emphasizes the importance of wo mens expressing and privileging the other self to find happiness within. Nwapa notes in her fiction that people are changing constantly because of politics and education. In light of this constant cha nge, she questions why ro les and expectations for women have changed minimally in Nigeria. I think Nwapa is subtly advocating that women must have a wider range of choices a nd also be free to make traditional and nontraditional choices while living within a traditional community. Can both the traditional and nontraditional co-exist? Chapter VI explores th e beliefs that in O ne is Enough all women, married or single, must be economically independent while choosing happiness through different avenuesmarriage, children, and/or careers. I will examine how the concept of economic independence fosters the motiv ation and actions of Amaka, her mother, her aunt, and several other women of the community in One is Enough According to th e aunt, children are more important than marriage, and it is not important to marry for love. The aunt says, A woman should never slave for he r husband, never totally depend on her husband but always have her own business even if it is a small one (9). It becomes clear that many women in Oguta society have some t ype of business, whether it is selling vegetables at the market or se wing clothes for the village.
14 The Conclusion of the dissertation brie fly discusses Nwapas other works of fiction: two collections of short stories and the novel Women Are Different that continue her consideration of colonial and post-colonial influences on traditional Igbo beliefs and customs with the many changes and choices th at emerge, especially for women, and two novels with very different foci. Never Again considers Igbo societ y under the terrible stress of the Nigerian Civil War, also known as the Biafra War; The Lake Goddess makes a significant spiritual statement. Nwapas women develop independent voices and explore new identities in an increasingly mode rn world, but they also see themselves as spiritually nurturing forc es in the community.
15 Chapter I Defining My Approach to Flora Nwapas Novels The recognition of the importance of wome ns literature is fairly recent, and several waves of feminist criticism have both discovered the many works written by women through the ages and provided approach es to and theories for understanding the literature, with the work of more genera l critics both enriching and problematizing feminist criticism. For example, Jonathan Dollimores work on cultural materialism emphasizes exploitation on grounds of race, gender, and class (viii); and Mikhail Bakhtin suggests that the nove l orchestrates all its themes through a diversity of speech types and differing individual voices (263). My studys analysis of the voices, language, and actions of characters in Flora Nwapas novels is grounded in feminist theory, especially the work of Carole Boyce Davies and Filomena Steady, Dollimores theory of cultural materialism, and multiple voices as discussed by Bakhtin, Hans GeorgGadamer, and Mae Henderson. Elaine Showalter argues that feminist cr iticism differs from other contemporary schools of critical theory in not deriving its literary princi ples from a single authority figure or from a body of sacred te xts. Feminist criticism is be lieved to have evolved from several sources through extensive reading of womens literature; from exchanges with feminist theorists in other disciplines, es pecially history, psyc hology, and anthropology; and from the revision and reconsidera tion of literary theory itself (4). In The New Feminist Criticism Showalter asserts that feminist criticism has allowed women writers to search for a la nguage of their own, a style, a voice and structure. She believes women should fo cus on connections between womens works
16 and their lives, whereas in the past th ey concentrated on exposing the misogyny of literary practice (4). This view is very important to Flora Nwapas novels because in Nwapas works the actions of her characte rs and the dialogue between women express themes that indicate connections and limita tions between womens choices and lives; the novels do not focus on exposing the misogyny mentioned by Showalter. Showalter reminds readers that feminist cr iticism can be divided into two periods, with the earlier criticism focused on e xposing misogyny, emphasizing, for example, stereotypical images of women in literat ure and exclusion of women from literary history. However, since the 1980s, the stance has changed to questions of sexism and gender; the focus is on the discovery that women writers ha d a literature of their own, whose historical and thematic coherence and artistic importance had been obscured by patriarchal values that do minate our culture. This stance led to massive recovery and rereading of literature by women throughout the world. (6) The New Feminist Criticism is divided into three parts. Th e first analyzes literature from textbooks and other critical s ources to show how the writ ings of women have been excluded, misinterpreted, and misread; the thir d examines different approaches to the literature of women--social co ntexts, modes, genres, them es, structures, and styles. However, the second section focuses on intelle ctual and political i ssues in feminist literary theory, such as relationships betw een gender, class, and race. Some of the questions asked are if each gender, class, a nd race had its own literary tradition and was each of these categories respected by mainstream feminist criticism.
17 To address the danger that gender stud ies ignores areas like class and race, Showalter points out that Deborah McDowell, in New Directions for Black Feminist Criticism (1985), argues that African-Ameri can feminists must abandon slogans and situate the study of black womens writing in the context of black hi story and culture and explore its thematic and stylis tic correspondences with the lit erature of black men as well as investigate its special uses of language and imagery (1 3). McDowell does not believe black women should isolate themselves from other women or black men while trying to define themselves. She questions whether a mo nolithic black female language exists. She asks, are there really noticeable differences between the languages of black female and black men? These are questions she raises as she analyzes Barbara Smiths statements, in Towards a Black Feminist Criticism . McDowell believes Smiths statements lack precision and detail. In Towards a Black Feminist Criticism (1985), Barbara Smith states that the politics of feminism have a direct relations hip to the state of Black womens literature. A viable, autonomous Black feminist movement in this country would open up the space needed for the exploration of Black womens lives and the crea tion of consciously Black women-identified art (169). Smith focuses on problems women encounter and suggests changes that should be made. The purpose of her essay is to point out the connections between the politics of Black wo mens lives, what [they] writ e about and [their] situation as artists (169). She emphasizes how Black women have been viewed critically by outsiders, demonstrates the neces sity for Black feminist crit icism, and tries to understand what the existence or non-existence of Black lesbian writing reveals about the state of Black womens culture and the intensity of all Black womens oppression (169). Smith
18 cites the lack of a political base for suppor t of the black womans experiences through history, literature, and culture. She also emphasizes the need for a developed black feminist political theory from which one can study and examine black womens art. Smith concludes that without a black femi nist movement like the white feminist movement, there will be very little growth in terms of black feminist literature, criticism, and black feminist women studies (170). The power is missing from the platform. Thus, she outlines what she believes should constitu te a black feminist criticism. First, Smith wants a black feminist literary tradition that would allow bl ack female writers to show consistency in stylistics, aesthetics, concep ts, and themes. They would write from their social, political, and economic backgrounds; she calls these aspects commonalities (174). Smith cites Zora Neale Hurston, Margar et Walker, Toni Morrison and Alice Walker as examples of writers who use langua ge and details which she sees as germane to the black female experience. Such writers must be committed to exploring how sexual and racial politics and black and female identit y are inextricable elem ents of their works. Smiths second emphasis requires the critic to look first for precedents and insights in interpretation within the works of other Black women. . She would think and write out of her own identity and not try to graft the ideals or methodology of white or male literary thought upon the precious materials of Black womens art. . It would owe its existence to a Black feminist movement while contributing ideas that women in th e movement could use. (174-75) In New Directions for Black Feminist Criticism, Deborah McDowell accuses Smith of not giving examples of what she means by black female language when she
19 refers to Walker, Hurston and Morrison. Although McDowell does agree that women and men manipulate language di fferently, she believes ther e should be further inquiry; for example, do Black female high school drop outs, welfare mothers, college graduates, and PhDs share a common language? (189). She also discredits Smiths method of categorizing Sula as a lesbian novel; she says the designation is vague and imprecise. McDowell questions what specific ideas w ould add to the movement, for she does not think the criticism will change what has created problems for black women throughout history (191). McDowell agr ees there should be more i nnovative approaches to black womens literature. She concurs with Lillie Robinsons statement that ideological criticism must take place in the context of a political movement that can put it to work (226). She also is concerned about the inters ecting of black and wh ite female criticism and wonders if the rubric will require white wo men to use a different set of critical tools to study black female writers. She continue s by reminding readers that Andrea Rushing seems to be suggesting there will need to be a different set of rubrics because white feminist criticism is predicated on Europ ean origins, an approach that would be inappropriate for African-American women write rs. McDowell has stated that she thinks Barbara Smith did good work in opening up the discussion about the definition of black feminist criticism; and she firmly believes that regardless of which theory black feminist critics choose, black feminist critics must have an informed handle on black literature and culture because the grounding will give scholarship more texture and completeness (192). In addition, the critics must not ignore the importance of rigor ous textual analysis (193). McDowell also explains that whether black feminist critic ism should remain a separate entity is still debatable; but she emphasizes that Black fe minist critics ought to move
20 from this issue to consider the specific language of Black womens literature, to describe the ways Black women writers employ literary devices in a distinct way, and to compare the way Black women writers create their ow n mythic structures. She believes these concerns will be the cornerstone for ar ticulation of the Black feminist aesthetic (196-97). Barbara Christians views in Black Feminist Criticism further clarify the differences that exist between European and African-American feminism as she examines the role of motherhood, the eff ect of African womens economic and social roles, and the influence of colonialism. In An Angle of Seeing: Motherhood in Buchi Emechetas Joys of Motherhood and Alice Walkers Meridian , Christian claims her essay is a beginning inquiry rather than a conclusi ve one, which may lead to a more illuminating analysis of the experience and institution of motherhood as found in African and African American female writers and the culture itself (211). Christian, like many other feminist critics, believes that women must tell their own stories. It is their experiences to tell. She states that even though motherhood is re vered and is an important role, it is universally imposed upon women as their sole identity, th eir proper identity, above all others (212). Christians views identify motherhood as a prim ary function of all societies despite other differences. To further support this view Christian makes the following comment: Ironically, the experience unique to women is interpreted for them through male authorities and structures, thro ugh religion, myth, science, politics and economics. What happens to thes e interpretations when women begin to articulate their experience of motherhood and interpret its value accordingly? How does this shift in poi nt of view, this angle of seeing,
21 affect our understanding not only of th e experience, but of the institution as well? How does it help us understand our position as women in our respective societies? (212) Through comparative analysis Christian conc ludes there are many similarities between African and African-American women writers and their perception of motherhood as viewed in their respective soci eties. Christian, just like Fl ora Nwapa, questions the value and limitations placed on women, especially moth ers, in society. Both also emphasize the women who are not mothers; th ese women, too, have stories to tell. In addition, both Christian and Nwapa question the ambiguity of the value of sons instead of daughters. In some societies, sons are more valued th an daughters; concomitantly, daughters who become mothers have as their primary functi on to procreate, a ro le necessary to the survival of society. According to Christia n, The high regard for mothers in African society, then, has both positive and negative effects for women, circumscribing them as it makes them respected because womens identiti es are prescribed as mothers, their lives preordained (214). This concept involves play ing a subordinate role and being submissive to male kin. Christian seems to be emphasi zing that without wome n to procreate there would never be the possibility of men to exist and control the lives of women. Christian, Smith, McDowell, and Nwapa note, of course, that the above view is the traditional view of the status of women in African societies. Ch ristian finds that the latter view stresses the importance of econo mic and social contributions that African women make to traditional societies and as a result their ability to determine, to some extent, their own lives ( 214). Her discussion examines how men and women had separate work choices; the women usually enga ged in trade of a different nature: fish,
22 vegetables, and crafts. The money made from their trade was often theirs to keep. Because of their identity as tr aders and their natural relationship to their mothers family, African women maintained some sense of iden tity and security. However, recent scholars admit that these women still bore an unbalan ced portion of labor because they worked both at home and outside of the home. Christian concludes with comments on colonialisms influence on the traditional status of African women and notes that it is still being debated. It seems that with European influences a woman loses rather than gains autonomy: In being relegated more and more into the private sphere, she lost access to the degree of economic independence she was entitled to under the traditional system, while having to suffer the limitations that had always been a part of her role. . The contemporary situation, however, is as varied and complicated as is the African past. (216-17) In Black Feminist Thought (1990), Patricia Hill Collins agrees with many other feminists that black women must place their thoughts, experiences, and consciousness at the center of their interpretations. They must create their own realities. Collins stresses that coalitions require dial ogue with other groups because each one brings its own distinctive set of experiences and thought s to the field of Black feminism. Through dialogues exploring how relati ons of domination and subordi nation are maintained and changed, she explains, parallels between Black womens experiences and those of other groups become the focus of investigatio n (36). Collins concurs with the views of several African feministssuch as Am a Ata Aidoo, Buchi Emecheta, and Flora Nwapawho see their roles as ones that will bring about changes not just for women, but
23 for humankind, especially African men. This at titude reflects a difference that some scholars see between African-American and African feminism. Collins views Black feminism as a process of self-conscious struggle that empowers women and men to actualize a humanist vision of the community (39). Some African female writers like Buchi Emecheta and Flora Nwapa refuse to cal l themselves feminists because the term is thought to be divisive and too European in its application. Many wo men of color believe European feminism divides men and wome n and often creates womens hatred and antagonism towards men. In addition, since many middle class and upper class European women did not work or were not allowed to work, their sense of freedom was often different from that of their African, Af rican-American, and poor sisters. European womens sense of freedom came from ec onomic and political breakthroughs. Most women of the African diaspora have always worked in some types of jobs even though the level of economic security varied. Howeve r, the one similarity is the need for all women to be respected and valued for their ideas and contributions in the workforce and at home. Flora Nwapa and Buchi Emecheta have said they are not feminists. They argue that their works speak to th e needs of the African comm unity, with an emphasis on women having power to make choices that are not always traditional but still being respected, needed, and included in the commun ity. These views have led to Carole Boyce Davies outline of what cons titutes African feminism in Ngambika (1986). My dissertation will be grounded in concepts of African feminism since it is more relevant to an understanding of the culture fr om which the work stems. For this study I will rely heavily upon definitions and criteria of African feminism set forth by Davies
24 and also draw from Filomena Steady s definition of African feminism in The Black Woman Cross Culturally: An Overview (1981) According to Davies, in Ngambika there are seven characteristics of African feminism: First, African feminism recognizes a common struggle with African men for the removal of the yokes of fo reign domination and European and American exploitation. It [this demand] is not antagonistic to African men, but it challenges them to be aware of certain salient aspects of womens subjugation which differ from the ge neralized oppression of African people. (9) Second, African feminism has a deep consciousness that recognizes the inequities and limitations that existed or exist in traditional societies and realizes that colonialism reinforced them and in turn introduced others (9). The third characteristic focuses on an cient societies in the general sense, recognize[ing] that African societies are an cient societies, so logically, African women must have addressed the probl ems of womens position in soci ety historically. In this regard there already exist, in some societies, structures wh ich give women equality (9). Some of these societies are mentioned by Fl ora Nwapa in her article Priestesses and Power Among the Riverine Igbo (1977). The fourth characteristic of African femi nism analyzes the positive elements of African societies and institutions such as polygamy and the extended family. Davies believes the privilege afforded men and the loss of stature for women are problems that need to be addressed:
25 African feminism examines African so cieties for institutions which are of value to women and rejects those whic h work to their detriment, and does not simply import western womens agendas. Thus, it respects motherhood but questions obligator y motherhood and the traditional favoring of sons. It sees utility in the positive aspects of the extended family and polygamy with respect to child care and the sharing of household responsibility, traditions which are compatible with modern working womens lives and the proble ms of child care but which were distorted with colonialism and conti nue to be distorted in the urban environment. (9) As Davies moves from ancient societies and institutions, she emphasizes the importance of understanding and recognizing African wo mens commitment to cooperation within the social organization when she discusses th e fifth characteristic of African feminism: African feminism respects African wo mans self-reliance and the penchant to cooperative work and social orga nization and the fact that African women are seldom financially depe ndent but instead accept income generating work as a fact of life. It rejects, however, the overburdening, exploitation and regulation to muled om that is often her lot. (10) Davies proceeds to the various approaches to and changes in womens situations in describing the sixth characteristic: an African feminist approach has to look objectively at womens situation in societ ies which have undergone wars of national liberation and social reconstr uction (10). She refers, for example, to the role women
26 played in the revolution of Gu inea Bisseau and in Zimbabwe as well as the Abba war in Nigeria and the role of Yaa Aswatena in Ghana. Davies concludes her views on African feminism by writing, African feminism looks at traditional and contemporary avenues of choice for women. Above all, African women themselves are beginni ng to tell their own stories. All of this must contribute to the development of a true African feminist theory (10). In my analysis of Flora Nwapas novels I will show how Nwapa uses all seven characteristics, but my major concentration will be on the first, s econd, fourth, sixth, and seventh. According to Filomena Steady, in The Black Woman Cross-Culturally: An Overview (1981). African feminism combines awarene ss of racial, sexual, class, and cultural dimensions of oppression to produce a cogent brand of feminism through which women are viewed first and foremost as human s, rather than sexual beings. It focuses on liberation and has an emphasis on examin ation of concepts, perspectives, and methodologies used to bring about change as a basic human right (3-4). In addition, Steady points out that African feminism addr esses the tensions and conflicts of postcolonialism because in tradit ional societies there were many complementary values and communal values that focused on coope ration rather than individualism. Another aspect of African feminism focuses on raising mens and womens consciousness about the economic basis of oppres sion and its roots. St eady asserts that African people throughout the diaspora have been negatively affect ed in the name of western capitalism, and many of the African customs have been destroyed and distorted, but women have suffered a greater loss than men. Thus, women must be resourceful and self-reliant, and they must be involved in the production process. Women must hold
27 managerial positions in banks so they can be able to make decisions in terms of approving loans for women to open up busin esses and buy more products. The current system is male-dominated. Through the language of her characters, Nwapa portrays a male-dominated but often female-directed political and cultural worldview of th e Igbo people consistent with Jonathan Dollimores theory of cultural materialism. In Political Shakespeare: New Essays in Cultural Materialism (1985), Dollimore emphasizes that history and culture are continuously being made through different instit utions and contexts. In other words, the focus of cultural materialism is brought out through what the works signify, how they signify, and which cultural field is reveale d. In addition, it is Dollimores belief that cultural materialism is not designed to neut ralize politics because political significance will always exist in cultures. Its aim is to register the commitments to the transformation of a social order which exploits people on grounds of race, gender, and class (viii). Flora Nwapas novels fit the guidelines of cultural materialism since they convey messages about womens roles in society based on historical tradition. Dollimores comment that history is not just in the past, but is being ma de continuously is applicable to the messages Nwapas characters espouse. As a reader and schol ar, I bring a certain understanding to her works. As I challenge and sometimes agree with roles assigned women in their given culture, I will be argui ng for a transformation of the social order that exploits the women. Nwapas char acterslike Idu, Efuru, Amaka, and Aunt Anjanpuall are still making history. They make statements and display actions that ask the community to accept change.
28 I will analyze Nwapas three novels to dete rmine how they explic ate and illustrate the economic, political, social, and educatio nal constraints plac ed on African women based on traditional cultural practices. The wo rks perfectly illustrate Marxs statement that men and women make their own history bu t not in conditions of their own choosing. Dollimore says the latter half of Marxs statement concentrates on the formative power of social and ideological structures which ar e both prior to experience and in some sense determining of it, and so opens up the whol e question of autonomy (3). Nwapas novels dramatically illustrate that women do not c hoose their conditions and may be forced to make choices that may not be in agreemen t with traditional mores. What else can they do? Examining and understanding these choices de pends in large part upon the dialogue of the female characters in Nwapa. Most criti cs agree that language is culturally and politically based; thus, the dialogue the wr iter assigns to her characters posits a worldview about a given culture or group of pe ople at a specific time. This studys effort to analyze Nwapas dialogue in terms of th e womens sense of consciousness and efforts to define themselves through choice draws largely upon Bakhtins views in The Dialogic Imagination (1930s) and Mae Hendersons in Speaking in Tongues: Dialogics, Dialectics and the Black Woma n Writers: Literary Traditi on (1990). The title of the dissertation--Choice and Discovery: An An alysis of Women and Culture in Flora Nwapas Worksacknowledges the studys gr ounding in Bakhtins theories of speech acts, polyphony, and heteroglossia and Henders ons modification of those theories to show what choice and discovery mean for the individual and community. Bakhtin, in The Dialogic Imagination, writes, The novel can be defined as a
29 diversity of social speech types and a di versity of individual voices, artistically organized (263). He believes the novel cont ains an internal stra tification of social dialects, group behaviors, professional ja rgon, language of genera tions, and age groups languages that serve spec ific sociopolitical pur poses of the day as the novel orchestrates all its themes, the totality of the world of objects and ideas depicted and expressed in it, by means of the social diversity of speech types and by the differing individual voices that flourish under such conditions (263). Gr oup behavior is often specific to a given people in a culture; therefore, the actions or voices reflect th e cultural group behavior or method of socialization. It is Bakhtins belief that the diffe rent voicessuch as authorial speech, speeches of narrators, and speeches of charactersare basic compositional unities that compete for authority and mu st flourish under set conditions; these voices make up what he calls utterances and langua ges. Thus, language is a worldview seeking understanding, and it is always in a state of be-coming. According to Bakhtin, the significance of speech used in a novel is understood against the background of language, while its actual meaning is understood ag ainst the background of other concrete utterances on the same theme, a background made up of contradictory opinions, points of view and value judgments (281). Since any ut terance is a speech act, he believes the background complicates the path of the word to wards the object. All words have specific meanings, but those meanings may change sl ightly or greatly depending on the context, point of view, and value judgment of other sp eech acts related to the subject. Thus, the environment given to the speaker affects the consciousness of the listener and his background responses. Bakhtin explains heteroglossia in the nove l in terms of the difference between the
30 authors story and the narrators story. He says there are two levels or points of view at the same time. The narrators system is filled with objects, meanings, and emotional expression and the level of the author w ho speaks by means of this story (314). The second level involves the author s telling of the story thr ough the narrator while at the same time the author does not intrude in the telling of the story. T hus, the reader has to extract the authors intentions as presented by the narrator who often informs the reader from a non-biased perspective. Heteroglossia obviously in volves the interacting of languages and speech acts. I be lieve that Nwapas characte rs are consciously espousing ideas that women hold in their communities about the roles of women. Some female characters do support a more traditional role for women wh ile others support a more flexible view, and some female characters s how changes in their views and actions. Thus, I conclude that Nwapas characters are in a state of becoming since many of them like Efuru and Amaka change their vi ews and actions in the novels. Heteroglossia is defined as a base co ndition governing the op eration of meaning in any utterance. At any given time, in any given place, there will be a set of conditions-social, historical, meteorological, physiologi calthat will insure that a word uttered in that place at that time will have a differ ent meaning than it would under any other conditions (291). It is Bakhtins belief that all language is he teroglot from beginning to end because it represents the co-existence of socio-ideological contradictions between the present and the past, between differing ep ochs of the past, be tween different socioideological groups in the pres ent, between tendencies, schoo ls, circles and so forth, all given a bodily form (291). In addition, it is Bakhtins contention that these contradictory elements do not exclude each other; rather, they all intersect with each other in different
31 ways. Bakhtin maintains each social group sp eaks its own social dialect, possesses its own unique language expressing shared values perspectives, ideology, and norms. These social dialects become the languages of he teroglossia, intersecting with each other in many different ways . . As such they all may be juxtaposed to one another, mutually supplement one another, contradict one a nother and be interre lated dialogically (292-93). In reference to speech used in a novel, Bakhtin says the speech is understood against the background of the language while the meaning is made clear from the background of utterances of others on the sa me theme, contradict ory opinions, point of view and value judgments. He seems to beli eve the listeners cons ciousness helps the listener to understand the sp eakers intent. Thus, response becomes very important because it creates ground for active and engaged understanding. Understanding and response are dialectically merged and mutua lly condition each other; one is impossible without the other (282). As Bakhtin focu ses on the speaking person in the novel, the person represents an ideology. It is believed the language spoken by the person in the novel is a way of viewing the world, one that strives for social significance (333). My view of Flora Nwapas novels is that her characters seem to more than adequately portray the view of their traditiona l village among a now more developed and changing culture influenced by western concepts. Nwapas nove ls simultaneously display traditional life and utterances by women who seem to advoc ate a need for change. The most powerful utterances are espoused by characters who de sire to bring about more flexibility and options for women. Because these women are advocating changes while still desiring to be accepted within the tradit ional community, I see the conflict and integration or
32 intersecting aiming toward cooperation. The actions and utterances of the characters seem to challenge the reader to understand and respond to the situ ations of the characters. Mae Hendersons essay Speaking In T ongues: Dialogics, Di alectics and the Black Woman Writers: The Literary Traditi on modifies Bakhtins views on dialogism and consciousness to complement her approach which involves a theory of interpretation based on what she calls the simultaneity of discourse. In her essay Henderson focuses on how many different views of race a nd gender combined with interconnected relationships can structure the discourse of black women writers. Henderson says she seeks to account for racial difference with in gender identity and gender difference within racial identity (117). She contends, i f language for Bakhtin is an expression of social identity, then subjecthood is constituted as a social entity through the role of the word as medium of consciousness (118) Consciousness is analogized to language because a persons own environment shapes her or his consciousness. Henderson sees consciousness as a kind of inner speech reflect ing the outer word in a process that links the psyche, language, and social inte raction. She focuses on the process of the heteroglossic voices of the other(s) as they encounter one another and coexist in the consciousness of real people. Sh e posits the view that the voices of black women writers are privileged by social posit ion that allows them to speak in dialogicall y racial and gendered voices to the other(s) both within and without in re ference to their own social, historical, and gender situations (119). Not only does Henderson use Bakhtins concepts, she also employs ideas from Audre Lorde, Barbara Christian, and Hans-Georg Gadamer. Henderson quotes Lordes view that black women have to deal with the external manifesta tions of racism and
33 sexism and the results of dist ortions internalized within our consciousness of ourselves and one another (119). Moreover, Henderson believes that black womens writings are the privileging rather than the repressing of the other in ourselves. In reference to Gadamers views, she sees Gadamers dial ectal model of conversation as one of consensus, communality where one claims to understand the other better than the other understands her or himself. This view is the opposite of Bakhtins model, which is described by Henderson as adversarial because it is viewed as contestation. According to Henderson, Gadamers dialecti c privileges tradition as . a genuine partner in communicati on with which we have fellowship as does the I with a Thou. It is this rereading of the notion of tradition within a field of gender and ethnicity that supports and enables the notion of community among those who shar e a common history, language, and culture. (120) Henderson believes black women writers enter simultaneously into familial or testimonial and public or competitive discoursesdiscourses that both affirm and challenge the values and expectations of the reader. Familial discourse is different from public discourse because public discourse challenges the values and expecta tions of the reader while familial discourse affirms the beliefs of the reader. She analyzes how black women compete with black men, white women, white men, and sometimes with other black women. For example, if black men and women enter into discourse as Blacks that would be familial discourse; and if black women and white women enter into discourse as women that would be familial discourse; and, yes, even women of different socioeconomic levels can enter into familial discourse with each other as women.
34 Henderson points out that at the same tim e these groups can enter into public or competitive discourse if the women compete against the men, white women compete against black women, and black women against black men. Henderson uses the character Jani e in Zora Neale Hurstons novel Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937) to demonstrate her point. Janies speeches are described as examples of personal and public discourse. He ndersons best analysis of this designation occurs when Janie is on trial for killing her husband and must speak to the white, male audience and at the same time communicate with the male and female black audience--in reference to their lying thoughts and misunde rstandings--to defend herself. Because Janie has to speak in a plurality of voices a nd in a multiplicity of discourses, Henderson calls her act of communicating speaking in tongues. She belie ves this novel of development is an example of women moving from voicelessness to voice. It is this concept of voicelessness to voice through a plurality of voices and multiplicity of discourses that I will appl y to Flora Nwapas novels Efuru Idu and One is Enough. Consciousness is reflected in the outer wo rd used by the characters in literary works. Henderson says the outer word is a process that links th e psyche, language, and social interaction (118). However, Bakhtin sees language as th e idea of individual consciousness and describes the language as a borderline co nsciousness between oneself and the other, arguing that it becomes ones own only when the speaker populates it with his own intention, his ow n accent, where he appropriate s the word, adapting it to his own semantic and expressive intention (293). This view is similar to that of Norman Holland, who argues, in Unity Identity Text Self (1975) that each individual has an identity theme. When she reads an authors work, she re-creates the authors work
35 that is a reflection of the au thors identity theme in terms of her own identity theme (126). Thus, the language of both the writer a nd the reader is characterized by their own intention and accent, parts of their identity. To further explain this concept of he teroglossia, I note that Mae Henderson believes when women use their multiple voices, the writers are entering into familial or public discourse as both affirm and challenge the values and expectations of the reader (121). For example, when the character Janie in Their Eyes Were Watching God addresses the white jurors and judicial syst em, she is trying to convince them and the Blacks in town of her innocence or self-defense theory. She is speaking as a black woman to a male, white audience and must simu ltaneously convince black women and black men, especially Tea Cakes friends, that he r action was self-defense. Do all listeners accept her defense theory? It is difficult for so me black men because to them it seems as if the white men are siding with the black woman against the black man. Thus, the women writers are projecting women charac ters who use multiple voices sometimes publicly and privately at the same time. On the other hand, Bakhtin sees the multiple voices as challenging each other and challengi ng the reader rather than performing for both at the same time. Bakhtins view of dialogism, speech acts, and heteroglossia and Mae Hendersons modified view of dialogism and consciousne ss, her view of plurality of voices and multiplicity of discourses, describe the complex dialogue of Nwapas novels as many voices speak simultaneously to the same issue but sometimes from different views, as multiple voices seek communal agreement in stead of contestation. Such an approach supports the theory that feminist methodology sh ould not restrict itself to one view or
36 method but choose the best among many. Hende rson sees the many voices as working together to offer various fe male viewpoints about their roles in the community. Bakhtin, on the other hand, sees varying voices compe ting against each other. Nwapas characters appear to be seeking a co mmunal cohesiveness where ma ny voices and choices can survive in a complementary manner.
37 Chapter II Review of Critical and Theoretical Literature on Flora Nwapas Novels In Contemporary African Literature and the Politics of Gender (1994), Florence Stratton accuses Gerald Moore, Eustace Pa lmer, and Eldred Jones of using double standards and incorrect ly assessing womens novels beca use some of those novels do not conform to male narrative structure. According to Stratton, Eustace Palmers An Introduction to the African Novel (1972) refers only once to a woman writer, labeling Flora Nwapa an inferior noveli st (61). Stratton emphasizes that women are also absent from Palmers second book, Growth of the African Novel (1979), and that most surveys, including Gerald Moores Twelve African Writers (1980), exclude women. Stratton argues that Palmer and other male critics ar e using a western or male-dominated canon as a checklist for African literature, a canon that does not includ e women authors. With Flora Nwapa, the reader is introduced to both a female African author and also to fiction in which women play the cen tral roles. The critical reception has been diverse. Some critics question Nwapas craftsmanship: her structure, characterization, themes, and language. Some compare Efuru to the popular Concubine by Elechi Amadi, focusing upon the shortcomings of the female novel, the excellence of the male. Critics struggle with what they see as contradictory directions, a tension between African and colonial and western influences. They struggl e with Nwapas view of the role of women, noting an emphasis upon tradition but also an emphasis upon change. And a few critics question Nwapas accomplishments in the c ontext of feminist cr iticism. What is
38 definitely clear is that Flora Nwapa has affected the thinking and emotions of many thoughtful readers. In this ch apter I have chosen to begi n by presenting the negative comments about Nwapas works and move to the more positive comments about her works. This method is important to my st udy because this avenue of exploration will allow me to ease into a study that focuses on choice and discovery based on the language and actions of female characte rs in Flora Nwapas fiction. Many critics have not unders tood or liked Nwapas narr ative structure. Adewale Maja-Pearce takes Eustace Palmer to task for castigating Nwapa for what Palmer calls her amateurism (10). In his review of Efuru, Palmer writes, Flora Nwapas novel leaves the reader with the impr ession that its author has not mastered her craft. It lacks the fluency, effortlessness, and economy of The Concubine It is too obviously a first novel (57). Palmer believes Nwapa incl udes too many details on the life and mannerisms of the Igbo people. It is Palmers be lief that the novel could have been cut in half since it contains too much unnecessary so ciological information. He adds that he is not against sociological info rmation, but Nwapa crams it in at every available opportunity without regard to the struct ure and demands of the novel she is supposed to be writing (57). Palmer suggests that Nwapa should have studied Chinua Achebes work Things Fall Apart to see how to use sociological inform ation skillfully in a work of art. Palmer analyzes Nwapas fiction as an at tempt at a work of art and says it does not measure up to high standards. Palmer believes Nwapa has not enough psychological insight or powers of charact erization to balance her ove rly long descriptions. For example, in Efuru he contends that the plot does not agree with the outcome. He also
39 does not find a dominant theme in the novel: in his introduction to The Growth of the African Novel he writes, A novel, while being a realistic work of fiction, is not a photographic copy of everything th at has gone on in society. It is the scrupulous process of selection during which the author assembles his materials from with in the social or historical situation, transforming them into a satisfying work of art which gives his own interpretation of the situation, an interpretation which might be quite different from the historians or the sociologists. (7) Palmer argues that the artistry of the novel should include coherence of plot and structure, language, setting, presentation of character, descriptive power (9) and emphasizes that an authors technique should give the work its semblance of realism. Palmer explains that he is not saying sociological criticism is inadequate, for he is in favor of a criticism which evaluates the litera ry quality of the work and also discusses the novelists concern with treatment of real i ssues that are relevant to the lives of the people. The considerations influencing cri tical judgment should be human, literary, and social (8). Palmer contends that a novel does not have to include every detail of life in a culture and that a novels author inevitably po rtrays the situation from her own social or historical situation, which may be different from the views of others in the culture. The following comment by Palmer reveals much a bout his assessment of Nwapas works: We must never forget that in the business of criticism we are primarily concerned with the work in front of us, not with its
40 background. In the final analysis our attitude will depend on whether we regard the novel as a work of art which demands evaluation, or as a sociological or historical document whose main function is to act as a ha ndmaid of sociology or history and teach us about our societies. (8) It is evident that Palmer dislikes Nwapas narrative style because it contains too much sociological information. He believes that, as a handmaid of sociology (8), Nwapa was too concerned with background info rmation to make readers aware of how long-standing traditional cultural habits often discriminated against women and made them feel unappreciated. To me, being made aware of difficulties is not the same as teaching about society. It seems that Nwapa does exactly what Palmer says she should: she portrays the situation from her own soci al or historical situation, which may be different from the views of others in the culture ( 7 ). For example, Efuru is reminded that even though her husband has been gone for several years and is living with another woman, she is not to worry because God will ma ke everything all right. Efuru is told to give her husband Adizua one more year, and if he does not return to her and she has an offer of marriage from another man with a good background, she should leave her husbands compound and marry again, for no one will raise an accusing finger at her. She will be congratulated. With these examples, Nwapa problematizes instances when a marriage fails and the woman is blamed ev en when the community knows otherwise. As Florence Stratton points out Palmer charges Nwapas Efuru with a whole litany of deficiencies: theme, character, plot, setting, a nd language. All are mishandled by Nwapa according to Palmer and Jones (82). However, Stratton goes on to show the
41 patriarchal thought patterns that she claims surface in the reviews of works by women and men. According to Jones, Flora Nwapas novels inform about Igbo village life while Amadis informs about human nature. The gap is wide indeed. What Nwapas novel lacks is a strong overall con ception apart from the obvious urge to show how Igbos live (129). Jones calls Elechi Amadis The Concubine (1966) a penetrating study . of a man with a mother fixation forced by circ umstances to marry . an emotionally immature girl, but Nwapas world is predominantly a feminine world, and Efuru reads like a manual on how young brides are treated in an Igbo village (130). Several questions arise when one examines the termi nology Jones uses to discuss both novels. He calls Amadis The Concubine a penetrating study while he refers to Nwapas Efuru as a manual (130). What are his definitions fo r study and manual? Why is a study better than a manual? What does Jones m ean when he says Nwapas novel lacks a strong overall conception? Las tly, Jones refers to Nwapas novel as a manual on how young brides are treated in Igbo culture. But th e novel focuses on much more than brides: it focuses on how womenmarried, divorce d, widowed, single, childless, and with childrenare treated in Igbo culture, especially if they seem to step outside traditional roles. It even is detailed in its portrayal of male gender roles. Both Efuru and The Concubine are novels about life in an Igbo cult ure, portrayals of human nature, and human interactions. And, yes, Efuru does focus on an unusual perspective: what women try to do to satisfy everyone. Eldred Jones says Amadi succeeds in conveying the feeling of the Igbo community because he chooses appropriate proverbs and idioms while Nwapa fails because her novel is full of small talk, a nd she employs too many details (129). Yet one
42 scholar, Austin Shelton, writes that Nwapa used 18 proverbs whereas Amadi used 26 (38); and one must question whether the phr ase small talk has a negative implication, that is, whether the phrase demeans wome ns thoughts. How can Jones contend that Amadi succeeds in conveying the feeling of Igbo community? Can Amadi, a man, speak for all the women of the Igbo commun ity, or is that what Nwapa offers, an extraordinary range of female voices in an Igbo community? Stratton is accurate in indicating the danger of a ch auvinistic handling and dism issal of womens voices. In evaluating Jones and Palmer, Stratton identifi es some of the patriarchal bias Nwapas novels have been subjected. Critics Solomon Ogbede Iyasere and Na dine Gordimer support Palmers and Jones views. Iyasere classifies Efuru as a type of novel that emphasizes social and political realities, but in a ve ry pedestrian and rambling manner. Like Palmer, Gordimer has problems with Nwapas purpose in Efuru Palmer sees the novel as a string of episodes and wonders whether it is a personal tragedy of a pure woman or about man at the mercy of gods? (58). Nadine Gordimer categorizes writers in Africa as either testifiers or those who are act ually creating a modern African literature (7). She believes the testifiers give us eful information about traditional African life and social customs and changes, but also like their counterparts, le sser writers all over the world, they take stock-in-trade abstrac tions of human behavior and look for a dummy to dress in them, a dummy put together out of prototypes in other peoples books rather than from observation of living people. They set th ese dummies in action, and you
43 watch till they run down; there is no attempt to uncover human motivation whether of temperamen t, from within, or social situation, from without. (19) Gordimer names two writers who fall into this category, William Conton, who wrote The Africans and Flora Nwapa, who wrote Efuru It is Gordimers belief that many educated Africans think they must write a book whether they possess the skills or not. Gordimer states, In Africa, a literature is still seen largely as a function of the benefits of education, automatically conferred upon a society which has a quota of Western educated people. The West Africa pidgin English concept to know book goes further than it may a ppear; many school teachers, clerks, and other white collar work ers seem to write a nove l almost as a matter of duty. (19) Gordimer says the real writers often have othe r jobs, such as being President of a country, like Leopold Senghor, so lesser writers attempt to fill the gap and supply reading material for the masses. Nwapa is accused by some, then, of not know ing what she is doing as well as not possessing the skills to write a novel as opposed to a sociological tr eatise. According to Gordimer, Nwapa has presented Efuru as a childless woman whose bewilderment and frustration are left unexplored. Further, she charges that Nwapa does not know enough about her own creation, so she fills in the vacuum with rambling details of daily life which are interesting but irre levant (20). Flora Nwapa only dimly senses the theme of her novel; all she has seen is the disparate seri es of events in the life of Efuru (21).
44 Gordimer does not believeas this study will arguethat Efurus condition as a childless woman is explored throughout the nove l as Efuru searches for answers to why anyone must be blamed for a womans childle ss condition or for the death of her child. Nwapa challenges a culture in which women cannot be fully accepted even if God does not make it possible for them to have child ren. She asks, what about the usefulness of women as human beings whether they are mothers or not? Other criticslike Femi Ojo-Ade, Su san Andrade, Florence Stratton, Lloyd Brown, and Joseph Asanberecognize, even em phasize, the effect that colonialism and western influences have had on African art. Th ey see Nwapas work as very important in understanding African culture. Ojo-Ade, for example, recognizes, in Female Writers, Male Critics (1983), that African literature is a male-centere d and chauvinistic art, with colonialism having energized traditional view s in which the male is thought to be the master, the woman to be the flower, not the wo rker. He identifies col onial influences as the trappings of capitalism, Christian hypocri sy and civilized char latanism (164). OjoAde also notes that women face many problem s, such as publishers seeking out male writers but not female, as well as cultural ex pectations that women keep quiet. Further, Ojo-Ade believes that taboos die slowly. But Ojo-Ade argues that womens voices mu st be recognized and their role in the struggle to decolonialize must not be ove rlooked (159). He c oncludes that Nwapas works Idu and Efuru reflect societys confusions about the roles of women. For example, he discusses the differences between Efur us relationship with her first husband, Adiwere, and traditional societal expectations about her marriage in contrast to her relationship with her second husband, Gilbert, and mixed so cietal expectations and
45 responses. He believes this para dox exists in society. Further, the more traditional Idu rebels agains t tradition while the more modern Efuru espouses tradition. Flora Nwapas novels are quintessential examples of the ironies and contra dictions rampant in developing Africa, and womanhood is part of the whole syndrome. (165) Africans must examine their traditions, customs, and myths. But the female writer having gone through the same, or almost th e same, experience as men, should have something to say about the experience, name ly Colonialism-Christianity-Civilization (Ojo-Ade 161). Ojo-Ade sees the character Efuru as a mouthpiece for Nwapas personal notions of life and believes Nwapa creates great empat hy for her heroine. But Ojo-Ade says those same qualities that cause the reader to empathize with Efuru also set her up as a victim of tragedy. He points out that Efur u broke several traditional rule s, such as marrying without a dowry and refusing to work on the farm w ith her husband. However, Ojo-Ade questions why female readers denounce her husband as unfaithful and irresponsible when he leaves. He explains, The answer to such an accusatory po sture would be trad ition. Man marries wives. Man makes decisions. Man is lo rd and master. If Efuru had been a loving, submissive wife, maybe sh e would not have been abandoned. Besides her problem with children, as she herself asserts, it constitutes an inadequacy that could be exploited. (163) Ojo-Ade does not address the contradiction that her husband allows Efuru to keep her business and marry him without a dowry; that is, he is willing to be untraditional at
46 one time and not at another. But Ojo-Ade concludes by emphasizing that many myths about Africa need to be eradicated and that Nwapas novel to a degree succeeds in doing just that. He believes Nwapas use of trad ition and modernism cannot be separated but also creates confusion, for Efuru represents both the past and the present. Modernism, based on Ojo-Ades text, is the influence of colonialism on traditional customs; again, he is referring to Christianity and capitalism in terms of how they affect African society. In Rewriting History, Motherhood, and Rebellion: Naming an African Womens Literary Tradition (1990), Susan Andrade also speaks of the effect of colonialism on African literature. She contends that what interests her in Ef uru is not the authenticity or the importance of village life, but rather the tensions that the first woman-authored novel must confront when written in a colonial/neocolonial situa tion (97). Andrade posits the view that Nwapa manipulates the language and narrative form of the colonizer; on the other hand, she represents a di gnified African female charact er against the backdrop of frequently pejorative representations of female characters by male authors (97). It seems that Andrade believes Nwapa favors traditional discourse over modern because she emphasizes the virtue of the protagonist a nd the importance of I gbo customs. Efuru is, however, a character who, I think, voices a subtle protest against some traditional views and limited roles for women. There must be an emphasis on Igbo customs to show Igbo society and non-Igbo society how some customs limit women as individuals. Florence Stratton, in Contemporary African Literature and the Politics of Gender (1994), and Lloyd Brown, in Women Writers in Black Africa (1981), find contradictory assertions in Andrades anal ysis of the discourse of tr adition and the discourse of modernity in Nwapa; they accuse Andrade of misreading Nwapas works and using
47 approaches and definitions of feminism that are wester n and do not support African culture. Andrade believes Nwapa upholds indigenous practices like polygamy and clitoridectomy and sees this position as favoring traditional Igbo customs. Stratton points out that Andrade has problems with the closure of Efuru According to Andrade, although the novel m oves toward a celebration of Efurus independence, economic success, and goodness, th ere is a constant undercurrent of doubt about the ability of women without children to be happy (100). The closing paragraph of the novel reiterates Nwapas ambivalence a bout how a childless woma n in a traditional culture is treated. This concern makes Andr ade wonder why women co ntinue to worship Uhamiri when Uhamiri has no children. Seve ral criticsand I agre ethink the question is ironic and rhetorical; but Andrade be lieves the novels ending negates the positive ideas that Efuru has espoused throughout th e novel. Stratton notes that Andrade has, however, overlooked the changes that have o ccurred in Efurus circumstances and the description of the established narrative patt ern in the closing lines of the novel (98). Those lines say Efuru slept soundly that night after realizing Uham iri had no children. The lines imply peace and contentment and s uggest that women should be accepted and respected just like Uhamiri whether they have children or not. Does Andrade misunderstand that Uhamiri is a symbol of traditional matriarchy and represents power, peace, and independence? All the women and men pray to Uhamiri because she represents peace, independence, power, and co ntentment. Andrades misunderstanding is one reason Stratton and Brown, among others accuse Andrade of misreading Nwapas works. According to Stratton, Efurus dreams provide an alternative [speech act] to that
48 which gossip embodies. It is a discovery that enables Efuru to react against and transgress the patriarchal [speech act] that entraps her (96). Theodora Ezeigbo, in Myth, History, Culture, and Igbo Womanhood in Flora Nwapas Novels (1998), notes that the worshi pers of Uhamiri are both male and female, but Nwapa has modified this practice in he r novels, allowing only women to function as devotees and worshipers of the deity (5455). Uhamiri is described by Nwapa as an Oguta woman par excellence, who embodies the best qualities of Oguta womanhood, being beautiful, rich, assertive, i ndependent, hard-working, and married. The modification allows Nwapa to empower wo men and uplift them. Ezeigbo believes the deconstruction and reconstruction of the Uham iri myth allows Nwapa to recreate and remodel the goddess to achieve her purpose of providing mythic, psycho logical as well as practical, explanations for female existen ce and condition in her Oguta cultural tradition (56). Joseph Asanbe, a Nigerian critic, focuses upon the socio-historical context of both author and literary works in his study The Place of the Individual in the Novels of Chinua Achebe, T. M. Aluko, Flora Nwapa and Wole Soyinka (1979). He looks at how the transatlantic slave trade, Christian missiona ry activities in Africa, and the western European colonization of Africa in the 19th century influenced the portrait of the individual in African novels. It is his belief that the last two had a more profound effect than the first. Asanbe does not agree with Andrade, who states that Nwapa favors tradition over modernity since she emphasizes the virtue and importance of Igbo customs in her protagonists. Asanbe posits the following view:
49 She seems to believe that Igbo life does not favor full development of the individual. Nwapa often shows a great sympathy for Igbo traditions and her illiterate protagonists. She endows them with noble sentiment and deeds. Both Efuru and Idu, the heroines of Efuru and Idu respectively, generously come to the aid of their needy neighbors. Often, in the novels of Nwapa, tragic events result more from a combination of fate and character rather than from the a dverse forces of tradition. (14) Asanbe does not consider that the limita tions of tradition as well as characters personalities and choices are mostly respons ible for the fate Nwapas women confront. These female characters would rather not di srespect tradition, but they would like for tradition not to devalue them if they are not able to have children. Asanbe, however, does realize that Nwapas female characters are ha ppy because they exert free will and create life styles for themselves. Asanbe says they are comfortable in Igbo society; they do not contend with two cultures, African and western. He concludes that culture and fate affect what happens to a character by the end of Nwapas novels (78). Gay Wilentz, in From Africa to America: Cultural Ties That Bind in the Works of Contemporary African and African American Women Writers (1986), and Lloyd Brown are among the critics who most appreciate Flora Nwapas accomplishment. Wilentz admires Nwapas integration of tradition and change as well as her language. Nwapa, she writes, tried to find choices for her female characters that allow them to respect and uphold tradition while still maki ng other choices that do not coincide with traditional Igbo habits. Wilentz maintains, Nwapa, in he r works, illustrates dialectically that, as upholders of tradition, women are powerful fi gures, economically secure and socially
50 vibrant, yet are limited in their choices by the restrictive cultural milieu (16). Unlike Eustace Palmer and others, who see Nwapas dialogue as a ceaseless flow of talk, Wilentz asserts that Nwapa focuses atte ntion upon the sounds a nd voices of women (xxiv), a technique I will examine in detail in my analyses of the community and society at large in Nwapas novels. Wilentz shows th at Efuru protests mildly throughout the novel when she circumvents traditional cust oms, such as selecting her own husbands without advice from elders and family because she is determined to have her own way to a degree. According to Wilentz, women are ca ught in a bind because too many traditions are not to their best advantage, yet they must honor them if they want to be accepted and respected in the community (32). Brownlike Wilentz, Asanbe, and other cri ticsagrees that Efuru tries to be a conventional wife while she demonstrates a healthy disregard for norms that seem irrelevant or unduly restrictive (142). He calls Efuru a female novel of growth, further stating that Idu and Efuru have the same themes, but that the tone of Idu is more somber because of the cycles of life and death it describes and the communal presencepressing and insistentthat dominates its dialogic struct ure. Nwapa allows most of the dialogues to take place in small groups of speakers. Br own believes this techni que has the effect of giving the communitys viewpoint from a personal perspective and also allowing members to speak frequently. Because of the pe rceived personal perspective, there is a correspondingly greater sense of freedom in the startling nature of Idus final choice (156), that is, in her refusal to marry her br other-in-law after her husband, Adiewere, dies suddenly. Instead, she seems to will her death so she will not have to follow tradition. A few critics, like Asanbe and Ezeigbo, believe she dies of a broken heart; however, this
51 study will support the view of a womans making a choice within her community. Brown concludes by saying Nwapa never completely resolves the question of how a woman may achieve independence while supporting and f unctioning within a closely-knit communal system. However, she gives her characters ot her alternatives. Efur u chooses to worship Uhamiri, goddess of the lake, who is stil l sanctioned by the communitys social and religious tradition, while Idu c hooses death, a choice that allo ws her to join her husband and/or at the same time escape from the communitys traditional choice of marrying her shiftless brother-in-law. Because Nwapa allows certain female ch aracters to circumvent the communal system, Asanbe calls the choi ces the female characters make free will and sees these characters as being happy and comfortable in their choices. While Brown agrees that the characters do satisfy their personal needs ra ther than accept the communitys criteria, he calls the choice a result of Nwapas bala ncing act between modernity and tradition. Nwapa has not outwardly rejected the comm unitys expectations, for the community respects Uhamiri; thus, Nwapas female charact ers escape what is perceived as complete failure by the community. Both women and co mmunity are left with a sense of pride intact. But Brown does not go as far as to sa y the characters are happy and comfortable or possess free will. Inevitably in discussions of works of literature that reflect both the traditional and the modern in the lives of women, the question arises of where the work fits in feminist dialogue. Critics like Mary Kolawole, in Womanism and African Consciousness (1997), and Obioma Nnaemeka, in Feminism, Rebellious Women, and Cultural Boundaries: Rereading Flora Nwapa and her Compatriots (1995), look at the voices and language
52 used by the characters, especially the female characters, to determine what Flora Nwapa is suggesting to her community about women and their choices. Kolawole states that analysis of the discourse and its relations hip to womens reality makes it obvious that Nwapas women are negotiating their own space, that is, representing a change from the traditional expectation of accepting and followi ng the prescribed traditional way of Igbo life. My study will examine the outcome of the negotiated choices made by characters in Nwapas works. Nnaemeka discusses how some scholars mi suse and abuse feminist theory in relation to African women writers and scholarsh ip because of their various definitions of the term feminism (84). Nnaemeka explains w hy Nwapa at certain times claimed to be a feminist and at other times an ordinary wo man writing about what she knew. She also shows how Nwapa tried to project the image of women positively. According to Nnaemeka, Nwapas explanation about what kind of woman she was varied based upon how the question was asked. Nnaemeka says if the definition or que stion of feminism corresponded to what Nwapa knew, she claime d to be a feminist; and if it did not correspond to what she knew, she rejected the la bel. She claims there is no inconsistency in Nwapas position. What was inconsistent wa s the way the question of feminist identity was framed and posed; what was inconsistent was the location, physical and ideological, from which Nwapa was hounded for an answer (84). By this statement, Nnaemeka means that often westerners asked Nwapa if she was a feminist based on their ideology and definition of feminism which often conf licted with Nwapas definition, so Nwapa responded by saying she was not a feminist. Too often the situation arose outside of Africa; for example, Marie Umeh asked th e question based on Karen Franks article,
53 which used the phrase radical feminist. Nwa pa said, no, she was not a feminist because Nwapa did not choose to use the phrase radic al feminist. According to Nwapa, she was an ordinary woman writing about womens issu es in hope of projecting positive images of women. Nnaemeka writes that [r]eading Nwapa should not be a refe rendum on radical feminism. . Nwapas work captures the complexity, ambiguities, and contradictions of her environment as they are embellished in the force that lies at the bottom of the lake, Uhamiri, the goddess of the crossroads. Her work locates us at the crossroads, inviting us to as k questions, many questions. (104) Nnaemeka refers to Nwapas heroines as refo rmers, not rebels, for she believes they are negotiating choices within the context of cultural boundaries. I dus decision at the end of Idu is, of course, an excellent example that wi ll be explored in detail in Chapter V. Lloyd Brown, Mary Kolawole, Gay Wilentz, and Obioma Nnaemeka seem to most accurately understand Flora Nwapas wo rks. Nwapa, I contend, focuses on choice and discovery for women within the commun ity; the characters language and actions reveal their negotiation of thei r positions in Igbo society. Chap ter III decodes cultural and gender symbols important in understanding Igbo culture. Chapters IV, V, and VI focus on what specific choices mean for women within their communities.
54 Chapter III Cultural Practices of the Igbo Influencing Nwapas Novels To understand and evaluate Flora Nwapas views of Uhamiri and the roles of priestesses, goddesses, and wo mennot simply motherhood but matriarchal status in Igbo spirituality and language-the reader needs to consider how Nwapa portrays and modifies some of these concepts in her l iterary works. Scholars like Victor Uchendu, Emmanuel Edeh, Elechi Amadi, Sabine Jell-Bahlsen, and Theodora Ezeigbo are especially notable for thei r analysis of the Nigeri an culture of the Igbo. Nigeria is a very diverse country with se veral regions and ethnic groups like the Yoruba in the southwest, the Hausas in the no rth, and the Igbos in the southeast. Victor Uchendu, in The Igbo of Southeast Nigeria describes the location of the Igbo people, the physical features of the region, its climate, the population and their origin, and diverse features of Igbo culture. There are four distinct regions of Igboland: the riverine, the delta, the central and the northeas tern belts. Rivers such as the Niger, Imo, Anambra, and Urashi help give the region its divers e physical features. Emmanuel Edeh, in Towards an Igbo Metaphysics writes that Igboland covers Imo, Anam bra, and the eastern part of the Bendel states. The river Niger divides Igbo la nd into unequal parts: the western Igbos and the eastern Igbos, with only one tenth of I gbos living in the western portion. The overall population is approximately thirteen million w ith the majority of the population living in Onitsha, Orlu, Okigwi, and the Mbaise axis (E deh 9). Flora Nwapa was from the Riverine area, a town called Oguta in Imo state. Nwapa believed that the people in Oguta are from
55 Bendel state and migrated to Oguta ma ny years ago. Uchendu begins by focusing on what he calls the Igbo world with reference to material, spiritua l and sociocultural elements that make up its cosmology. He divides cosmology into two categories: ethics, which defines what an Igbo ought to do and wh at he or she ought to avoid; and an action system, which reveals what the Igbo actually do as manifested in their overt and covert behavior (11). As this dissertation will make clear, elements in Igbo culture that particularly inform Nwapas fiction include beliefs, custom s, practices, and attit udes in the areas of (1) religion, (2) gender roles, and (3) language and liter ature. Victor Uchendu and Emmanuel Edeh explain that the spiritual and material elements of Igbo life are interrelated. The spirit world is very real to Igbo people because the land of ancestral spirits connects the living to the dead. The ancestors are honored and are expected to guide and care for the living since the living honor them. Thus, proper sacrifices must be made to ancestors. In addition, the spirit worl d is the home of the deities to whom respect must be paid and is the place where the livi ng will reside in the future. Uchendu explains what he calls the cosmological balance and st resses that it is nece ssary for the Igbo to maintain a balance between the social forces through divination, sacrific e, appeals to their ancestors, and constant realignment in thei r social groupings (13). He says the Igbo believe any disturbance can be controlled a nd should be manipulated by them for their own purposes. For example, according to Uc hendu, death creates a disturbance in the social order, and family members must make adjustments. When a person dies, there is a disruption within the family hierarchy, and if there is any uncertainty about the persons death, the family must seek advice from the diviner. In addition, the Igbo believe that
56 human beings and social relations are manipul ated. They seek and enjoy compromise. It is very important for Igbos to have peace among themselves. According to Uchendu, the Igbo world is not only a world in which peopl e strive for equality; it is one in which change is constantly expected. The world is a marketplace, and it is subject to bargain (15). In Nwapas works, female characters s eek compromise through manipulation of certain traditional practices, such as br idewealth and mandato ry motherhood. This concept of manipulation will be explored in Chapters IV, V, and VI. Further, Nwapa seeks choices and changes for women that are acceptable to both their traditional and modern communities. She wants what is best for most people. Obioma Nnaemeka calls Nwapas actions negofeminism (107). Nwa pa is negotiating compromises. Uchendu supports my belief, for he states that the individual freedom of choice fostered by the Igbo culture allows innovation. There is oppor tunity for experimentation as well as tolerance for failure and admiration for success (19). These are my sentiments from reading Nwapas works. For instance, wh en one acknowledges that Efuru is not responsible for the death of her daughter nor her husbands leaving her, one understands that she needs to be released from the tr aditional requirement of motherhood. She also continues to make worthwhile contributions to several memb ers of the community for the sake of helping humankind. Why not, then, al low her to live in peace without judgment because she is no longer a mother? Scholars agree that the I gbo are a religious people. Uchendu says all follow the same principles, but the principl es are carried out differently on local levels. He refers to the first principle as the extended family unit with its rituals that activate the lineage or
57 village group. Then he mentions the polythe istic religion with its emphasis on many gods or deities and, lastly, he expl ains that religion rationalizes the individuals ability to improve his status either in th e world of man or after his rein carnation, in the world of the ancestors (94). Igbo believe in a creator of all things; th eir belief is the ba sis of their theology. They believe in a high god who does not live among them. Most importantly, he does not interfere with daily lives as the other deities do. They can, however, always ask for his guidance; he is often called th eir Chi. By contrast, the othe r gods can be manipulated and live among the villagers. They possess the same human traits as members of the community and include the ea rth goddess, sun god, sky god, a nd river goddess, to name a few. According to Elechi Amadi, in Ethics in Nigerian Culture, the priests of Ifa, Amadioha, Chukwu, and other gods act as in termediaries between men and gods and interpret their commands, commands that often contain patterns of behavior (4). If the people refuse to obey, it is beli eved the gods or priests can ca use illness and misfortune to occur. Thus, from Amadis perspective, the outcome is to enforce an acceptable moral standard among the people. Nwapa referred to herself as a part of the riverine Igbo community; and in her works, Uhamiri, the river goddess, is hi ghly respected and prayed to by women, especially those who are asking for children. Th is concept will be analyzed in Chapters IV and V. The two goddesses most important to my study are the ea rth goddess, Ala, and the river deity. Ala is believed to be the s ource of fertility, which is very important in Igbo culture. She directs the outcome of lif e and land production. People pray to her for children, prosperity in trade, and increase in livestock; they pray to her before going to
58 war. In addition, rivers are very important in Igbo life and in Nwapas works. Rivers are thought to be a source of life and are given great respect. In some areas, people are not allowed to fish in the rivers because ever ything in them is sacred. In southern Igbo communities near River Imo, for example, th e imo miri deity is highly respected. The interrelationship between the spiritual and material world affects womens choices as they negotiate the highly patr iarchal Igbo society. Their gender roles as workers, wives, and mothers also help them to manipulate their situations and establish more independence than most observers might expect. From an economic perspective, Igbo women are known and respected for their hard work and ability to produce income. A womans ability to produce income is considered when a young mans family is checking into the background of a marital ca ndidate. Women are supposed to work the land and produce food, such as yams and cassa va, to feed the family. Women are also known as traders in their vill ages and at the markets. Thus, their economic status is highly valued and some women have become wealthy as traders. Nwapas grandmother was known as such. According to Theodor a Ezeigbo, women can acquire land but not inherit it. In some Igbo communities, they are allowed to take titles; they are rich and powerful and sometimes even rank higher than men (Ezeigbo, Traditional Womens Institutions 150). Flora Nwapa herself acquired the title Ogbuefi, which was allowed only in Oguta, not other Igbo societies. It means a woman of integrity and good standing in the eyes of the elders. In addition to the progress women can make through their work in Igbo society, their importance as mothers affects the cu ltures restrictions on them. Motherhood is highly revered in Nigeria; the culture favors women who have children, especially males.
59 Both men and women pray to the goddesses fo r children. In Oguta, the local goddess is Ogbuide or Uhamiri. (Even though there are various names for the goddess, I will use Uhamiri and Mammywater because they are used most often by African writers.) According to Sabine Jell-Bahlsen, in Concept of Mammywater in Flora Nwapas Novels, Ugwuta men and women pray to the divine pair of water deities, Uhamiri and Urashi, often called Mammywater (30). Nwapa explores the traditional belief in the importance of motherhood in Idu, Efuru, and One is Enough, novels in which women are not able to have children or their children die. As she analyzes how the culture treats women who are childless, Nwapa advocates more acceptance and nurturing from the community. Motherhood is the foundation on which the Igbo family is developed. This concept partly explains why a mans family researches a womans family history before marriage; for it is the mothers who will not only assure that generations will continue but will also instruct the children in mora l goodness and the communitys beliefs and practices. It is important for the mothers and elders to properly socialize the young ones in tradition. Children represent wealth for fa milies either through working the land or, in the case of girls, bringing in bridewealth. Thus, a mothers role is very important; moreover, community life begins in the family, and a family is not formed until all marriage customs are fulfilled (Edeh 57). Uchendu describes the four steps that must be followed before a traditional marriage takes place, and the process can ta ke years depending on th e age of the bride. The four steps include asking the woman s consent, working through a middleman, testing the womans character, and paying bridew ealth (50). If the woman is of age, the
60 man asks her first and then her family, but if she is a child, everyt hing is arranged by the parents and family members. The second ste p, which involves the middleman and other relatives, is a long drawn-out process between both families. The members meet and exchange gifts while acknowledging that th eir son and daughter wish to marry. The families must also be sure that the groom and bride are not of the same patrilineage and marry outside their local group. The osu (cult slave), however, must not marry outside the social group. Lengthy questions about ancestry are necessary since marriage for the Igbo is between families, not between individuals. The meeting and greeting continue until the brides family accepts the amount offered for asking money (Uchendu 52). The acceptance leads to the third step called testing character. Th e future bride spends several months with her future family, and they obser ve all things about her, including her work habits, cooking skills, temperament, form and figure. The bride is not a wife and her fianc is not supposed to have sexual contact with her, and the grooms mother is the person who ensures that the couple adheres to the rules (Uchendu 53). If the grooms family is pleased with her, Uchendu says she is decorated with uri, body paint, and sent back to her parents with presents, indicating she has passed the test (52 ). When it is time for the bridewealth to be paid, the grooms fa mily offers the brides family a reasonable amount after a long discussion about the good qua lities of the bride a nd groom. When an agreement has been reached, the grooms family rises and shakes the hand of the brides family members. The young woman must acce pt the palm wine offered to her by her father, sip it, and then give it to her husba nd who also sips the wine; then she introduces her husband to family and friends. A regal reception follows the fathers acknowledgment that his daughter is now married (Uchendu 53) Edeh informs the reader
61 that when people get married, they become me mbers of a family, a community; thus, it is very important for the family members to have lengthy background checks into their prospective family members lineage (57). Nwapa takes a daring step in Efuru when she has Efuru live with her husband before the bridewealth has been paid. This concept will be discussed in Chapter IV; the role of motherhood and wealth will be analyzed in Chapters IV, V, and VI. Victor Uchendu emphasizes the importance of marriage in the Igbo community and explains the many ways in which Igbo marry. Marriage is preferred over single life in the community, and polygyny is also highly ac ceptable, even though most people practice monogamy. There is another practice called w oman marriage, in which a wife with a living husband marries a female and pays the br ideprice. This marriage occurs to validate her status in society if the wife is unable to have children. Every family is supposed to have children. The term woman marriage is used because the wife initiates the process and selects the woman whom she wants to co me into her home and produce children for her and her husband. Woman marriage is us ed by women who have no children or no male children. Since there must be male ch ildren in order to inherit money from the husband, this practice is exerci sed by women who are barren or are widows in order to assure their receiving inheri tances. Nwapas characters em ploy the practice of woman marriage in her novels Idu and Efuru When Idu realizes that she is having trouble conceiving after a certain period of time, sh e talks to her husband about getting a second wife for him. To further emphasize the significance at tached to marriage in Igbo society, Uchendu explains how acculturation has in troduced many different ways of getting
62 married, such as church weddings, marriage by ordinance, and marriage by photograph. Marriage in a church involves a minister family, and friends in accordance with Christian practice. Marriage by ordinance is a civil ceremony with a judge or appropriate official presiding over the ceremony. Marriage by photograph is a technique used by men serving in the military and unable to meet and see their intended spouse in person. The couple exchange pictures, and if they like wh at they see, family members are told to continue with traditional practices until th e couple is officially married. People who marry in church or in a civil ceremony must obey laws about propert y and inheritance if the husband dies or divorces the wife. In a traditional marriage, the husbands family could claim all property after his death, including the house and furnishings even if the wife purchased them. Given European influen ce, church marriages today carry the most prestige, but the majority of the educated prefer civil marriage since many do not value church membership (Uchendu 87). Uchendu remi nds the reader that all marriages start with communication between the two families. Recent changes in Igbo culture have a ffected marriage: for example, child marriages have been abolished, but some Igbo re sent the law, so the practice is gradually disappearing. Although bridewealth is still ve ry important to some, Uchendu notes that a restriction has been placed on the amount of bridewealth (56). Edu cational training also determines the amount negotiated between families; and, according to Uchendu, most Igbo are marrying later in life due to educat ional training. In addi tion, many couples now reside outside the familys compound in thei r private residences and emphasize love rather than lineage and family. This shift is especially true for edu cated professionals who tend to live in cities while more traditi onal Igbos see village upbringing as most
63 important for young girls and boys to learn about their cultura l and social mores. Such differences often create intergenerationa l conflict (Uchendu 56). These trends are reflected in Nwapas Women Are Different and One is Enough In One is Enough, Amaka decides to return her bridewea lth to her husbands family and moves to the city of Lagos. People in her hometown automatically categor ize her as a loose woman because she is single, lives alone, has money, a nd lives in a fast-moving city. The importance of marriage and motherhood in Igbo society even leads to careful cultural practices related to birthing among traditional and uneducated Igbo. Generally, Uchendu explains, no particular foods are avoided, unless a specific village sets a restriction. There are taboos about the birth of twins because it is believed that only animals should give multiple births. In some villages, twins are abandoned or killed, and the mother is ostracized (58). There are fe stive ceremonies surrounding the cutting of the umbilical cord and naming of the child. According to Uchendu, an Igbo who cannot point to the burial of his navel cord is not a diala-freeborn; the um bilical cord is supposed to be buried under a tree, and the person is supposed to plant around his tree in the future. Names may reflect the time of the year, an ongoing event, day of the week, or birthmark (59-60). One ceremony, called an outing or chur ching, is designed to honor the birth of the child and bestow gifts upon the child and parents. It used to take place in the market, and people would bring gifts and mone y and in return rece ive prices on meats based on a third of their financ ial contributions (60). Some people would give more than they could afford and find themselves in debt and unable to honor their pledges. Recently this practice of honoring the child ha s been moved to the church even though some of the traditional practices of drumming and feasting have been maintained (61).
64 Igbo children are expected to participate in childrens games and activities as well as participate in adult social and work activities such as going to the market, funerals, and religious ceremonies. In addition to the degree of independe nce emerging from the importance of their work and economic resources a nd their roles as wives and mo thers, the ways in which Igbo women can assert independence are in creased by womens or ganizations, tribal practices like Nlukia, and th e role of priestesses. In fact, Theodora Ezeigbo, in Traditional Womens Institutions in Igbo So ciety: Implications for the Igbo Female Writer, attempts to clarify the misconcepti on that African women have been docile and willing sufferers for centuries and have learne d to accept their situation in a patriarchal society with grace. Ezeigbo argues the opposit e. She credits the success of Igbo women to their remarkable ability to manipulate and exploit the existing systems in [their] society to strengthen [their ] position, to carve out and secure a healthy place for themselves in spite of the weakness patria rchy might have imposed on [their] positions (151). Giving them political clout and some ability to control thei r own affairs are two major womens organizationst he Alutaradi, the Associ ation of Wives, and the Umuada, the Association of Daughters, found in each communityas well as organizations called Nlukia and age-grade gr oups. The Alutaradi exhibits its strength through the members ability to unite by going on strike until their demands are met. Often they refuse to cook. Based on the cult ure, cooking or anything related to food is definitely a womans role in the house hold. Nwapa calls this group the Umunwunyeobu in Priestesses and Power Among the Riverine Igbo and describes it as the family or clan into which one marries (422). Since its role is to keep peace, the women educate the
65 newlyweds into the proper customs and habits of their husbands village. They also protect each other from abuse by husbands. A ccording to Nwapa, if a wife leaves her husband, the members are supposed to convince he r to reconcile with her husband (422). But Nwapa and Ezeigbo agree that th e women of Alturadi canunder certain circumstanceswield considerable power by refusing to cook and sleep with their husbands until their demands have been met. However, at death, the women of Alutaradi are buried in their fathers compounds, but if th ey are wealthy, they can leave instructions asking to be buried in the husbands compound. The second major organization, Umuada, gi ves Igbo women great power in their birth homes. For instance, they are allowed to give advice and make decisions without any disagreement from the men of their fa thers descent. In Priestesses and Power Among the Riverine Igbo, Nwapa discusses th is extremely powerful group that she feels may wield more negative than positive power (422). There are three leaders; the oldest woman is the chairperson, and the next two ol dest are the right and left hand women of the organization. Each woman knows her pl ace and respects the order. They show solidarity and make sure all dictates, such as gathering to honor me n who take titles and keeping vigil until the dead is buried, are carried out properly (421). Men do not challenge them. Nwapa indicates they gather to mourn and celebrate brothers and sisters in the community. It is an honor to belong to Umuada especially when the members are well to do. When Umuada carries out its du ties, people listen and respect them. Its strength is in its collective ability. Nwap a states, Umuada can act negatively during funerals when a woman is in mourning. They make her sit on the floor and go barefoot, and she is not allowed to change clothes unt il the husband is buried. They also treat her
66 badly unless someone else intervenes (421). Wh en members of this organization die, they can be buried in the homeland of their fath ers or choose to be buried in compounds of their husbands. Nwapa contends that ev en in death, a woman never loses her independence, for the husband has no claim to her body (422). Ezeigbo also mentions a third group, cal led Nlukia; and Nwapa discusses agegrade groups based on birth order. The prac tice of Nlukia, which allows women to remain in their fathers compounds if thei r father has no male children, gives women considerable power: their male offspring be long to their fathers and help carry on the patrilineage, making sure that someone male inherits the property. These daughters are called male daughters. Women belonging to an age-grade group, made up of former playmates, support each other when there ar e deaths or other losses. These women can also make demands on each other that must be met. Age-grade groups can be very positive for their members. They can, for example, intervene in marital affairs, and husbands must listen. If a woman is falsely ac cused of a crime, she can appeal to her age grade group. Nwapa has Efuru appeal to he r age-grade group when Gilbert, her husband, believes the rumor that she has been unfaithfu l to him. Many scholars and writers such as Theodora Ezeigbo, Flora Nwapa, and Patrick Uchendu, in Education and the Changing Economic Role of Nigerian Women (1995), attest to the power and organization of the womens groups. Nwapa and Jell-Bahlsen also recognize the role of priestesses in asserting power and independence in womens personal lives and in their communities. Nwapa, for example in Priestesses and Power Among the Riverine Igbo, disc usses how people in Oguta, her hometown, worship Ogbuide, a goddess believed to be beautiful, ageless, and
67 partial to women. Her priestesses wear white and red and place ear thenware pots filled with water from the lake at a corner of their bedrooms (415). Nwapa says the image called Mammywater came into existence when competitive Igbo women tried to influence the British and French male trad ers by giving them young Af rican girls as their mistresses. The offspring were light comple xioned with flowing hair and were called Mammywater, meaning beautiful women from the water (418). Sa bine Jell-Bahlsen explains why Mammywater is so popular and revered in her essay Eze Mmiri Di Egwu, the Water Monarch is Awesome: Reconsider ing the Mammy Water Myths. Worshippers believe Mammywater gives life, wealth, good health, and happine ss. Jell-Bahlsen describes a poster of Mammywater, a pict ure of a woman with long, wavy, flowing, uncut hair with a pair of pythons and the colors white and red in the background. White indicates transition from life to death and re presents a method of communicating with the spirit world. It is also associated with ch ildbirth, fertility, mobility and death. White chalk is used to decorate the eyes and foreheads of th e priestesses and priests. It is used to mark corpses, for initiation ceremonies, prayers, and in drawing sacred symbols (110). Red is present in all Mammywater rituals in combin ation with white. The contrast stands for procreation and life: Yellow chalk, edo, called red just as red blood, red kola, and red cloth stands for life force and virility (113). Jell-Bahlsen re ports that red and white are the symbolic representations of male and female procreative expressions. Jell-Bahlsen sees the long hair as being out of the nor m for West-African Igbo hairstyles that are usually precisely crafted and well-groomed. She questi ons why Mammywater has long hair. Maybe Flora Nwapas statement about o ffspring between Europeans and Africans is correct in terms of the image of Mammywate r. The snake represents life because it can
68 shed its skin and continue its life-giving proce ss. Thus, it is comparable to water with its fluidity and ability to give life. Supposedly, Mammywater is describe d as white or yellow because white represents purity and mystery. In addition, white represents life and death and the ability to communicate with the spirit. According to Jell-Bahlsen, Mammywater can be regarded as a modern expression of divine woman in pre-coloni al Igbo religious beliefs. In some respects, Igbo culture gives women power and status equivalent to male power to ensure procreation, reincarnation and continued ex istence within the circular flow of time (130). Most goddesses, including Obguide, have a male c ounterpart. Obguides is called Urashi. These two deities are still respected in mode rn day Nigeria as Flor a Nwapa indicates in her works. The water goddess, Obguide, through her priestesses, emphasizes and reinforces the female power in Igbo cosm ology: the necessity of male and female complementarity for procreation and continu ity of life and the extraordinary power of women based on the notion of the supreme water goddess at the crossroads between death and life (Jell-Bahlsen 130). The way in which language is used is very important in Igbo culturenot surprisingly in a culture in which there is an emphasis upon cosmological balance and manipulation of social relationsand Nwapas works reflect this importance, especially as she speaks for women The Igbo take social communicatio n very seriously and prefer face to face communication. A ccording to Emmanuel Edeh, in local communities the spoken word is used as a means of esta blishing harmony and friendly relations among parties (46). For important social occasions lengthy and elaborat e conversations take place along with the serving of kola nut. These conversations also allow the practice of
69 using proverbs and folktales to carry message s, solve problems, or just further the conversation. Igbo pay attention to small de tails and spend much time greeting people. Thus, Nwapa was simply being accurate in her portrayals when she was criticized by several scholars, like Eustace Palmer and Eldred Jones, for giving too much attention to details. One critic even counted the number of adjectives Nwapa a nd Amadi used in their works in order to chastise Nwapa as a poor writer who spent too much time including unnecessary details. The frequent use of proverbs is important because they show unity and connection with the community: they are used by elders to show wisdom; by others to show feelings and to educate the listeners Folklore represents the oral history of a people and is passed down from generation to generation. The folktales must carry a moral message. In Igbo society, they constitu te informal education. Edeh reminds the reader that proverbs and folkta les are the key to understandin g the role of language as a channel of communication for the Igbo (55). To clarify the importance of language in Nwapas works, in this study I will examine the diction of female characters in th e novels to help readers decipher the voice and message that Nwapa is sending to her li steners in the community. Nwapa uses the Igbo goddess Uhamiri in her novels to estab lish the complexity of womens positions: their struggles and power. Her novels call for re spect for all involved in the conversations about the plight of Igbo women. My study w ill focus on the language used by Nwapas characters to give voice to the women who seek to bring about changes through compromise in hope of gaining acceptance and respect for both tr adition and modernity in Igbo Nigeria. My emphasis on language w ill reflect the views of Mikhail Bakhtin and
70 Mae Henderson, showing how multiple voices ca n speak at the same time and express a desire to coexist peaceful ly within the community. In his discussion of manipul ation of human beings and so cial relations in order to maintain a balanced Igbo co smology, Uchendu explains that the Igbo expect its people to find female authors who recreate the experience of the Igbo in their works. These authors become the voice of their people. Nwapain Efuru, Idu, and One is Enough has female characters who espouse views that seek cha nge. For instance, Efur u has lost her only child and her husband has left her; howeve r, she goes on to become a successful businesswoman who is called upon by many peopl e in the community to assist them. Why, then, does traditional soci ety still marginalize her as a woman without child and husband? Ezeigbo, on the other hand, raises the question of whether an Igbo female novelist can interpret th e culture and history of her people, articulate her vision for changing and challenging the outmoded values that negate life and progress in her society, and support the positive suggest that th e answer to Ezeigbos question is yes. Flora Nwapa definitely honors tradition in her novels and also creates voices of women who manipulate tradition to bring about changes that will be be neficial to all, especially to Igbo women. Notes 1Nwapa used the name Uhamiri in her works and changed the spelling of the word, probably because of her British training and education. Scholars Umeh and Jell-Bahlsen confirm that the words Ogbuide and Uhammiri are used by the traditional Igbo. It is the opinion of scholars that the British ch anged the spelling and pronunciation of many
71 words such as Igbo to Ibo, Ugwuta to Oguta, and Uhammiri to Uhamiri. Jell-Bahlsen says mmiri in Igbo means water, so she uses Uhammiri in her writings except when she writes about Nwapas works. 2 According to my analysis of several articl es written by African and non-African writers, the following words are spelled differently: Uhammiri, Uhamiri, Oguta, Ugwuta, Mammywater, MammyWater, and Mammy Water. Most African writers use Uhamiri, Oguta, and Mammywater, and I have decided to follow their lead even though some scholars discuss which spellings ar e original Igbo spellings rather than British spellings.
72 Chapter IV Voices of Tradition and Change in Efuru This chapter will examine the words and actions of characters in Flora Nwapas novel Efuru in the context of traditional customs and beliefs dictated by Igbo society. Nwapas emphasis upon choice and discovery and consciousness of self helps the reader gain insight into Igbo culture as well as how deeply colonialism may have penetrated the culture. My analysis will ques tion and discuss choices that female and sometimes male characters make to try to evaluate whether the characters are satisfied with the outcomes of their choices. Do certain female characters seek compromises not just for themselves but for the community at large? As the words and actions of characters are analyzed, the reader will be able to determine whether the implied author and narrator agree or disagree. The final outcome will indicate if conflicts have been resolved between female characters and the community as well as what effects choices have on the female characters and the community. Flora Nwapa in her first two novels, Efuru and Idu, addresses the conditions of women in traditional Igbo society with em phasis on their expected roles as wives and mothers within the community. Throughout the nove ls, the reader is in troduced to several characters, male and female, who express traditional and nontraditional views about choices that women make as well as the r easons for those choices. As I discuss these choices revealed through dialogue and action, I will analyze them in the context of Mae Hendersons and Bakhtins views on voice, voicele ssness, and dialogism. I will also draw
73 upon the work of Carole Davies, Chikwenye Ogunyemi, and Victor Uchendu for feminist and Nigerian issues. It is my hypothesis that Nwapas characters, especially those in Efuru and Idu express their choices for change and co mpromise through words and actions. The characters speak and act in subtle ways to convey their views to the audience. It is my intent to emphasize how several actions by Ef uru in regard to her husbands are mostly within traditional cultural boundaries. However, there are circumstances that her husbands create and the community demandsa s well as biasthat make life difficult for her. The double standard and the blaming of the women often cr eate the conflict and desire for change and acceptance that Nwapa allows her characters to address in the novel. Wayne Booths ideas in Rhetoric and Fiction (1961) about implied author and narrator will be mentioned occasionally to c onsider Nwapas relationship to the narrator and suggest her cultural position (73). Ogunyemi finds that the novel Efuru focuses on developing selfhood and finding empowerment through mothering in the commun ity, but the novel has tw o parts: the first part concerns the individual desires of a young woman to make her own choices, and the second half is corrective and instructive because Efuru marries Uhamiri and finds a peaceful existence as mother of the comm unity (146). The novel traces the ideological confusion, political awakening, material nur turing, and spiritual development of Efuru (147) Ogunyemis thesis is correct because the overall focus of th e novel is on Efurus making her own choices and then evaluating th e consequences. She has to determine the effect her choices have on self and society.
74 Courtship and Marriage in Efuru Efuru opens with the major character, Efuru, choosing her own husband and marrying without seeking permission from her father and without her husbands paying a dowry. Her act is a serious disregard for traditional customs. As discussed in Chapter III, a traditional marriage involves the communit y, with the families meeting and discussing terms for the marriage and a dow ry paid to the brides family. The bride is supposed to carry herself in a way that does not disgrace her fathers home because his name and reputation are important. Adizua asks Efuru to marry him after a brief courtship and before he meets with her father and male rela tives to seek permission. They have met at a festival where young people go to find prosp ective companions. Shortly afterwards, Efuru insists that they marry or she will drow n herself. Adizua, however, is not able to pay the dowry and tells Efuru that he does not have the money. She decides that they are going to proclaim themselves married (7). Adizua says to Efuru, You will come to me on Nkwo Day. Every place will be quiet th at being market day. Take a few clothes with you and come to me. We shall talk about the dowry after (7). Efuru moves into the home shared by her husband and his mother; and when the mother-in-law returns from the market and learns about the situation, she says, You are welcome my daughter. But your father, what will you say to him? Efur u responds, Leave that to me, I shall settle it myself (8). The words spoken by Efuru s mother-in-law indicate that the proper avenues have not been followed, and this female speaker shows concern for tradition even though she is quite happy that her son ha s married the daughter of one of the most powerful men in the village. At the same time, she fears what Efurus father and his family will say or do.
75 Efuru and Adizua act as indi viduals with their own age nda instead of members of a collective family. Adizuas family is supposed to go visit Efurus father and family to announce Adizuas interest in marrying Efur u. After the two families talk for a while, which could be hours or months the young ladys father gives a signal that he wishes to accept the young mans offer of a dowry. Th en wedding plans begin, followed by a big festive celebration. In addition to not followi ng these traditional customs, Efuru does not select a young man from her same social and economic background. Her father is Nwashike Ogene, a great man of his time, but Adizuas father is not known. Thus, Adizuas mother has every right to be con cerned since her son has not followed tradition and respected the great Nwashike Ogene. Howe ver, Efurus response shows that she is not worried about following tradition; she chooses her own way, as indicated by her words, I shall settle it myself (8 italics mine). One must question why Efuru chooses not to obey traditional custom s, especially considering he r fathers position in the community. Is the implied author speaking th rough the character Efuru? Efuru evidently has decided to bend the rules to suit her pur pose, which is to proclaim themselves married now and pay the dowry later. Obiora Nnaemeka refers to this type of action as negotiating realities (107). Even the word choice settle indicates a type of bargaining. Efuru and her husband fulfill one tradition bu t not until about a year later when they have earned enough to pay a dowry. Only then does Efuru allow her husbands family to make the trip to meet her father and have conversations. Her father accepts Adizuas family and his request to marry Ef uru and gives his blessings to the marriage. According to the narrator, Efuru and Adizua go home and for the first time since that fateful Nkwo day the two felt really married (24 italics mi ne). In fact, Ogunyemi has
76 suggested that Efuru is refusi ng to be bought by any man since it is part of her money that pays the dowry (147). The words and actions of Efuru clearly indicate a young woman who has decided she should make her own c hoices and who will be able to handle the consequences. The words of th e narrator that the two felt really married indicate an ideological struggle between Ef urus evolving opinions and he r traditional values. Most readers focus on Efurus action of choosing her own husband without the dowrys being paid instead of the fact that later the couple pays the dowry together ; however, her father probably does not know that the money belongs to Efuru and Adizua, not just Adizua and his family. Thus, yes, once again Efuru subtly maintains control of her life. Certainly, the words spoken by Efuru and th e actions she takes indicate a need for change within the community; however, the na rrator of the novel also supports respect for older customs. In the first year of Efur us marriage, people in the community question Efurus fathers inaction and are told he se nt two groups of men to check on Efuru, but the men are not able to convince her and Ad izua to talk with her father. Members conclude that her father is old and does not have any fight left in him. In addition, community voices say that Things are chan ging fast these days. These white people have imposed so much strain on our people (11-12). Thus, the narrator suggests that colonialism has introduced new ideas and met hods that are now influencing some people in the community. The people are not sure if th ey want to accept change but realize that the new will probably replace tr aditional values and customs. Efuru, in addition to deciding to marry Ad izua without a dowry, chooses not to go to work on the farm with her husband but to st ay in town and trade at the markets. Again, her actions indicate a se nse of independence. She tells Adizua, If you like . go to the
77 farm. I am not cut out for farm work. I am going to trade (10). Again, choice is the message that Flora Nwapa, the implied aut hor, is advocating through the narrator, community voices, and Efurus individual actio ns as well as the words spoken by Efuru. Many voices of the community condemn her fo r not following her husband: Why does she remain in town and not come to the farm with her husband? Someone responds, She refused to go to the farm She is trading instead . And I dont blame her. She is beautiful. You would think the woman of the lake is her mother (12). At first, Efuru and Adizua have a successful marriage, enjoy each others company, and even create jealousy among some women. But since they work in different locations, Adizua gets lonely for her, and he creates all types of excuses to come home to be with her. At first she does not mind the attention, and she cooks whatever foods he brings home to her. Another example of th e good times in their marriage occurs after Efuru has her bath. Instead of Adizuas returning to work in a timely manner, he decides to spend extra time at home pamp ering his wife. This period of contentment continues for several years, including the bi rth of their child. They laugh and enjoy each others company, but Adizuas profits begin to decrease on the farm. Efuru then suggests he trade with her in town; however, he is not skilled at trading. Eventually, Adizua starts to come home later and later until Efuru be gins to realize there are problems in the marriage. At first, Adizua starts coming home after Efuru has gone to bed. He wakes her up and she cooks food for him. Later he stays ou t all night and begins to refuse to answer any questions about his actions. After convers ations with Adizua and his mother, Efuru starts to ponder what will beco me of her if Adizua decides no t to return to her. Adizua does not explain his actions to his wife or mother; he just abandons the marriage and
78 child, Ogonim. Even when his daughter become s ill and dies, he does not return for the funeral. Clearly, the marriage is over. Booth concludes that our sense of the implied author includes not only the extractable m eanings but also the moral and emotional content of each bit of action and suffering of al l characters (73). A reader is quickly able to detect Nwapas desire fo r choice without condemnation if the choice steps outside of the norm. Not only does Efuru encounter mixed view s about her first marriage to Adizua, but she faces similar problems with her s econd marriage to Gilbert Eneberi, a former schoolmate who has been educated in a Chri stian school and has a dopted some western customs. First, by allowing Efuru to return to her fathers house after a failed first marriage the narrator is advocating alternative choices for wome n and men. It is at her fathers house that Efuru meets Gilbert whil e she is searching to find herself and her space within the community. Efuru is allowe d to be happy and to help people in the community even though she is widowed and w ithout children. Because Efuru is a very successful business woman, many people seek financial assistance form her, and she never refuses them. She even intercedes to seek western medical help for them. Even though Gilbert and Efuru appear to be nontraditional in some ways, they must safely negotiate choices within the traditional e nvironment. The concepts of marriage and motherhood will also be problematic for th e couple. A male friend of Efurus is concerned because Gilbert has not been married before. The doctor friend says, He must be young then, for our people marry young (128). Efuru responds, We are in the same age-group and I knew him as a boy. He r friend says a second time, And he has not married? Why has he not married? There is concern that Gilbert has not followed
79 traditional customs instead of joy that Efuru has found a prospective husband who is more on her socio-economic level. Again, Efuru comes to Gilberts defense by saying, You forget that he went to school and th at those who go to school do not marry early (128). The words spoken by Efuru remind everyone that society is ch anging; it is being influenced by outside views and norms. Furthe rmore, her tone indicates that one should not worry about continuing to follow traditi on. Once Efurus friend accepts her response, an understanding takes place. Bakhtin states this is what makes language polyphonic, and even heteroglot from top to bottom, for here it is evident that there is a co-existence of socio-ideological contradictions between the present (educated) and the past (traditional non-educated). Moreover, Efuru is fighting for the different socioideological groups in the present, between tendencies schools, circles and so fort h. The so called languages of heteroglossia, contextual within a language, intersect each other in many ways, forming new socially typifyi ng languages (Bakhtin 291). Efuru and Gilbert Eneberi present a cultura l connection between past, present, and future. They marry according to traditional cu stom; Gilbert and some of the members of his family went to Efurus fathers house wh ere they shared palm wine, kola nuts, and homemade gin (135). The purpose of the meeting is to ask Efurus father and family for permission to marry. According to custom, Ef uru tells her family to drink the wine signifying her wish to marry Gilbert. After he r father gives his approval and Gilbert pays the dowry, the father proclaims you have done like a man. . Men of these days are not as responsible as [they] we re in our days. They want to marry wives but they dont sit down and count the cost . but as I can see, you look good and responsible. Look after my daughter well (135). As w ith the early period of her first marriage, Efuru and her
80 husband Gilbert have what looks like a happy marriage; they spend time together, go to the beach, and just enjoy them selves, a bit too much for some people. The couple has what appears to be a happy life until th e motherhood issue emerges. The concept of motherhood is present in both marriages and creates difficulties for Efuru. Motherhood in Efuru. Only a few years after Efurus first marri age, the concept of motherhood soars in the novel and becomes Efurus major probl em. Obligatory motherhood is the downfall for Efuru based on cultural concepts. Her traditional community expects and demands that she become a mother. Approximately two years after her marriage to Adizua, she is concerned about her state; she says to hers elf, I am still young, surely God cannot deny me the joy of motherhood (24). Her mother-i n-law believes, however, that God is in charge and a child would come when G od willed it (24). The statements of both women are significant. Interestingly, Efur u, who has ignored c ourtship and marital traditions, shows concern to obey cultural traditions about motherhood while her motherin-law recognizes that a higher power has cont rol. However, she, too, secretly wants to keep negative voices away from her family. These women are struggling to please several groupssociety, self, and familyand findi ng the struggle difficult, and even impossible. An examination of the words used by these women further illustrates this point. Efuru often says to herself, God cannot deny me the joy of motherhood (24). The strength and determination of the words cannot deny in contrast to will not indicate that Efuru has already made her choi ce for her future. What about the meaning of the words joy of motherhood? These words imply a rich and fulfilling role in life. It is
81 clear from the diction assigned to Efuru th at Nwapa is supporting motherhood. However, the words used by Efuru and her mother-in-lawemphasizing Gods willindicate to the reader and community that whether one b ecomes a mother is not just based on desire and tradition but biological he alth as determined by a superior power. The words used in the two sentences above indicate a struggle among women themselves, for they do want children, but at the same time realize it is G ods choice whether they are able to bear children or not. These words suggest what D on Bialostosky calls the mixed diction of Bakhtins dialogism (216-17). Mixed diction oc curs when the characters speak and the narrator also speaks as she reports the characters speech. The two women seem to speak and think with one voice, but they oppose and reinforce each other at the same time. Both know the truth, but the mother-in-law privatel y wishes Efuru and her son would marry a second wife to give children to the family and remove social stigma from the family. The concept of motherhood is a major concern for Efuru, Adizua, and Adizuas mother. According to Carole Davies, the sec ond characteristic of African feminism is called into question. This attribute focuse s on the inequities a nd limitations found in traditional societies, conditions that create the struggle that Efuru and her mother-in-law reflect through their speech acts. They real ize God will determine when and if a woman should become a mother. However, society sti ll ostracizes women who are not able to get pregnant and even blames the women when the men have physical medical problems. One must ask why does someone have to be responsible or made a scapegoat for a nonhuman situation? After Efuru and Adizua try many times to conceive a child, they seek traditional avenues to help the situation. To remedy the problem, Efuru and her father visit a dibia
82 who tells them Efuru will have few children and they must come back to see him for further information; he also gives specific instructions for her to follow, which includes making sacrifices to the ancestors on Afo Da y, buying certain items at the market, then placing them in a calabash bask et, and allowing the basket to float away. After obeying the instructions, she and Adizua have a ba by girl. Efuru has her baby in a quiet and unobtrusive manner while her husband is sleepi ng in the house. He awakens afterwards when he hears a baby crying and exclaims that the birth is not a dream; it is real. He says to his daughter, Welcome my daughter. Your name is Ogonim (32). It is the custom for individuals to show their thanks to the dibia; Adizua and Efur u visit him and take gifts; however, when he opens several kola nuts he sees something that bothers him, and he tells the couple to return to him on a certain day. Unfortuna tely, the dibia dies before their second visit. A connection is implied between the dibias earlier comment about Efurus having few babies, the opened kola nuts, and the couples future; and subsequent events confirm the connection. Although O gonim acts like any normal child for two years, playing with her nurse maid, Ogea, and other children, the marriage begins to failfor example, Adizua does not sleep with Efuru for six monthsand Ogonim suddenly develops a fever, starts having c onvulsions, and eventually dies. The family makes preparations for Ogonims burial, but Adiz ua fails to attend his daughters funeral. According to Efuru, the death of her daughter is a sure indicator that her marriage to Adizua is over; there is no bond between them. The women in Efurus natal village also discuss what is best for young, beautiful Efuru, who is now a deserted wife and motherless woman si nce her child died. She is greeted by well wishers and nosy neighbors. On e woman tells her not to say her husband
83 left her but to say she left her husband because Wives leave husbands not the other way around (90). Efuru laughs that It is the same thing to me, but the woman, the voice of one part of the community, insists that it is not the same thing (90). Others say she has made the right choice to return to he r village. They remind her that she is young and beautiful, from a good family; thus, she will find a husband in the future. The most profound comments come from her maid Og eas parents. They acknowledge hearing about Efurus marital problems and state they have no intention of judging her, but they do condemn Adizuas not returning to bury hi s and Efurus only child as repugnant. They conclude, It showed that he hates [you]. So you have done well in leaving him. You are young, so the day is just breaking for you, othe r suitors will come. Just have patience (94). Thus, many voices give Efuru advice as to whether she should leave Adizuas homestead. Her father and mothe r-in-law have been the most he sitant at first, but they eventually agree it is in her best in terest to leave and find a new life. Similarly, the concept of motherhood b ecomes a major concern in Efurus second marriage, to Gilbert. Again, af ter two years of marriage, Ef uru is not pregnant. Several women in the community represent the voice of tradition and express their feelings because Efuru and Gilbert are happy but Efuru is not pregnant. They exclaim, We are not going to eat happy marriage. Marriage must be fruitful (137). Further, A woman, a wife for that matter, should not look glam orous all the time, and not fulfil [sic] the important function she is made to fulfil [sic] (138 italics mine). These words indicate that some women believe women have only one function or purpose in life and that is to procreate; the words made and fulfil suggest there are no ot her options for women. These women represent tradition and refu se to make any exceptions. The above
84 comments support what Davies in Ngambika calls obligatory motherhood (9). The comments do not go unchallenged, for Gilbert s mother, Amede, defends her son and Efuru by declaring that Young people of this generation are different (139). The views and diction of the women re present tradition, but Gilberts mother represents flexibility and change One should consider the words function she is made to fulfil (138 italics mine). They only seem to be concerned with completing a requirement and suggest pregnancy is the ultimate goal of females. The women are completely upset that the couple is happy without signs of a child. By contrast Gilberts mother uses the following words: this generation and different (139 italics mine). These words indicate a willingness to accept changes, many brought about through education in schools taught by missionaries. Her son Gilbert is a product of such schools, and he has acquired some western habits. Thus, having ch ildren immediately is not a major issue for him, nor is he interested in marry ing several wives or so he says. Second Wives in Efuru According to Igbo customs, it is permissi ble for husbands to have several wives, but the current wife should be consulted first. One wonders why Adizua does not communicate with Efuru and resorts to secr ecy when he leaves home to see another woman. He and Efuru had broken traditional customs to be t ogether as husband and wife; she easily accepts non-traditiona l avenues, so why has Adizua chosen not to be honest with his wife? His actions are infrequent at first when he misses meals, comes home, bathes, and leaves, only to return home at midnight and refuse to eat his dinner. Eventually, he stays away from home for da ys at a time until he stops coming home at
85 all. Efurus mother-in-law encourages her to be patient and give Adizua time to mature. She says, Have patience, my daughter. . Everything will be all right. Dont mind my son. It is only youth that is worrying him a nd nothing else. He will soon realize what a fool he has been, and will come crawling to you. . Men are always like that (51). At one point Adizua tells Efuru that he is going to Ndoni to buy groundnuts, but Efuru senses that he is going to another woman and begins questioning herself. Through her questioning, Efuru begins to de velop a new sense of self-worth. She says, There is a woman behind this indiffere nce. A woman whose pe rsonality is greater than mine. . I must face facts. . Perh aps she is very beautiful and has long hair like mine . . Is she as stately as I am (54). She admits she still loves Adizua and finds him handsome, but she wonders if she is stil l pleasing to Adizua and how long she will tolerate his actions. Efuru asks herself, How long will this last? How long will I continue to tolerate him? There is a limit t o human endurance I am a human being I am not a piece of wood. . I dont object to his marrying a second wife, but I do object to being relegated to the background (53 italics mine). These words, especially the ones I have italicized, are firm and spoken with determination to be respected. The selfquestioning by Efuru allows the reader to de termine the possible outcomes of Adizuas actions and permits the consciousness of the ch aracter to privately and publicly admit a change must occur. Gadamer concludes th at since conversation presupposes a common language, a dialogue is shared. I acknowledge that dialogue is usually considered to be a conversation between two people; however, he re I see the dialogue within a character, between the selves of the character, as an attempt to reach an understanding. A person or character can question herself to determine a solution to a problem. Gadamer writes, To
86 reach an understanding in dialogue is not me rely putting oneself forward and successfully asserting ones own point of view, but bei ng transformed into a communion in which we do not remain what we were (379). Nwapa as implied author allows the character Efuruthrough the narratorto consider new ways of thinking and acting and to realize what I consider a new consciousness of self. The selfquestioning leads to the outcome Nwapa intended. The questioning occurs when Efuru wonders how sh e compares to the other woman and if her marriage is over when her daughter, Ogonim, di es and Adizua does not come home to the funeral. Messages are sent to Adizua in N doni, but he never responds. After waiting a set number of days based on custom, Ajanupu and others perform the rites for the funeral to please the ancestors. Now Efuru is childless a nd without a husband. Sh e has lost the two people she wants most in her life. People in the community sympat hize with her. Again, Efuru questions her purpose in life: Ogoni m has killed me. My only child has killed me. Why should I live? . Oh, my chi, why ha ve you dealt with me in this way? (73). The words why should I live indicate what motherhood has meant to her; without it, death is a possibility. Davies in terprets this view as the four th characteristic of African feminism because the woman believes she must be a mother at all cost, or her life is worthless. Efurus second marriage poses problems sim ilar to those of her first marriage. Again, she has married a man who gives the impr ession that he is not interested in second wives. However, because Gilbert lives within the traditional community, he eventually finds himself caught in a double bind when Ef uru does not become pregnant four years into their marriage. He eventually marries three wives and has children by the second and
87 third wives as well as by another woma n. But earlier when Efurufollowing Igbo customfirst mentions finding a second wife for Gilbert because she has not become pregnant, he appears not in terested. Instead, Gilbert di sobeys tradition by not asking Efuru about having children by another woman; he just has an affair and a child by an unnamed woman, only admitting the truth when he has little choice. Here Gilbert seems to ignore one cultural tradition while fulfilling anotherie to have a childand to act according to his own desires without any concer n for his wife. Could Gilberts actions be the result of a western edu cation, which focused more on self than community? Why do both Adizua and Gilbert break Igbo custom by not involving a (willing) Efuru in their relationships with another woman? Coinci dentally, Gilberts unnamed woman is from Ndoni, the same place where Adizua lived with his woman. Gilbert explains to his old school friend, Sunday, that he has a boy, but he is not Efurus son; she has no child and he has not told her about the boy: I havent the courage. . I am sure it is going to upset he r (190). Gilbert tells Sunday that his son is two years old, and Sunday asks if he is sure that no one, including his wife and mother, knows about the child. Gilbert is advised to te ll Efuru before she finds out from others. They live in a small town and people love to gossip. One must ask why is Gilbert afraid to tell Efuru? Is it because she has lost he r only child, the child she had with Adizua? Two years is a long time not to gain enough courage and respect to tell ones wife the truth. After all, Efuru has been presented as a woman willing to accept changes and one who can endure difficulties. At this point, Barbara Chri stians views about motherhood seem appropriate. She says, even though mo therhood is revered, it is universally imposed upon women as their sole identit y, above all others (212). One must ask
88 whether Efuru is being forced to accept s econd place as a wife since she cannot bear children? Does she lose her right to resp ect and honor from he r husband? Christian questions what happens to women when th ey tell their own stories? How does the information told from a feminine point of vi ew affect our understanding, not only of the experience, but of the institution as well (212)? Does Gilbert believe the lack of motherhood will destroy his marriage to Efuru? Gilberts actions have far reaching implications for all: society, marriages, and Efuru. His first relationshipwith an unnamed womanshows a collapse between traditional habits and his personal desires. It is possible he has been influenced by colonialism. Later, Gilbert marries Sunday s sister, Nkoyeni. She and Efuru do not have problems, but when Gilberts son comes to visit from Ndoni, it is Nkoyeni, the younger wife, who is very upset; it is believed she want ed to be the first wife to have a son for Gilbert, but finds that someone else has us urped her place. Efuru welcomes the boy, but the pregnant Nkoyenis anger is so great that Gilberts son is sent b ack to his mother in Ndoni after three days. One must question why Gilbert chooses to marry Nkoyeni if he already has a child by someone else? Why not bring the mother of his first son into the marriage circle through traditional avenues? Was his son the result of a short-term rendezvous? Does he want to live a modern or a traditional lif estyle? What kind of psychological impact will his actions have on Efuru? Later, the towns gossip, Omirima, chastises Gilberts mother, Amede, for allowing Gilbert to marry N koyeni. Amede responds by saying she does not want to interfere; the world is now that of the white people, not of the Igbo grandparents (194). Again, Omirima que stions Amedes logic and actions; she
89 reminds Amede that mothers are supposed to interfere in their childrens marriages. However Amede represents change; she is wil ling to allow the younge r generation to do things differently The disappointments and pain of Efurus life continue as he r father dies, and Gilbert does not return for the funeral, just as Efurus first husband did not return for the funeral of their daughte r. Gilberts actions are unheard of: his father-in-law is a great chief whom many people respect. Seven rounds of the cannon are fired during the day, announcing the departure of a great son, the last of the generation that had direct contact with the white people who exchanged their ca nnons, hot drinks and cheap ornaments for black slaves (203). Messages are sent to Gilb ert, but he does not return for the burial. More than a month passes and th ere is still no message from him. It is considered a sign of disgrace and Efuru thinks of killing hers elf (204). Why does he not return to show his respect and support his wife? Ajanupu, who represents a compromise between tradition and modernity, asks What is wr ong with men these days? . A man like Nwashike Ogene dies and Eneberi does not come home (206). It is interesting that she does not blame Efuru or women. It is inexpli cable for a man not to attend his daughters funeral or his father-in-laws funeral. One wonders how the same fate can occur to the same woman twice? Later, Gilbert finally adm its that he was in jail for three months, but he refuses to tell why, so Efuru and Nkoyeni do not know if he is te lling the truth or not. Eventually, Efuru accepts his st atement, but not Nkoyeni. The effects of Gilberts actionsnot atte nding his father-in-laws funeral, not explaining why he was in jail, not telling Efuru about his tw o-yearold son until he came to the houseall have a lasting effect on Ef uru and her marriage to him. She becomes
90 ill, and there is no apparent reason. Many dibi as are consulted, and they give different opinions, so the towns gossip, Omirima, spreads the rumor that Efuru has committed adultery. One dibia confirms the rumor, and Gilbert believes it. The question is who is Gilbert to accuse someone of adultery when he himself has committed adultery? There does not seem to be a sense of forgiveness, and there is a double standard. Another dibia tells Gilberts mother that Efuru has neglec ted the woman of the lake; she must make sacrifices if she is to live. When Efuru is proven innocen t of adultery through an agegroup ceremony, she returns to her fathers house a second time. She explains to her doctor friend, I am not an adulterous wo man. So here I am. I have ended where I beganin my fathers house (220). Efuru has accepted her place and condition in life; she has concluded that her gods do not inte nd for her to be a married woman with children. Her doctor friend still seems perple xed and is surprised that Efuru is not considering going back to her husband. He talks about her youth and beauty; obviously, he represents tradition and the male perspective, which is to forgive and remain with an adulterous husband who falsely accuses his wife in spite of the evidence. Filomena Steadys definition of African feminism--combining awareness of racial, sexual, class, and cu ltural dimensions of oppression . through which women are viewed first as humansis relevant to Gilb erts action. It addre sses the tensions and conflicts of colonialism in traditional societ ies that have promoted complementary values and communal values rather than individualis m (4-5). Gilberts acknowledgment that he is afraid to tell Efuru about his son indicates he recognizes she has feelings as a human being and that he has disobeyed traditiona l customs which would have allowed him to marry the other woman and bring his son into the family. Did colonialism have an impact
91 on his decision to keep certain facts to himsel f? Did colonialism cause him to suspect and reject his wife at the end of the novel? Gilb ert has been aware of his actions from the beginning to the end. It is clear that Gilbert vacillates betw een following tradition and adopting western customs he learned through his colonial-based education. Gilbert is an excellent example of the conflict that exists in African societ ies when two cultures first begin to blend or one culture conflicts with the other. The new ideas and customs which may be accepted by some members often create a feeling of loss of identity for others. For Efuru, the concept of choosing for ones self has give n her a sense of freedom, but it has also allowed her actions to sometimes reject or modify communal customs. Nwapa uses Efuru and Gilbert as vehicles to promote a ble nding or acceptance of colonial ideas with traditional ones. Efuru as Dialogic Text According to Wayne Booth, all authors take sides with cer tain characters regardless of their attempts to be impartial (75). I believe Nwapa, as implied author, has consciously and subconsciously created a narrator and assigned polyphonic dialogue to her characters that conveys to readers the intended purpose and mean ing of their actions and words. The reader must be familiar with the settinghist orical, cultural and symbolicto understand the interactions. Boot h states, nothing is real for the reader until the author makes it so (108). He empha sizes how language through the implied author supports a particular value system which the reader will accept or reject depending on the intended outcome and his or her values.
92 Efuru is presented as a mouthpiece fo r women who want to have as much freedom of choice as possible about thei r lives without any rejection from the community. Efurus analysis of her situation is clear. What is a woman to do when her husband leaves her and refuses to return? Shoul d her family return the dowry so she will be free to marry again? Indeed should a dow ry be necessary? Should she remain in her marital home forever? There does not seem to be one answer among the multiple voices engaged in dialogue within Efuru. Several women give their views. Efurus mother-in-law, Ossai, recognizes that Efuru will not stay with her forever as Ossai did when Adizuas father deserted her. She believes her daughter-in-law is not meant to suffe r but to live life fully. She is afraid that Efuru will leave her home. On one occasion O ssai says, My daughter . . My son has neglected you. But as my sister Ajanupu has a dvised you wisely, be patient. It pays to be patient. I have been patient myself all my lif e (59). On another occasion Ossai explains, My daughter, I can only solic it patience. Have patience. Y ou may not wait as long as I did. I gained nothing from my long suffering, so the world would think, but I am proud that I was and still am true to the only man I loved (61). Aunt Ajanupu expresses a similar view when she says to Efuru, But dont worry, it will be all right. By the power of God, it will be all right. Ad izua has wronged you . . Give Adizua . just a year, and if he does not come back to you and you have an offer of marriage from another man, with a good background and wealth, leave him and marry the man. Wait for . just a year . (83). It is believed that if she waits one year no one will have reason to make judgmental comments about Efuru.
93 The words of Ossai and Ajanupu as they discuss what Efuru should do when Adizua does not come back to her form th e voice of tradition, justifying why Efuru should leave her marital home as well as expl aining the right amount of time before she leaves. Gary Morson has interp reted Bakhtin to suggest th at an audience shapes an utterance as it is being uttered. Thus, Morson ag rees with Bakhtin that an utterance is a two sided act because there is a speaker and a listener. Morson explains the utterance is called a bridge because it depends on people on both sides (4). In other words, both speaker and listener participate in the thinking and speaking acts of a polypohonic exchange in order for meaning to be conveye d. Efurus expectation, her pain and sadness, clearly motivate much of what Ossai and Ajanupu say; thus, as listener, Efuru both motivates and is comforted. However, Efuru also listens to her father who gives her a different perspective. He gives advice at two different times. When Adiz ua first starts stayi ng away from home and before the death of Ogonim, Efurus father s uggests that she be pa tient, not keep her husband to herself and be a good mother to her daughter. Later when Ogonim dies and Adizua does not come to the funeral or come home at all, her father asks Efuru whether she has heard from her husband and if she wants to go look for him. He has heard that Adizua is not planning to return to his home village. He offers to send people with her or on her behalf to find Adizua. Why would her father make such a suggestion? It is possible that he wants his daught er and Adizua to either re concile or admit the marriage is over so Efuru can publicly start a new life. He does not mention a time limit for her decision.
94 After Efuru takes her fathers adviceto go to Agbor, Ndoni, Akiri, and Ogwu to look for her husbandshe returns to her mother-in-law to stat e her decision: Mother, I cannot stay any more. . I cannot wait indefi nitely for Adizua, you can bear witness that I have tried my best. I am still young and w ould wish to marry again. It will be unfair both to you and your son if I begin to encour age men who would like to marry me while still in this house (88). The words inde finitely and anymore indicate an endless period of time, for Efuru has no idea when and if her husband will ever come home again. Moreover, Efuru uses diction that sugg ests a future for herself; she talks about marrying again and encouraging men to indi cate she plans to move on with her life. Efuru announces to Ossai that she is leaving her home because she cannot wait forever for Adizua; she is still young and may wish to marry again. She will not be able to entertain suitors while still living in her ma rital home. Her mother-in-law does not reply. The mother-in-law is saddened to know she will lose her daughter-in-law, be left alone, and lose the prestige that has come with having chief Ogenes daught er as part of her family. However, Adizuas mother knows her son has mistreated Efuru and that Efurus leaving will soon happen. On the other hand, Aj anupu, Adizuas aunt, wants Efuru to stay because she likes her. Recognizing that Ef uru must move on, even Ajanupu has told Efuru before Ogonims death to wait a year and then leave and none would have a reason to say inappropriate things about her. The above indecisions and decisions represent a bridge between past and present and future; the women and men recognize that a change must take place. Bakhtins belief that hete roglossic exchanges focus on speech acts that represent the co-existence of sociological c ontradictions between the present and past
95 are evident over the months in which the women and the community discuss Efurus position but conclude with understanding am ong the women and most of the community. Mae Henderson modifies Bakhtins views on both heteroglossia and dialogism, suggesting that dialogism is adversarial, but heteroglossia is complementary with a multiplicity of voices interacting to find th emselves. Through heteroglossia, she argues, characters find their consciousness and achieve what she calls the privileging rather than the repressing of the other in [thems elves] (Bakhtin qtd. in Henderson 119). She reminds the reader that even if language for Bakhtin is an expression of social identity, then subjectivity (subjecthood) is constituted as a social entity th rough the role of the word as medium of consciousness (Ba khtin qtd. in Henderson). She emphasizes consciousness, then, like language, is shap ed by the social environment (118). Henderson also refers to consciousness as inne r speech that reflects the outer word in a process that links the psyche, language, a nd social interaction (118). This position supports my view that the characters in Efuru engage in many polyphonic dialogic exchanges: they have dialogues with other characters, dialogues with themselves, and dialogues with society. Efurus earlier dialogue with herself about what she should accept from her husband and how long she should wait for him as well as her comment I am not a piece of wood shows consciousness at work. This inner personal dialogue with self and questioning of self allows Efuru to make decisions about her present and future life. In addition, near the end of the novel, Efuru r easons that Uhamiri, the woman of the lake, cannot give her children because Uhamiri doe s not have children herself. In Efurus dream she asks, Can she give me children? She responds to her own question with,
96 She cannot give me children, because she has not got children herself (165). The words spoken aloud result from an inner dialogue with self. Throughout the novel, several female characters express their views about marriage and motherhood. A few even consider their own wishes to create alternative methods for women to achieve happiness within the community. Wayne Booth contends that the moral and emotional feelings a reader gets from characters are supplied through the implied author (73). Nwapa has permitted the female characters to question traditional society and self. According to HansGeog Gadamer, in Truth and Method questioning is a major part of hermeneutics as the questioning engages the reader in th e polyphonic dialogue and require s interpretation. Moreover, questioning allows the narrator to suggest possibilities. The answer or outcome requires an understanding or agreement (379). Questi oning involves dialogue in which one person listens to the concerns of the other person. The dialogue should allow the listener to consider the weight of the others op inion (367). Gadamer would say of Efuru, whenever a text is made th e object of interpretation; it means it puts a question to the interpreter (reader). . Thus, a person who wants to understand must question what lies behind what is said. He must understand it as an answer to a question (369-70). In addition, Gadamer notes the voices of the char acters that speak to readers from the past and the questions the voices pose. These quest ions present several possibilities for the situation and thus permit the reader to explore. The female voices in Efuru are being explored and analyzed to develop a more viable alternative to living an acceptable lifestyle in their communities whether they are mothers and married women or not. They are questioning the worth of single women or motherless women in society. Are they not
97 humans too? Moreover, shoul d not women have choices a bout their lives ? The narrator seems to be suggesting that, yes, women shoul d have choices, and they do not necessarily need to conform to traditional expectations This is why Nwapas major characterslike Efuru, Idu, and Amakaexhibit non-traditional actions and make bold declarations about what they are willing to accep t. Booth believes all authors take sides with certain characters regardless of their attempt to be impartial (78): The author through second self reiterates certain points over and over ag ain (79). I find Flor a Nwapas voice clear in Efuru both through the narrator and the polyphonic dialogue. The narrator realizes that Efuru has exhaus ted all of the regular cultural traditions expected of her as a woman and must find an alternative outlet to survive. Therefore, Efuru is allowed to have a dream about the wo man of the lake, Uhamiri. According to the Riverine Igbo, Uhamiri was worshipped by a ll, men and women; how ever, the narrator reconstructs the view to gi ve Efuru and women other options. Efuru informs us that Uhamiri smiled at me and asked me to come in. I went in [to her house under the water] . . Then she showed me all her riches ( 146). Later, Efuru realizes that the woman of the lake does not have children and conclude s, She cannot give me children, because she has not got children herself (165). Efuru is finally able to sleep peacefully. Scholar Patricia Collins would support Efurus discove ry and acceptance since Collins agrees that women must place their thoughts, experiences, and consciousn ess at the center of their interpretations (36). Efuru now recognizes that although she is not barren and has had a daughter who died (165), she will not have other children, and Efuru is at peace with herself.
98 The narrator has given Efuru a way out of the traditional role of women by ascribing to her the qualities of a follower of the woman of the lake. The diction she asked me to come in and I went (148 italics mine) shows a choice was made by Efuru. There is give and take between th e two women. In addition, the words, she cannot give me children . she has not ch ildren herself indicate an acceptance, according to the narrator, of reasoning base d on logic rather than the intuition that usually did their reasoning for women (165) Efurus realization that any husbands she has must depend upon another wife for children a nd her contentment with this situation is acceptable to the community because Uhamiri is one whom they respect and revere. Even though the realization is not cons idered a traditional preferen ce, it must be accepted; the reader is informed that Efuru sleeps soundl y that night. According to Ogunyemi, Uhamiri allows Efuru to become a mother figure to the community through her wealth, charity, and nurturing of the community (154). Sh e describes the outcome as a Nigerian worldview: motherhood is not limited to the biological view, but includes the social realm where women nurture everyone. It seem s that Efuru has found an answer to her past conflicts: no living child ren and two failed marriages. Her consciousness has been awakened to her truth, for she understands that she is not going to ha ve children and that she can be happy only if she accepts this tr uth. Efurus sleeping soundly indicates her struggles with the community are over from her perspective. According to Gadamer, the fusion of horizons that take place in unders tanding is actually the achievement of language (378). In reference to historically affected consciousness, he believes the course of events brings out new aspects of m eaning in historical material (373). Further, Bakhtins heteroglossiathe perspective and ideological positioning of implied author,
99 narrator, and polyphonic novelistic voicesovert urns the monologic with never-ending dialogue. Efurus final acceptance as a worshipper of the childless Uhamiri comes after many other attempts to live a compromised lifestyle in a traditional environment. Thus, the actions of characters indicate some t ype of understanding. The understanding shows a correlation between the present and tradition. It is Gadamers opini on that the voice speaks to us from the past and causes one to seek answers (374). The female character has been permitted to make distinct choices within the bounds of her nature but not without pondering the effects the choice will ha ve on self and society. In some instances, preservation of self-happiness must come first. However, the woman still chooses to remain in the community, thus indicating a desi re to be accepted as she is. In Efurus case, she becomes a nurturing mother figure for the community. Nawapa has allowed her female characters like Idu, Efuru, Ajanupu, a nd Amaka to display the privileging of the other self, the one that is not always accep ted by the community. This privileging of the other self is displayed in the character, Idu, in Nwapas second novel, the focus of Chapter V.
100 Chapter V Voices of Tradition and Change in Idu This chapter will examine how privileging the self means allowing individuals to express the other in themselves. Like Efuru, Idu analyzes the customs, conditions, and beliefs of traditional Igbo society, exploring not only the problems encountered by women but those encountered by men, not only motherhood but parenthood. The characters wordsboth internal qu estioning and dialogueand actions in Idu are more clearly in conflict with traditi onal cultural customs than in Efuru. Both novels portray conflict, a need for change, a nd a double standard that tends to blame women more often than men. Thus, there are significant parallels between the two novels, but Idu is much more complex with interesting differences. As both Chikwenye Ogunyemi and Gay Wilentz clearly indicate, Flora Nwapas novels address communal and national rehabilitation (Ogunyemi 134) in a world of confusion and contradiction. Mae Hendersons and Mikhail Bakhtins views on voi ce, voicelessness, and dialogism as well as the work of Carole Davies, Chikwe nye Ogunyemi, Emmanuel Edeh, and Victor Uchendu on feminist and Ni gerian issues clarify the roles of characters Idu s narrator and Nwapa (as Wayne Booths implied author) in portraying an Igbo culture in pain and transition. What is the message that Nwapa is aski ng the community to consider? What are the outcomes she is seeking? These questions will be addressed through discussion and analysis of words and actions of characters seeking consciousness of self and community.
101 Interestingly, Idu appears to begin as a somewh at more traditional novel than Efuru since the major character chooses early on to follo w tradition in terms of marriage. However, Idu examines how law and order have broke n down. As Ogunyemi points out, The subversiveness in the worship of the goddess Uhamiri in Efuru turns into an open rebellion in Idu with womens growing political acuity (158). Ogunyemi also believes Nwapa is advocating growth through wome n because characters like Idu and Ojiugo make drastic and unforeseen c hoices to achieve their goals. The main character of Idu is, according to Ogunyemi, named after the legendary Idu n Oba, of the old Bini kingdom, a never, never land of folklore, a place where chaos occurs, but where moral equilibrium always a sserts itself eventually. The name Bini means Queen Mother. She is represented as a senior chief and equated with a male (Kaplan 386); she represents power behind the throne, and tradition exiles her (Ogunyemi 157). No doubt Nwapa wished to identify that po wer with her female characters and also to suggest the sense of e xile a woman could experience when she does not follow traditional Igbo customs. The c hoices of two of the women in Idu both Idu and Ojiugoare very much at odds with trad itional behavior, and readers will no doubt disagree about whether their choices establish any kind of equilibrium, much less moral equilibrium, in their communities. (I find a sense of equilibrium, but not necessarily moral equilibrium.) Ogunyemi identifies three si gnificant subjects in Idu : child bearing problems, which [reflect] the barrenness of society . ; Adiweres sickness, which indicates a sick society; and the stream as a [traditional] meeting point but an unexploited spiritual (palliative) for a society in disarray (158). Traditionally, water represents peace and
102 harmony, but not in Idu (158). Ogunyemi is correct in reminding readers that confusion exists within the community and on many levels, individual and familial. She further suggests that the deaths which occur in the novel are signs of rupt ure and chaos within the community. This study will focus more on the first and third subjects: child bearing problems and the barrenness of society and the st ream as a meeting place to discuss ills of society. It will also discuss the way in which Nwapa describes not just illness and deaths but moral laxity in the community and catastrop hic natural events as further evidence of the disorder in a community attempting to redefine itself. Courtship and Marriage in Idu The concept of marriage is not a major problem in Idu There are several types of marriages, but there is no major cultural dispute about following tradition before marrying. Idu and Adiwere have a very good marriage and prefer a monogamous relationship. The text does not say, but it a ppears that they married following traditional customs. People comment on their happiness toge ther and the fact that no one has heard them quarrel. The women in the community discuss how marriage to Idu has changed Adiwere; one of them says he was not th at magnanimous before he married Idu, but now the two of them are about the kindest coup le I know in this town (3). Even though Adiwere briefly marries a second wife, who w ill be discussed later in the chapter, he refuses to respect the second wife and treat her properly. Idu reminds him that he has not been sleeping with his second wife. He re fuses to acknowledge his actions, and he and Idu plan how to get her to leave on her own accord. As for Adiweres brother, Ishiodu, it
103 is revealed that Adiwere arranged th e marriage between Ishiodu and Ogbenyanu, suggesting one traditional type of courtship and marriage. But there are not only tr aditional marriages in Idu ; a few marriages do not follow the usual cultural format. For example, Amar ajeme marries his first wife at Great River without first seeking her fathe rs permission. The father, just like Efurus father, is upset and he sends people to interven e on his behalf. But unlike Efur u, who refused to listen to family members, this woman accepts the in tervention and the father gives Amarajeme and his daughter his blessing. Even though family members settle the marital dispute, the marriage ends tragically when her canoe capsizes and she drowns. Amarajeme mourns his wifes death for quite a while. It is believ ed that her death helps to settle Amarajemes carefree spirit. After hi s wifes death, he returns home to his family and is introduced to Ojiugo by Idu. There are no specific details abou t their marriage, but it seems to have been performed according to traditional cust oms. Their marriage is described as happy and full of love, but there is no child. For r easons not clearly stated, Ojiugo decides to make a very unconventional choice to fulfill he r desire to become a mother. She leaves her husband, Amarajeme, and moves in with his best friend, Obukodi, who has several wives and many children. This type of ma rriage arrangement is not a part of the traditional custom; and the people in the co mmunity express concerns about Ojiugos non-traditional behavior. They say, she has gone to Obukodi. She is Obukodis wife now. They wonder what his other wives will say and declare that Ojiugos actions are wrong. More specifically, they say, . th is thing is bad. Thats not how our people behave. Obukodi and Amarajeme are friends Whats wrong with them? (105) Why does Ojiugo choose this altern ative when her culture pe rmits the female husband
104 concept where Ojiugo can marry a second wife for the family and also permit the second wife to choose Iko (lovers) who are acceptabl e to them to beget children (50). Yes, it would have been obvious that Amarajeme was im potent (hence the need for Iko) and that Ojiugo did not give birth, but the child woul d still belong to Ojiugo and Amarajeme. One must also ask what point is Flora Nwapa aski ng the reader to consider when she or he acknowledges there are several types of marri ages in the novel. E ach marriage works for a particular couple or person, so I conclude that Nwapa is recommending there should be several options available depe nding on the persons involved. Motherhood in Idu The opening voices in the novel Idu represent tradition in the Igbo community. They speak of joy and peace and they honor the young married couple; but they also express concern because the couple does not have children, spends too much time together, and is well off financially. Actua lly, the dialogue of the novel begins at the stream, which is supposed to represent healing, and, according to Ogunyemi, is the place for people to meet and disc uss the ills of the commun ity. Two womenUzoechi and Nwasobisee Idu at the lake and inquire abou t her husband. Idu tells them he is sick, and they wish him well. After Idu leaves, Nwa sobi, says to Uzoechi, Is Idu pregnant yet? Uzoechi, replies, N o, shes not. Its time she was. Whats wrong? (3). Nwasobi replies, Who knows? Sometimes when the woman starts with money, children run away. Thats true. Have they plenty of money? asks Uzoechi. Nwasobi replies, They are comfortably off. Idu is a child of yesterday (3). Uzoechi advises, Give them time. Idu will be like her mother. She wasnt barren. No, none of her people is
105 barren. What I like about them is the way they live their happy marriage (3). Booth would note that this exchange is one example of a rhetorical device for making the reader aware of the Igbo value system (112). The r eader learns about the background of Idus mother and the financial status of Idu and Adiwere. According to cultural historians Uchendu and Edeh, family lineage is importa nt to marriage. It helps family and community determine if a woman is likely to bear children and to know whether the family is honest, hardworking, and decent. Th e reader is also reminded by the exchange that money, as in Efuru, often complicates the childbeari ng situation of couples. But the most important issue of the exchange is cl early the womens concer n about the role of motherhood for Idu. The traditional beliefs about motherhood and barrenness are explored in the conversation between the two women. For example Uzeochis words wrong and its time suggest Idu has failed to do something. These words do not leave space for flexibility within a marriage. Traditional society expects all married couples to have children even though there is no written law. People in the village will begin asking questions and talking behind a persons back if there are no signs of pregnancy by the end of the first year of marriage. Uzoechis co mment give them time suggests a speech act of multiplicity of voices seeking a solution (3 ). Uzoechi admits that Idu and Adiwere have been married for a while, three years, but she is not willing to declare that Idu is barren. She chooses to compare Idu to her mo ther, for some women do not get pregnant early in their marriages. Another character the nosy, difficult Onyemuru, stresses, however, the importance of following Igbo trad ition in which wives allow husbands to marry other wives so there will be children in the family. Onyemuru says, If Idu cant
106 have a child, let her allow he r husband to marry another wife Thats what our people do. There are many girls around (33). Tradition is important to the female characters, for Nwasobi responds to Onyemuru by saying, You speak the truth. . I shall speak with Idu (34). Moreover, in an earlier convers ation Uzoechi appears to have convinced Nwasobi that Idu will be pregnant in due time. It is obvious that the women of this Igbo village believe children have a very important role in marriage and family. No one seems to suggest that Idu is not a good woman; they seem to give her the authority to allow her husband to marry a second wife, so ther e will be children in the family. Her willingness to share her husband for the sake of children and tradition will make her a good woman. However, the conclusion of the conversation between the women is that there must be children. Therefore, mother hood takes on the semblance of a mandatory requirement; it is obligatory The first problem of the novel, childle ssness, is addressed in the second and fourth characteristics of African feminism presented by Carole Boyce Davies. The second focuses on the consciousness of women that there are inequities and limitations in society due to traditional customs as well as thos e introduced and reinfo rced by colonialism. Thus, Idu and Ojiugo are aware that societ y expects them to find avenues to make motherhood possible. Motherhood is mandator y. The fourth attribute examines the concept of motherhood for its positive and nega tive effects. It respects motherhood but questions obligatory motherhood. It sees utility in the posi tive aspects of the extended family and polygamy (Davies 9). Davies unde rstands that polygamy can allow senior wives the freedom to conduct businesses while the younger wives take care of household chores and the husbands needs, especially if the senior wife is unable to have children.
107 Often the women have special time to spend w ith the husband, all of them, then, having some freedom. Nwapa also has the narrator examin e parenthood and motherhood through the lives of another couple, Amarajeme and Oji ugo. After several years of marriage, they do not have children, and Ojiugo realizes that he r husband is impotent. The need to fulfill her traditional role as a mother causes Amar ajemes wife to take drastic measures to become a mother. She moves into Amaraj emes friend Obukudis house with his other wives. Uzoechi is shocked when she hears the news and asks, whats wrong with them? . I dont know what Ojiugo wants in O bukodis house. What does she want? Is it because she has no child by Amarajeme? ( 105). This action by Ojiugo is not the norm since Igbo culture allows women to procreate by other men if their husbands are sterile, but remain in their marital home; the child ren are considered to belong to the husband even if people suspect othe rwise. When Idu and Adiwere discuss the situation, Idu is surprised at the revelation that Amarajeme is impotent, but Adiwere explains that Ojiugo has known for about two years. He says, She wanted a child. Do you blame her when she went to the man who could give he r one? (112). The diction choicesdo you blame her and man who could give he r oneindicate Adiweres acceptance or understanding of why Ojiugo chooses an alte rnative or unheard of method to solve her problem. Again, the character has used the word blame instead of hold responsible to indicate the seriousness of her choice. Nwapa is asking the re ader to consider if women should take such measures to ensure mother hood at all cost. Must one consider the moral implications for Ojiugo, Amarajeme, and the community at large? Evidence throughout the novel confirms my position that the aut hor is negotiating choices for women within
108 the traditional community. After all, it is the community that insists on motherhood for acceptance even when it knows men and wome n could have medical problems that prevent fatherhood or motherhood. Joseph Asanbe discusses the possibility that fate can prevent women from attaining certain goals such as love and children in the same marriage (81). He believes there is a question that must be considered: can a person find an individual way to become and act in a real ity in which culture and fate determine what one can do and what one can be? (81). Oji ugos decision to leave her husbands marital home in order to achieve her personal and cult ural goal seems quite selfish at first, but if one examines her choice from a cultural pe rspective, she has negotiated a choice, although an unusual one. Asanbe refers to her actions as using free will to dictate an outcome (192). Culture does influence Amarajemes actio ns; even though he is heartbroken and refuses to eat, according to cultural custom, th ere is nothing that can be done to appease the gods if a wife leaves her husbands home for another man. He chooses to believe that his wife will return to him even after h earing she is pregnant. Eight months later upon hearing that she has given birth to a baby boy, Amarajeme exclaims, Wait, a baby boy. Wait, its my boy, my first son, mine, mine. No but wait. She left my house eight months ago so the child must be mine. He is my child. But why did she leave me? Why? Then?. . Am I not the father of the boy? Am I not ? (129). These words finally seep into his consciousness, and he now understands what everyone else has known. His name is now disgraced, and he is humiliated. One must ask why does Ojiugo leave him if she has already committed adultery with Obukodi? Wh y does she not return after the baby is born? Is there a hidden message the author ial voice is advoca ting through Ojiugos
109 unusual actions? Maybe Nwapa is implying that it is time for the truth to be revealed and accepted publicly, for many people in the commun ity have been aware that Amarajeme is impotent. It is time to admit that men a nd women may have medical conditions that prevent births of children; moreover, everyone knows that all child ren do not live, and it is not the fault of the moth ers if God chooses to take the children. People in the community must stop placing all of the bl ame on the women. Barbara Christians thoughts coincide with Davies views about obligatory motherhood. Christian does not harbor ill feelings towards motherhood. But sh e does not wish for it to be universally imposed upon women as their sole identity, above all else (212). She questions what happens when women tell their stories a bout motherhood. Personally, I think Ojiugos actions when she marries Obukodi reveal to us what she feels about motherhood: one must become a mother at all cost. Clearly Nwapa has dealt with moth erhood in a different manner in Idu than in Efuru When one realizes that Ojiugo has other options according to Igbo cultural beliefs, one must question Ojiugos decision to leav e her husbands home and live with another man and his family to have children. Surel y, Ojiugo could have found a way to become impregnated without calling attention to her husbands medical condition. Why does Nwapa have her character make such a choice ? I think the operative word is choice. Joseph Asanbe firmly states that Nwapa gives her characters free will to choose; thus, he does not see them as pitiful women demorali zed by society, but rather women who make choices to suit themselves (78). Obiora Nnaemek a uses the term that I prefer; she says the characters negotiate choices. Negotiate means to select th e best options in a difficult choice; thus, the choices are not as free willed as Asanbe s uggests. His other point that
110 culture and fate can determine what one can become and do is valid to a degree. It is the beliefs of the culture that cause Ojiugo to take such drastic action to become what society expects of her, but at the same time sh e tramples upon the feelings of her husband, Amarajeme. To what extent does Ojiugo contri bute to Amarajemes suicide? Or is his decision to commit suicide based only on the cu ltures belief that if he cannot produce children, he is not a man and not to be resp ected. I do recognize that Amarajeme does not negotiate; he succumbs to societys beliefs. Ye s, choices have been made by individuals, but those individuals have fe lt demoralized and useless. Second Wife in Idu The custom of the Igbo people is to ma rry and have children, and the tradition provides several alternatives to ensure that all families have children. Men are expected to marry several wives if the first wife cannot produce children, but the man must talk to his wife first since the added woman or wome n will be part of a large family and share responsibilities. The concept of woman ma rriage also exists, permitting the women to marry by paying a brideprice for another woman and asking the husband to carry out the arrangements for them (50). Some even believe that Igbo women enjoy polygyny because it allows them to work their busin esses and reduce their domestic and marital responsibilities. The issue of a second wife is handled according to traditional expectations in Efuru. Efuru is a successful businesswoman who has problems conceiving a child, and she gladly agrees to Gilberts marryi ng Nkoyeni, who has a baby boy. Later in the marriage, Efuru accepts Ogea, her former mai d, as another second wife. The family is
111 portrayed as a happy family. Thus, the pr oblem of having a childless marriage is no longer an issue for Efuru. By contrast, if a man does not marry a second wife, it is assumed by the community, especially women like Onyemuru, that the wife is not amenable to the solution, and she is thought of as a selfish and bad person. Men are never thought to be against this tradition, but in Idu Adiwere is. According to the narrator, Adiwere is not at heart a polygamist. All he wants is one good wife and children (51). However to keep peace in the community, Adiwere allows Idu to encourage him to marry a second wife so there will be children in the family and sh e will not be thought of as a bad woman. He listens to his wife, but his h eart does not want anyone else. It is quickly discovered that Idu is pregnant, but, more importantly, the second wife does not like the way she is treated by Adiwere. The actions of the second wi fe are not submissive at all; she does not show respect to Idu as the senior wife nor to Adiwere as her husband. She refuses to allow Idu and Adiwere to treat her like a maid. She says to Idu, No, I dont want you or anybody to talk to me like that. I dont want you to. Why should you talk to me like th at all the time? Th ats how Adiwere talks to me. . I have not come here as a maid, but as a wife. What kind of married life is this? Did I beg your husband to marry me? Eh, did I beg him? Please leave me alone. I can go b ack to my mothers house. (48) The second wife leaves the house without sa ying anything to Idu. At this juncture, Idu explains to her friend Nwasobi that it is time for the second wife to go. Idu accepts the blame because she has encouraged Adiwere to take a second wife to quell rumors that she is a selfish and bad woman. Adiwere ch ecks the second wifes room and discovers
112 she has taken her personal belongings; she also spreads the lie that Adiwere is impotent. Ogunyemi refers to Adiweres actions of treat ing his second wife as a servant and not carrying out conjugal relations with her as a disruption of polygynous marriages, thus creating an embittered woman who spreads lies (158). Adiwere does not attempt to change his actions nor does he seem intere sted in pleasing the community, only himself and Idu. Moreover, Adiwere late r refuses to marry another s econd wife even after his son Ijoma is four years old, and there is no si gn of a second pregnancy. However, Adiweres refusal to follow tradition because his hear t and personal preference indicate otherwise shows a change occurring in society. According to Davi es description of African feminism, the sixth and seventh characteristics seem to be fulfilled. The sixth attribute deals with new views and changes since Ni gerian independence a nd reconstruction, and the seventh emphasizes an examination of traditional and contemporary avenues of choice and telling ones own story (9). Speci fically, the Womens War in Nigeria in 1929 proved to Britain that women wielded clout and were serious about being respected. Ten thousand women attacked the British government to prevent taxation of their products. They asserted their independent wills. Thus, as the reader examines the actions of the female characters in Idu it is not surprising that the ch aracters find alternative, nontraditional ways to achieve their goals. The seventh characteristic of feminism suggests women must begin to negotiate cultural ex pectations by making choices not sanctioned by the community while still aiding the community in other ways. Efuru is one example because she helps her community financially and showers it with love. Amaka is another example as she leaves her husband and relocate s to a different city to start a new life. Even though she encounters some criticism, she has found her sense of self. The choices
113 that Idu, Efuru, and Amaka make outside of the traditional norms illustrate women forming and telling their own stories. Changes in Family Structure and Behavior Many other differencesfor example, in family behaviorin Idu appear to reflect a developing tension between traditiona l and western customs and areas of choice, including the behavior of children; actions of young, pregnant women; domestic patterns of men; and acceptance of twin births. Uzoechi and Nwasobi, the voices of traditi on, discuss changes in childrens habits from the past to the presen t. Children, they say, now make decisions without consulting their elders. For example, a conversation about Idus sister Anamadi, notes that she leaves home without telling anyone. Nwasobi d eclares, Children of these days are so bold. . How can a child of Anamadis age, a child of yesterday, how could she decide on her own to go to Okporodum farm? Uzoech i responds, children behave in a queer way these days. I dont know what the cause is (28). Later, it is di scovered that Idus sister has borrowed Onyemurus canoe w ithout permission, and Onyemuru, the town gossip, blames Idu since the sisters mo ther is dead, accusing Idu of bad breeding (33). Uzoechi, Nwasobi, and Idu also have a conversation in which they discuss the unusual habits of young pregnant women and the different cultural habits of the Europeans. Idu expresses con cern and disbelief when the Eu ropean doctor tells pregnant Idu to bring some of her unborn babys clothes to the hospital. Nwasobi is also surprised and says, These white people are queer . Idu responds, You dont even know
114 whether you are going to have a baby or not and you begin to make clothes for it. Thats not how we act in our town. So I told the nur se to tell the doctor that we dont make clothes for an unborn baby. . God forbid (77). This is one of the few passages in Idu in which Nwapa has characters directly id entify cultural differences between the Igbo Nigerians and the Europeans al though it is likely that much of the tension in the Igbo community, much of the conflict between trad itional and more modern practices, results from new, European ideas and customs th at are affecting the young people especially. There are some young women who have adopted western habits. Uzoechi tells about a young pregnant woman who is lying down or re sting in the middle of the day while her husband cooks. Nwasobi exclaims, Men of today are so queer. You mean her husband cooked! Uzoechi replies, Cooked I say. He split the firewood, he fetched the water, and he cooked and took some to his wife to eat (197). They are shocked because when they were pregnant, they cooked, cleaned, a nd carried firewood almost until the time of delivery. They definitely did not rest duri ng the middle of the day. These older women are voices of traditi on and have difficulty understandi ng the younger generation. It is possible, however, that Nwapa allows some of the voices of tradition to show flexibility because she wants the community to begin to understand there are several ways to live peacefully within the community. Attitudes toward twins also appear to be changing in the Igbo community. According to Victor Uchendu, twins were c onsidered taboo among the Igbo: the mother was isolated and the babies were destroyed. It was thought to be unna tural for humans to have multiple births (58). Uzoechi and Nwas obi discuss two situations of twins. One womans husband refuses to see his wife and the twins. People in the community say
115 terrible things about her. Nwasobi contends, It is true, he [the husband] has not come. The world has changed, you know. When the wo rld used to be the world, a woman wouldnt have lived to see he r twins. How can a human bei ng give birth to two human beings, if she is not an animal. It is only animals who have two or more babies at a time. Uzoechi responds, Everything is different now. Som etimes you wonder why it is so. Our people dont mind these days (198 italics mine). Another husband, however, Okara, supports his wife when she gives birth to twins. It is said he sharpens his knives to harm anyone who attempts to hurt his wife and twin baby boys. He already has three girls, and his boys are revered in his eyes. His family and age-group ridicule him. He says he will send his boys to school, and ever yone frowns at his decisions. Nwasobi comments, Things like these are the cause of these strange happenings we have in the world today. Just as on one bright day we had darkness in the midst of day (199). Nwasobi is concerned about what the an cestors will say about these changes and wonders, How can they believe it? . They were pure. They kept all the laws of the land. So they lived a different life from the life we are living now (199 italics mine). The above italicized phrase is repeated throughout the nove l for a reason. Change seems to be the idea that Nwapa is implanting in the minds of characters and readers. Once change occurs in the consciousness of the pe ople, it will bring about different beliefs and eventually actions and acceptance from a wi der group within the community. Indeed, the effects of colonialism and post-colonialism ha ve influenced the deci sions of members of the community. It is evident by the choices made and words spoken that people realize they have more choices in life, and thes e options permit freedom for the individuals. These different options br ing joy as well as divisi on to the Igbo community.
116 Unexplained Illnesses and Untimely Deaths Illnesses and deaths occur throughout Idu from beginning to end. Some of the illnesses are unexplained and the deaths make significant cultural statements in a community in which custom and order ar e under duress, a community experiencing changes it does not understand. Characters li ke Adiwere suffer from stomach ailments and dizziness while another man experiences mental illness inherited from his family. Nwapa also deals with eating disorders. Cl early, Ogunyemis idea th at the dominant perspective in Nwapas novels is communa l and national rehabilitation (134) is especially pertinent to Idu in the scenes of illnesses and deaths. Ogunyemi reminds the reader that Nwapa wobbles between the in dividual and the community, with the latter triumphing over women (and men) who had da red to be different in her two novels, Efuru and Idu (134). Adiweres stomach illnesses are not clearly defined and explained. A dibia tells him that he should never suffer from stomach trouble again and to not take purgative medicines. This information is incorrect, however, because later Adiwere does get sick again. He is found lying on the floor vomiting blood. Nwasobi attempts to help Idu with him. Another dibia comes to see Adiwere and asks if he has slep t with another mans wife and whether he has eaten food elsewhere All of this speculation indicates the community does not know what is wrong with Adiwere. These incidents of sickness continue and Adiwere also suffers from dizzi ness. No conclusive medical diagnosis is ever found, and Adiwere dies at the end of the novel. It must be noted that when several bouts of his illness occur, either Adiwere, I du, or Nwasobi and others are at the river. What role if any does the river play in thes e incidents? According to Ogunyemi, the river
117 is supposed to be a place of healing for th e community. However, if one observes the actions of the women, they are found gossiping about others while at the river. The day that Adiwere is found lying on the floor, he ha s just come back from taking his bath in the stream and has eaten breakfast at home. In addition, when his sister-in-law, Anamadi, discovers Adiwere on the floor, she rushes to the river to get Idu and Nwasobi. The river is significant but not in a healing manner. Not only is physical illness evident in the novel Idu but so is mental illness. There is a young man who has bad eyes and sometimes runs around naked. He also roughly handles the younger children through intimidation. He even disrespects grown women like Idu and Nwasobi. Nwasobi suggests he is mentally ill like his father: Didnt you see his face? Idu responds, It must be his familys madness you know (115). The two discuss how the family waited too la te to cure the father It is believed if one runs naked in the market, there is no cu re. The young mans father has been sent to Ibo country to be cured, but th e process is slow. It is belie ved his forefathers angered a man by eating food meant for Arushi; thus, th e gods punished them, and the punishment has been passed down from generation to generation. A second case of madness involves a we ll-respected grown man who is quite handsome and, according to rumor, poisoned by a jealous friend who wants his job. This madman also has been known to walk thr ough town without proper clothing, and one day he is observed strutting through the market with a beautiful cloth, which turns out to be a special cloth that belongs to the church and is used to cover the pulpit. Why has Nwapa described different types of illnesses in the community? Is she suggesting that the society needs cleansing and healing? What has brought on such illnesses?
118 Deaths of two major characters in Idu are particularly significant because they are suicides. Amarajemes discovery that his wifes ba by is not his makes him realize that he is impotent. This revelation causes him gr eat embarrassment because now the entire community also realizes that he is impot ent; he is not a man according to traditional views. He begins to question his usefulne ss to society. The one person he loves has deserted him for his best friend, just so she could become a mother. Amarajeme feels as if he has no other purpose in life, so he commits suicide. Is it fair to trample the love and feelings of an individual ju st to please self and society? Gay Wilentz and Asanbe are correct in stating that the cu lture of the community determines what is acceptable for people, thus deciding their fates. Idus relationship with her husband is a l oving one; but when he dies, she decides that she no longer wants to liv e without him, even though she is a mother and expecting a second child. Immediately upon announcing Adiw eres death, Idu makes her intentions clear and refuses to weep for him. She says, Weep for what? . We did not agree this would happen. We did not agree on what to do if this sort of thing happened. . I am going with him (210). Idu clearly explains th at she and Adiwere had made some plans, but they had not considered what would happen to her if he died first. She continues to explain by saying, Who will I live with? W ho will be my husband, the father of my only son? Who will talk to me at night? (210). Idu declares, I am going with my husband. Both of us will go there, to the la nd of the dead. So, Adiwere, my husband, wait for me after you have crossed the stream. I am coming to meet you there, and we shall continue our lives there. It will even be better there (211).
119 Idu continues to make non-traditional c hoices during her period of bereavement when she refuses to scrape her hair and wear black for mourning. Her friends do not understand her actions and wonder about her me ntal stability, but Idu has a plan. She arranges for Okekes son to go back to his people and for Ijoma to live with his uncle, Ishodiou, the irresponsible one. She says she will have the child in her womb in the land of the dead (216). Surely, everyone thinks she has lost her mind, but she has a plan, a plan to die and join Adiwere. She chooses to starve herself for several days, but then decides to have her last meal before death to pay homage to her ancestors. Idu requests that Anamadi cook her a meal, throws mors els to honor her ancestors, and eats as she has never eaten before (218). Sh e then tells her sister, It is well. . I am going to sleep. I am very tired (218). Idu has joined Adiwere in death. According to Wilentz, the decision to will oneself to die only looks lik e a choice when the alternative in living is destructive to a sense of self. Further, [t]he response . is Afracentrist since it exposes the complexities of womens experiences with in an African culture (149). Asanbe seems to vacillate between whether culture or tradit ion has a greater effect on the outcome of a characters life. At first he st ates that tragic events happe n more from a combination of fate and character than adverse forces of trad ition; but later in his dissertation, he states that culture and fate affect wh at happens to a character in th e end. He looks at the choices that Idu makes and believes she is a free agen t masterminding her life (78). The reader is reminded that Igbo culture did not mandate that the woman follow the levirate system and marry the brother-in-law even though the practice was preferred. Idu could have remained a widow. Because she refuses to li ve without Adiwere, Asanbe concludes,
120 however, that Idu prefers l ove over children. (Similarly, Ojiugo has preferred motherhood over love.) It is clear that the communitys beliefs have a serious effect on the actions of characters and the outcome of events. Both Amarajeme and Idu choose death as a better alternative to living amo ng community members and enduring their opinions about manhood and widowhood. At the same time, Wilent z posits the view that their actions fall within what is considered acceptable to the co mmunity (149). I believe that Nwapa is asking the community to change some of its traditional expectations by allowing individuals to have several opt ions, ones that may be different from past expectations. The overall goal is for people to compromise and respect each other while living together in the community. Aberrant Behavior a nd Natural Disasters Nwapa describes both lapses in moral beha vior and natural catastrophes to further emphasize changes within the Igbo communit y. When one considers that the Bini kingdom experienced chaos but concluded w ith moral equilibrium, one can perhaps anticipate peace and balan ce emerging from the confusion and chaos in Idu ; but Nwapa does not describe this balanced condition at the end of the novel. Some of the disturbing events she does describe are thefts, murders, an eclipse, and fires. Gay Wilentz sees these events as representing a community out of balance where the needs of the individual versus demand of the community are in consta nt and everpresent stre ss (146). All of the human events indicate a moral laxity or type of barrenness in society.
121 Stealing is not the norm among the people of the village, but Nwapa describes several incidents in which money or ot her items are taken from the compound by individuals or groups. For example, Onyemu ru accuses someone of stealing her hen, and she comes to Adiweres compound to complain and ask for the return of her hen. After she refuses to name the thief, Adiwere asks her to leave. Onyemuru is not only a victim; she also steals yams from a woman at the market. She places a yam in her basket and attempts to leave the market without paying the trader or without negotiating with her. Onyemuru claims not to have changed he r money and tells the woman to follow her home. Unfortunately, the trader allows her to leave with the yam, and when she gets to Onyemurus house, Onyemuru refuses to pa y. Stealing by a group of thieves who attack families and villages becomes even more serious. In some instance the thieves kill people who refuse to obey their demands. One ma n outsmarts the thieves by leaving his compound and allowing the thieves to take wh at they can find; they put the stolen belongings in their canoe, but become greedy. They go back to find the liquor and then get drunk and sleepy. As a result, the man and his family are able to escape in the thieves canoe with the familys belongings. This in cident upsets the thie ves the next day, and they become bolder in their actions. People in villages begin to keep watch vigils to protect their villages. Most se riously, a band of robbers kills Okeke, the business friend of Idu and Adiwere. Okeke gives them his bicy cle and money and begs for his life to no avail. Adiwere asks, What we are going to do to these thieves is what is eating my inside out (169). He continue s to discuss what should happe n to thieves and murderers: The murderers. We have to do some thing about these thieves. Nobody is safe in this town. Here was a man who was alive and breathing, and see
122 how he met his death. What will he te ll his ancestors? Something must be done in this town. If not, one day someone will be returning from the beach and they will meet their death. People will say that was the persons fate. (170) Peace is briefly restored to the village when several members of the group are jailed for murdering Okeke. One must ask why are such thievery and violence occurring? What has happened to cause the Igbo to disrespect each other? St ealing is not an acceptable practice in Igbo society; and, according to El echi Amadi, there are penalties based upon the reason for stealing and the qua ntity taken. Some thieves had to pay an exorbitant fee; others were sold into slavery. There are also natural disasters occu rring that people do not understand. One such event is the solar eclipse. It happens during Idus pregnancy and is thought to be a badluck omen. People think the world is coming to an end because there is darkness in the middle of the day. The one Christian woman in the compound is sure she has lived to see the end of the world, but [t]o the simple folks of the town, it was a great phenomenon, unexplained. Who could explain it? (82) People are afraid to leave the compound. When light reappears, no one can explain what has happened: It is deep . . The world is a unique place. God only knows the explanation to things of this wo rld (84) is all the community can say. And Idu gives birth to Ij oma on this day even though the dibia has prayed that the baby will not be born given the unnatural event. He believes, however, that Idu and the child will be all right if the proper sacr ifices are made to the gods and ancestors.
123 A second natural disaster is a fire that destroys homes and property. The fire with the exact cause unknownquickly burns mud wardrobes, plants, floors, zinc roofs, and especially houses with thatched roofs. It is rumored that a woman has been cooking food for her men friends and her fire gets out of control, but instead of getting help, she flees the village. Some folk who are in town selling their products sense that a disaster has occurred and start towards home. Town folk question how the fire can do so much damage: They shook their heads. . there was something very deep behind it all. There was something wrong in the town, and the elders would have to do something about it. In the good old days fire did not just break out and burn a whole village destroying everyt hing. It was their enemies who had caused it: their enemies, and so the el ders should go to a dibia to find out the cause of the troubles. (98) Not only do the people lose their homes and pr operty, but Uzoechi is burned badly when she enters her house to retrieve a piece of fabr ic that she has not paid for. After the fire, some family members give their belongings to sympathizers, often relatives (99), for safe keeping, only to discover later that thei r friends and relatives have used them or simply refuse to return them. Clearly the community is disintegrating. Ogunyemi describes the incidents as cosmic myster ies that represent the dislocation and disorientation of the enti re body politic (7). She reminds the reader that Idu was published right after the Nigeri an Civil War that showed a fractured and divided country.
124 Water as a Symbol Water often symbolizes cleansing, healing, and new life in literature. Water or, more specifically, the stream and beach, are important elements in Idu The stream is the place where members of the community gather to bathe, wash clothes, play, and share information about each other. Ogunyemi states that the stream is the meeting point, an unexploited spiritual palliative for a society in disarray (158). Her statement appears true, but closer examination suggest s that many destructive events in Idu are directly related to the stream or occur wh ile characters are at the beach. At the beginning of the novel, several wome n have gathered at the stream for their daily ritualto wash clothes and converse about events and people in the community. It is here at the stream that Nwasobi and Uzoechi first learn that Adiwere has been ill and give Idu advice. However, after Idu leav es them, Nwasobi and Uzoechi discuss her childlessness. The stream in this example is a palliative for these women, for they dispense medical advice on the one hand and, on the other, consider Idus childlessness and thus her position in the community, hoping sh e will simply be late like other women in her family. They see themselves as th erapists for the community; and the stream appears to be significant as a meeting pl ace for exchanges about communal concerns. But often the stream appears to be linked with negative events in the characters lives. When Adiweres second wife returns from the stream with a pot of water, she asks Idu to help her with the pot and then disres pects Idu when Idu playfully asks what has taken her so long. She accuses Idu of treating her like a ma id, not a wife, and says she will not tolerate the s ituation. In addition, when Amaraj eme and Ojiugo spend time at the stream together, Amarajeme appears to think their relationship is healthy but discovers
125 differently when Ojiugo is nowhere to be found at the end of that day. He is also highly perturbed upon discovering that Idu has known Ojiugo is leaving him: So she told you? . Eh, so she to ld you? But she did not tell me. She deceived me. On that day she left we got up as usual. Both of us went to the stream. There she washed my shir t and after having our bath, in the stream, we came home. I was going to Osu that morning, and she was going to the market. We ate together a nd I left. . When I arrived home, I did not see Ojiugo. Where is my wife, I asked the boy. (108) In addition, Idu and Nwasobi discuss Amaraj emes and Ojiugos situ ation while washing their clothes at the stream. Nwa sobi tries to get specific deta ils from Idu, who refuses to give the specifics because O jiugo is her best friend. Does the stream then serve as a force to release stress or reduce problems in the community? I think not based on the above exch anges; it seems only to serve as a place of communication because people are there for practical purposes, that is, to use the water. It is clear from the conversations that society is in disarray (Ogunyemi 158). In addition, Nwasobi and Idu witness the sad event described earlier in this chapter while at the stream. A young man whose father is considered mad splashes water on everyone, including the adults, while frightening th e children, and runs around naked, very inappropriately considering his age. The young mans mother clearly does not see the stream as soothing; she says, He lives in the stream. . His own madness comes from the water. His head seems dire cted to the water (123). In terestingly, Idu attempts to help the young man and his mother; thus, Nwapa places a person, not the stream, in a "palliative" role.
126 The stream plays a major role in the disast rous events in the lives of Amarajeme, Idu, and Adiwere. First, Amarajeme discovers Ojiugo has left him after they spend a morning at the stream. Later, Amarajeme sends his male servant to the stream to wash some clothes; and when the servant returns home, he finds that Amarajeme has hanged himself. One day while Idu is at the beac h, Adiwere becomes ill and she rushes home to him. On another occasion, Adiwere goes to th e beach to have his bath and returns home for breakfast, but later that evening begi ns vomiting. Later Adiwere goes to the beach again and complains about dizziness before returning home. Due to his weakness, Anamadi prepares his bath water for him at home; and a few minutes later, she finds Adiwere vomiting and passing blood. Anamadi rush es to the stream to get Idu, but it is too late. Adiwere is dead. Thus, losses, illne sses, and deaths are associated with the stream and beach at the same time that peopl e continue to go to the stream every day to carry out their chores, to greet each other, and to discuss the lives of members of the community. The question is whether Nwapa c onsiders the stream and water to be a bankrupt symbol for the Igbo. The stream and b each are central to th e lives of the people but no longer appear to have the spiritual or palliative effect that the ancestors would have expected. This change may be further confirmation of Uzoechis belief that [t]he world is bad these days (199). Idu as Dialogic Text From the opening scene at the stream when Idu, Uzoechi, and Nwasobi discuss Adiweres illness to the closing scene in which Idu talks with Nwasobi and Anamadi before dying, Idu clearly offers the kind of dialogic exchanges that Bakhtin describes,
127 with characters speeches juxtaposing, comp lementing, supplementing, and contradicting a range of viewpoints through the narrator's voice. Idu offers an excellent example, in Bakhtins words, of the co-existence of so cial ideological contradictions between the past and the present (291). Nwasobi app ears to acknowledge the tension between Igbo tradition and the colonial influences of edu cation, religion, and politics. Uzoechi appears to be the voice of flexibility within a multip licity of voices. It is she who says, Give them time (3) when the community begi ns to gossip about Idus and Adiweres childlessness. Idu and Adiwere appear to be the most individua listic of the novels characters, aware and sometimes disturbed by the strictures of tradition, but often following their own preference sAdiweres lack of intere st in a second wife, Idus suicide to be with her deceased husbandwithout analysis of the forces that may have contributed to those preferences. Mae Henderson sees the multiple voices and social heteroglossia of Bakhtin as emphasizing an adversarial interrelations hip and favors Han-Georg Gadamers model that she finds more complementary, communal, and consensus-oriented. She observes the multiple and complex social positions of the women in Idu their dialogic exchanges, as a dialectic of identity with as pects of self shared or not shared with others (119). In addition, Gadamer declares that questioning is important (thus desirable) in terms of understanding and interpreting information as well as determining out comes. It allows individuals to question themselves and discove r self-identities, as seen especially in Amarajemes words and actions. I suggest that the authorial voice of Idu is quietly suggesting to the Igbo communitythrough the narrator's voice and innumerable verbal exchanges, both
128 complementary and adversarialthat everyone does not need to follow traditional rules to be happy, that there is room for different styles of life. People must be allowed to make individual choices, and such a change in expectations will bring healing to the community. But, interestingly, in this novel Nwapa re lies upon the actions of the characters even more than their verbal exchanges to make a statement about the ideological contradictions, especially between the past a nd the present, in Igbo life. At first reading Idu appears to be more traditional than Efuru, but upon closer insp ection the reader realizes that Ogunyemi is correct in declaring Idu to be an open rebellion against tradition (158). Ojiugo leaves Amarajeme rath er than have a child by another man and parent with Amarajeme. Adiwere has no inte rest in a second wife. And after Adiweres death, Idu refuses the tradition of marrying her husbands brother and sends her son, Ijoma, to live with the irres ponsible Ishiodu because she plans to die to be with Adiwere. These actionsespecially Idusare subversive in the context of Igbo tradition. Critics have debated the meaning of th e novels conclusion. Joseph Asanbe offers a romantic perspective: Idu loves Adiwere so much that she chooses to die and be with him (79). Ogunyemi compares Idu to an Oban je because she chooses to go on a lonely journey to death. She refuses to be subj ugated by the claims of motherhood. Ogunyemi believes Idus actions, especially her death or unwillingness to live, are politically motivated: she sees Idus suicid e as a strategy to provoke the community to take a closer look at itself (160). She labe ls Idu an openly rebellious woman who makes her own choices and even suggests that Nwapas name Idu is a pun on the pidgin sentence E do: It is enough, or, when uttered in exasperation, Enough is Enough. Ogunyemi
129 suggests that Nwapa is saying E do to the cruelty inflicted on women, children, and other helpless people in the society (162). Idus actions support Carole Davies second and seventh characteristics of African feminism. The second recognizes the inequities and limitations that exist in traditional societies as the crux of problems. Societys traditional expectations cause Idu to choose death instead of living and ma rrying Ishiodu and cause Ojiugo to publicly humiliate Amarajeme when she chooses motherhood at all costs. The seventh examines traditional and contemporary avenues of choi ce: women tell their ow n stories, and Idu definitely tells her own story, chooses her ow n way. No one expects a pregnant mother to die and leave her son motherless, because mo therhood is revered, respected, required. In addition, by allowing Idu to di e, Nwapa demonstrates a ch aracteristic of black women writers identified by Henderson: they enter into familial and public discourses that both affirm and challenge the values and expecta tions of the reader (120-21). Thus, the women in Nwapas novels enter into familial disc ourse with other women, especially Igbo women who understand their situ ations based on culture, tr adition, education, history, and politics. However, at the same time, Nwa pas female characters enter into public or competitive discourse with African men as African women and with European men and women as African women. Too often, the African women are fighting several conflicts at the same timefamilial and public. Henderson re fers to these simultaneous discourses as multiple voices fighting to be heard and respected. As Nwapas novels progressed over time her women seem more and more liberated and happy with choices they ma ke even though the community may not be completely satisfied. The women also recogni ze that happiness comes from within. The
130 search of female characters for self-heali ng and happiness in a world in which they encounter and overcome innumerable traditi onal, cultural, polit ical, and emotional roadblocks continues in One is Enough the subject of the next chapter.
131 Chapter VI Voices of Modernity and Change in One is Enough Flora Nwapas third novel, One is Enough was written in 1981, approximately fifteen years after the publication of Efuru The novel explores how women must speak and act for themselves to discover self-identity and happiness. Often they must make choices that will go against tradition; these choices force members of the Igbo community to reexamine past views, customs, and options for women and men. In many cases, the Igbo family discovers that education and Christian ity have changed their lives in unexpected ways, and now the Igbo people must learn to embrace the changes. Through the voice of the narrator and the voices of the characters, it becomes evident that colonialism has introduced new ideas about courtship, marriage, motherhood, roles of women, careers, education, and religion in gene ral. Often these new ideas create friction among members of the community, especially in reaction to the younger, educated members who are trying to adhere to their cult ural traditions and also live up to ideas and methods they have learned in Christian school s, a double bind that can present conflicts. The female characters in One is Enough display a new spirit of determination and exuberance inspired by the aftermath of postcolonialism. These women take charge of their lives and make choices that bring them happiness even if they break some traditional cultural customs. In the analysis of this novel, I wi ll focus upon the choices made by female and male characters, with an emphasis on Amak a, and upon the diction of the narrator and
132 characters. The analysis will reveal an ending very different from the endings of the Nwapa novels previously discussed, show ing how a young woman has changed from trying to follow the dictates of two different cultures to fo llowing her own beliefs as she seeks happiness and joy within her life. Many of Amakas choices involve a blending of different cultures; other choi ces exemplify her preference for one culture over the other as it offers peace in her life. Again Mikhail Bakhtins and Mae Hendersons views about language and dialogism will guide the discus sion, and the feminist concerns will be grounded in Carole Boyce Davies, Chikwe nye Ogunyemi, Teresa Njoku, and Obiora Nnaemekas ideas. From time to time, I will al so refer to HansGeog Gadamers work to support my views on Bakhtin and Henderson. In addition, in discussi ng the narrator and implied author, I will apply the concep ts and definitions of Wayne Booths Rhetoric of Fiction To better understand the accomplishment of th e novel, it is necessary to consider the setting of One is Enough The work begins in a small village called Onitsha and ends in a large, modern city, Lagos. Both settings indicate a major difference between cultural practices at home, school, and work. Even though the influenc es of colonialism and postcolonialism have invaded the small town of On itsha, some people try to remain dedicated to traditional Igbo expectations. By contrast those individuals living in Lagos tend to adopt non-Igbo practices. Nwapa carefully assigns different characters a different level of consciousness; and the characters grow th rough awareness of self, education, religion, social customs, and history. Amakas develo ping consciousness is tested throughout the novel, beginning with the conversation be tween Amaka and her mother about how women should live their lives.
133 As in Nwapas previous novels, marriag e and children are at the center of the conflicts, but the outcomes are qu ite different and revealing in One is Enough The major character, Amaka, is a new, self-style d woman who quickly and easily negotiates a lifestyle that suits her. Amaka is pres ented as a caring, thoughtful, ambitious, and determined young woman who, at sixteen, wants to be married and is going to show everybody that a womans ambition was marriage, a home that she could call her own, a man she would love and desire and cherish, and children to crown the marriage (1). Amaka attends schools where the missionaries often teach children different ways of thinking, acting, and living. The instruction is from a European perspective and from a Christian point of view. For example, chur ch and court marriages are introduced. The missionaries also teach that marriage must come before motherhood, a concept which does not follow the traditional teachings of Amaka's mother. Amaka begins her career as a teacher before she becomes a successful contractor in Onitsha. However, she does not become a contractor until near the end of the Biafra War when she sells lumber, sand, and food. She realizes working as a contractor is a very lucrativ e profession. She is a part of the "attack trade" (trade w ith the enemy) that many women find the only way to survive during this time period. Gay Wilentz, in Not Feminist but Afr acentrist, reminds the reader that the novel takes place after independence and the Bi afra War, and it identifies many of the problems of post-colonial Nigeri a, which involves a clash of traditional values versus contemporary lack of values (152). She be lieves the actions of characters show each individuals preferences winni ng at the expense of the comm unitys traditions. Wilentz says this cultural conflict not only reflects a discord in familial/community values but
134 also problematizes the whole notion of generational contin uity and womens cultural production within a contemporary West-African society (152). The disagreements about marriage, courtships, and motherhood are defini tely reflected in the discussions between Amaka and her mother as well as between women and men of the community. Some individuals support traditionAmakas mother and auntand others prefer accepting some changes as exemplified by the actions of Amaka, her sister, Ayo, Father McLaid, Adaobi, and Obi, Amakas very first suitor. Courtship and Marriage in One is Enough Courtship and marriage are difficult for Amaka because of traditional expectations in the community. Amaka en counters many problems while courting, and these difficulties are indicators that her married life will be full of complexities. Her first suitor, Obi, is well liked by her mother and comes from a well-respected family. According to the narrator, The understandi ng that both families would be in-laws had been fully established when news came to Amakas mother that the young man had married another girl in church (6). This unexplained change in Obis actions indicates a break in tradition. He and Amaka have b een promised to each other through their families negotiations at an earlier time; however, Obi at tends Christian schools and learns ideas that differ from Igbo cultural practices about ma rriage. Thus, he decides to exercise his option to marry a young lady whom he chooses without considering cultural expectations, even the binding commitment that has been made for him, and he does not exhibit any concern for Amakas feelings or the expectations of the community. In addition, the narrator reveals that Obi has married a young woman in church, with the
135 church marriage reflecting the introduction of European customs, customs that conflict with traditional Igbo customs and, in this ca se, create emotional stress for Amaka and her family. Amaka is heartbroken for quite a whil e. Her mother advises her to forget the man, declares he is not good for her, and says it is good he left her before the marriage. However, the reader should remember that Amakas sole ambition is to be a wife and mother One might ask at what poi nt Nwapa wants the reader to recognize that Obi has disrespected the custom of keeping his co mmitment to Amaka and her family. What about the fact that he has a church weddi ng and no mention is made of a traditional wedding? Do Obis European education and new Christian religion influence him to change his mind? If he makes the choice, shouldnt he have spoken with both families about his change of plans? Th ese are issues that I believe Nwapa wants us to consider. While grieving her loss of Obi and trying to move forward with her life, Amaka, who is only sixteen years old, meets Isaac, w ho seems like a perfect mate. He teaches her about sex and love, but is slow to propose marriage. After Amaka and Isaac date for a year, people in the community begin to question Amaka, causing her great embarrassment. Several friends suggest that she date other men while seeing Isaac. Amaka refuses to take their advice even though she really wants to get married. It is clear the community voices are supporting marriage. Then tragedy enters Amaka's life again: Isaac is killed in a car accident. Amaka begins to wonder what fate is doing to her. During this period of bereavement, she meet s playboy Bob, who does not take time to get to know her. He proposes within record time. Because marriage is a family event and Amaka has some doubts about Bob, she consults her aunt before accepting his proposal. After her aunt researches Bobs family, she tells Amaka that Bob has not properly cared
136 for his mother and advises Amaka not to marry him. Bob also has impregnated his mothers young servant girl, refused to marry her, and demanded that she have an abortion. Her aunt advises Amaka that a good man will come. But let me make it clear to you. Please dont bottle your self up. You are not going to be in a nunnery. What is important is not marriage as such, but child ren, being able to have children, being a mother (8). Carole Davies finds this view of the aunt unacceptable because it supports obligatory motherhood. Davies is not agai nst motherhood, but does not want it to be forced on women, nor does she want them to suffer or be ostracized if they are not mothers. It is evident the Igbo co mmunity believes in motherhood at all cost, but Amaka is concerned about getting married first and th en becoming a mother. Her education from the European teachers and missionaries has taug ht her to get married first and then have children; Igbo culture does not insist upon th at model. Amakas si tuation with Bob is solved when he, too, is killed in an automobile accident. One questions why the implied author has allowed three suitors to elude Amaka. Is this a sign that maybe she should not marry? Amaka questions whether or not God has saved her from widowhood twice. Amaka struggles to maintain some semblance of friendship with her age-group and maintain her sense of dignity while continui ng with her contracting business. Even her mother encourages her to buy land and become wealthy because a husband will appreciate her wealth and treat her better. Her mother, just like her aunt, encourages motherhood at all cost with or without a husband. Finally, Amakas courting days come to an end: she meets Obiora when he transfers home from the North to work as an executive officer in one of the Ministries
137 (11). He is described by the na rrator as quiet and gentle (12). Obiora makes the proper preparations with Amakas family and his fa mily. The two marry in a church after a sixmonth courtship and after completing the traditional ceremonies. Now Amaka has achieved one of her two major goals, to get married. Thus, becoming a mother should be easy or is it? Six years later Amaka and Obiora st ill do not have children, and conflict emergesa clash of traditional values and contemporary values about motherhood. Amakas relationship with her husband disint egrates, and she leaves the marital home after discovering Obiora infidelity, fa therhood, and secret (second) marriage. After leaving Obiora and moving to La gos, Amaka is involved in two other relationships, one serious and the other fleet ing. Amakas friendship with Alhaji is only to receive contracts; there is no significant intimacy between them. The relationship is purely sexual, a way of rewarding Alhaji for giving her contracts. The two do not mingle in public nor do they have any future expect ations together. The s econd relationship is a seriously intimate one. Amaka and Father McLaid are committed to each other, but because of their positions, they keep their relationship privat e. Amaka is still married to Obiora, and Father McLaid is a priest. Amak as courtships and marriages do not offer the inner happiness she has been seeking; and the characters, male and female, experience many difficulties and changes due to conflicti ng or incompatible social, educational, and religious influences.
138 Views on Motherhood Motherhood is one of the most important issues in the novel. Because of the influence of Christianity and education on the younger generation, several views of motherhood emerge, and they do not agree. Since the implied author is empowering Amaka to make choices that are good for her, Amaka listens to and evaluates many points of views about motherhood. In school, [t]he good missionaries had emphasized chastity, marriage, and the home. Her moth er was teaching something different. Was it something traditional which she did not know because she went to school and was taught the tradition of the white missi onaries? (11). Her mother has instructed her to have men friends while waiting to get married and to have children, marriage or no marriage. In addition, her mother states, [y]our children will take care of you in your old age. You will be very lonely then if you dont have children. As a mother, you are fulfilled (11). It is evident that Amaka and her mother have different ideas about how to live life, and it is clear that western education has complicat ed the situation for Amaka. What is Amaka to do? The views of Amakas aunt about motherhood are similar to her mothers. She tells Amaka that marriage is not as important as children, as important as being able to have children. According to her aunt, A ma rriage is no marriage without children. Have your children, be able to look after them, and you will be respected (8). Here the emphasis is on children, motherhood, and resp ect, with motherhood being the ultimate goal. Amakas aunt sees marriage as mostly an avenue for producing children. She explains that she didnt like her husband when she married him but had seven children by him and then decided she did not want to sleep with him anymore. She had accomplished her mission: motherhood. She then finds a s econd wife for her husband and focuses upon
139 her business. What choice is Amaka to make after realizing that l ove has had nothing to do with her aunts and her mothers marri ages; motherhood was their goal. Her aunt actually explains how to get what one want s out of a relationship and then move on. These thoughts seem very selfish and self-s erving. However, her aunt does seem to understand the importance of education, for she tells Amaka how she educated her children from the profits she earned from he r business. She also makes it evident that women must have their own businesses and never depend entirely on husbands. The aunt says, Never slave for him. Have your own business no matter how small, because you never can tell (9). The above sentiments support Carole Da vies views about African Feminism. Davies reminds the reader that the African woman is aware of the inequities and limitations in traditional society, a view es poused by Amakas mother, who explains why she did not marry for love and what she did when she had had enough children by her husband. Amakas mother and aunt also support Davies fifth characteristic of feminism, which focuses on womens being self reliant and never depending completely on the husband. Again, Amakas mother explains that she married younger wives to take care of her husbands sexual needs while she pursued her business interests. Lastly, both women encourage Amaka to have children whether she is married or not; it is a traditional and contemporary avenue of choice Njoku contends that the actions of the aunt and mother push Amaka towards a womanist consciousness when they advise her to be financially independent of her husband (6). An evolving female consciousness is th e basis of Nwapas thought process as expressed through the narrator a nd voices of various characters. As these characters
140 develop their views and find th eir voices to speak out for themselves, it becomes evident that motherhood is important to them; however, they do not want to be humiliated or rejected if they are not able to have ch ildren. After marrying, Amaka and Obiora appear happy with each other, with their jobs, and w ith their friends, but there is no sign of the pregnancy expected by traditi onal Igbo standards. Six years after marriage, Obiora and Amaka still do not have a child, and the situat ion has created some friction between them. To complicate matters, Obiora's mother insists Obiora must have an heir because all his brothers and sisters have an heir (12). Amak a feels unfulfilled and tries to find a way to satisfy her mother-in-law. She tries to make her mother-in-law belie ve that she has an appointment with a medical doctor, but the mother-in-law knows the truth. To further humiliate Amaka, the mother-in-law blurts out that Obiora has two sons by another woman, and the woman and her sons are coming to live with Obiora and Amaka. How is Amaka to overcome such hostility and emptin ess at the same time? Amaka begins to wonder if she is useless to the world b ecause she was childless? Was she unfulfilled because she had no child? (22) She goes th rough a period of confusion because she remembers the missionaries who appeared happy. She wonders who will take care of them in their old age. Are they completely happy doing Gods work on earth? Amaka is trying to find her self accord ing to traditional, colonial, and post-colonial expectations. She is trying to develop an independent natu re in order to find security and happiness within her self and within the community. Amakas search for self fulfillment conti nues after she leaves Obiora and moves to Lagos. While Amaka is adjusting to life in Lagos, she meets Father McLaid, a priest, and develops an intimate relationship with him. She seduces him to get contracts, but this
141 relationship produces twin boys. She is quite surprised to learn that she is pregnant because she thought she was barren; however, sh e is very happy. Both apologize to each other for manipulating each other for selfish purposes. Father McLaid admits, Darling Amaka, I knew what I was doing. You did not use me. I rather used you. I have no regrets. The baby must be born. I am responsib le. All I ask is that you keep this secret until I sort things out. . There are times in ones life when one is left with a choice (104). The birth and joyous acceptance of Amak as twins indicate that Igbo society has adopted some Christian practices because duri ng this period twins were either killed or left to die in the forest. They were considered bad luck because only animals gave multiple births. McLaid himself has first hand experience of this custom because he is a twin and even though his sister dies at birth and his mother dies a few months later, no one from his family came to the Catholic hospital to claim him. Thus, the Catholic Church adopted him, and Father McLaid, Sr ., raised him as his own son. By contrast, Amakas family and friends are glad to hear that she has become a mother at last, suggesting a significant change in cultural attitudes. Second Wife in One is Enough Another area of the novel in which trad itional Igbo customs are not followed involves the taking of a second wife. Obiora chooses not to discuss his second wife and two sons with Amaka. Amaka is not asked or told about the second wife before Obiora marries her and before the birth of child ren. Thus, Obiora has decided not to obey customs. Why? In addition, Amaka is not shown any respect from her husband or mother-in-law when they inform Amaka that the second wife and the boys are coming to
142 live in the house with everyone. After the wife and boys arrive Obiora continues to insult Amaka by demanding that she recognize the new family members according to his expectations. The narrator indicates that Amaka makes an attempt to be gracious but also to stand up for herself. She asks, Where is the mother of your sons? and Obiora responds by saying, You mean my wife? ( 25). Thus he tells Amaka that she must refer to the woman as his wife. Amaka congr atulates him and reminds him that a wife, even a barren one, is supposed to be cons ulted before the husband marries and has two children by another woman. Amaka states, You have changed a good deal, my husband. I too could change you know (26). These words lead to a physical fight between Obiora and Amaka, and she decides it is time to stand up for herself. Eventually, the actions of Obiora and his mother cause Amaka to permanently sever her relationship with him and move to Lagos to find her self and happiness. At this juncture, Amaka finds a voice to defend herself and shows a determinat ion to forge ahead and take charge of her future on her own terms. Amakas new-f ound voice, severed relationship, and strong determination to find individual happiness are cultural barometers that suggest a change in family structure. Changes in Family Structure: Si ngle Life and Economic Independence One is Enough reveals many changes in Igbo fam ily structure and the behavior patterns of both traditional married and single life, with European customs an important influence. These changes are most noticeabl e when individuals le ave rural towns and move to cities like Lagos; the customs ar e most acceptable to individuals who have studied abroad or who have received educat ional training based on European standards.
143 Increasingly, women are comfor table being single and increas ingly they pursue financial independence. Lagos represents freedom, opportunities for women, and female solidarity. The narrator explains that Amaka has come to Lagos to look for her identity and have a clean break (38, 45). A clean break implies a ne w beginning without limitations but with many expectations. The reader observes the implied authors views on single life as well as the moral and emotional content of all actions and sufferings of characters (Booth 73). For example, Amakas sister, Ayo, lives in Lagos as a single successful woman and mother, but she is kept by a married man. Traditiona lly, there were some single Igbo women who had children, and these women did have some type of business to sustain themselves. The major change is that the sister is kept by a married man. Amaka finds her sense of independence and self-worth as a woman af ter she is introduced to Alhaji, who is instrumental in helping her get contracts. Thr ough these contracts, sh e is able to become financially secure and rent her own apartm ent, buy a car, build a house in her hometown, and divorce her husband legall y and traditionally as well as give money to family members. These steps represent freedom and opportunities for Amaka. Further, her freedom to live the single life allows her the opp ortunity to date and meet Father McLaid, who unwittingly helps Amaka to achieve her most desired goalmotherhood. The narrator describes Amakas joy upon discovering that she is pregnant and not barren as thought by her former mother-in-law. The most important indication of Amaka's freedom, I think, occurs when she decides she do es not want to and will not marry Father McLaid just because she has children by him, even though he wants to marry her to save his moral reputation with the public. Amakas words express her freedom:
144 As a wife, I am never free. I am a shadow of myself. As a wife I am almost impotent. I am in prison, unable to advance in body and soul. Something gets hold of me as a wife and destroys me. . No, I am through with husbands. I said farewell to husbands the first day I came to Lagos. (127) Amaka's adulterous affair with a willing pr iest exemplifies how much the Igbo people are changing. The financial pursuits of Amaka's friend Adaobi and the Cash Madams further illustrate changes in Igbo culture. Adaobi lives in Lagos with her husband and family, and Amaka shares her financial success stories with Adaobi. At first Adaobi listens with envy as Amaka describes her rise to freedom and financial security, but Adaobi then begins to ask questions. The questions evolve into positive energy as she decides to get contracts so she can build a house for her fam ily; her husband works for the civil service and is so loyal that he cannot believe his family will ever be forced out of the home where they are living, even though they are allo wed to live there only as long as he works for the government. Amaka helps Adaobi get co ntracts, and Adaobi builds a house for her family without her husbands knowledge. I thin k this is an example of the power of women to collaborate for self-advancement a nd family security. The house is finished just as the government undergoes a coup, a nd Adaobis husband loses his job and the home in which they have been living. Female solidarity is dramatically ex emplified by the group called the "Cash Madams," women who own their own land and houses in Lagos and their hometowns. They represent a new breed of female entrep reneurs and invite Amaka to join them. Six
145 are widows; four have left their husbands to start a new life. The Cash Madams become successful during the Biafra Civil War when they sell products to soldiers on both sides to feed their families. They are often referred to as being part of the attack trade for selling to the enemies. The Cash Madams fi nd it necessary to move to Lagos after the war in order to remain economically independent. They do not define themselves solely by marriage and children. Even though the Cash Madams are quite successful financially, they disagree on whether they should remain in Lagos and ra ise children with a co mpletely new set of values and learn many languages or return to rural hometowns and rear children in a more traditional and communal setting with all the financial benefits. The voices represent "the co-existence of contradictions . different socio-ideological groups in the present" (291) that Bakhtin describes in his discussions of the dive rsity of human voices and ideologies. Some want thei r children reared in rural ar eas to maintain traditional continuity and values; others prefer to live in modern Lagos and allow their children to become bilingual and learn different custom s. Will people have to lose traditional customs in order to survive in modern Lagos or is it possible for people to respect the customs of both rural traditional areas and of modern Lagos? One is Enough as Dialogic Text One is Enough 's dialogical sphere is rich in questions and responses, different affirmations and negations, undramatized voi ces especially of the traditional past and dramatized voices of a period of fluctuation a nd change. Many characters are in a state of becoming or of defining themselves, especially Amaka and Adaobi. Thus, I posit the
146 view that the implied author is offering la yers of diverse and pa rticular voices and ideologies through her narrator while offering a strong objection to a world in which Igbo women are not allowed to pursue self-realization. The views expressed by Ayo, Amaka, Ad aobi, and the Cash Madams indicate that a new breed of women is willing to wo rk to make their own paths in society. The positive outcome is that the women are now being accepted by society, especially in cities, and some of the new ideas are transmitted to rural counterparts who desire the same results. These women see themselves as human beings first (S teady) and not just sexual beings for procreation. Nwapas characters do not always agr ee upon how people should live their lives or solve common problems. This disagreement reflects changes in consciousness and ideologies of the young and old, of age-groups, or as Apena says, of the first generation of new women (285). Amaka, her sister, and Ad aobi are a part of th e first generation of new women, exhibiting more flexible ideas about how to live life, as shown in the discussion of marriage and mo therhood between Amaka and her mother earlier in this chapter. Amaka, who represents the younger and educated generation, accepts motherhood but does not believe it is the only goa l in life and does not think the lack of motherhood should detract from a person as a worthwhile individual. The conflict between the views of the ol der and younger generations can be attributed to the differences between Christian/European and traditional Igbo beliefs in a changing world. Gay Wilentz suggests that the conversati on between Amaka and her mother on this subject indicates a breakdown between the educ ated and uneducated but points out that the mothers knowledge is resp ected in the exchange (153).
147 A discussion about whether Amaka should ma rry Izu also indicates a difference in thinking between age-groups. Amakas mother us es a tone that is hostile and demanding towards her own daughter, who is an adult with her own thoughts. The mother wants Amaka to marry Father McLaid for several reasons; he will protect Amaka from other men, and Amaka needs some help rearing th e boys. Amakas sister, Ayo, reminds their mother that Amaka does not love Father Izu McLaid, but their mother does not find love a requirement for marriage. Even though the mother is aware of Amakas troubles with her former husband, Obiora, she says, You will marry Izu. . I am your mother (140). These words do not leave room for negotiation. The values and ideas of the women are products of their age-groups as well as formal education and traditional training, examples of the other-languagedness defined by Bakhtin, the intersecting of the languages of hete roglossia (291). The marital views of Amaka, Ayo, and Nanny, on the other hand, are similar despite their other-languagedness. Even t hough Nanny never actively participates in the open discussions of the mother and daughters, she finally te lls Amaka, If you dont feel like it, dont do it . . I am much older than you are, and know how you feel. So I can see you do not want him [Izu] as a husband. Dont let your mother push you into this kind of marriage (148-49). Nwapa is advoca ting that women stand up for their rights even if family members disagree, for women must be happy with the choices they make. Amaka finally tells Izu that the journey to her home for the marriage rites [has] been postponed indefinitely (149); in other words, there will be no marriage. These words indicate Amakas sense of self -discovery. She is satisfied be ing a single mother of twins. The choice is one that allows the woman the option of finding her sense of freedom,
148 peace, and space within Igbo culture. Obvious ly, a few individuals are not happy, but the choice is Amakas. Amaka does not quickly or easily reach her decision, for she questions herself in terms of her past, present, and future. She i nvites Obiora to visit her at her mothers house after she has given birth to the twins. During the visit, she questions herself, seeking the truth: Was this man the husband with whom she had lived for six years? She felt nothing for him anymore. . Was this the man she loved so much and married? Why did she feel nothing towards him any more? (119). Amaka also considers what the people in her village will say if they know that a priest is th e father of her children, what the thoughts and actions of he r family members and friend Adaobi will be. She asks her sister, Ayo, about the situation, only to be urged to follow her own feelings. Finally, she recognizes that she does not feel anything special for Izu. She wonders what is wrong with her and whether she is incapable of l oving anyone anymore. What has "happened to her these three years in Lagos?" (120). Amak a comes to the conclusion that she does not want to love anyone except her twins and fam ily. She arrives at a cl ear understanding of what is best for her as a woman, a mother, and a businessw oman. Her dialogue with self and others has given her strength and tr ansformed her consciousness. Perhaps her dialectic is an example of the art of seeing thi ngs in a unified manner to ascertain truth, as Gadamer asserts (368). Not only has Amakas evolving conscious ness been explored, but so has the consciousness of Amakas mother, aunt, sister and friend Adaobi. E ach woman offers a story about how she has handled her hus band, motherhood, and business. Each woman explains the importance of being free from a husbands expectations and engaging in
149 business ventures that make her economically independent of her hus band. This approach supports Carole Davies second characteristic of feminism, that an African feminist consciousness focuses on the inequities and limitations of traditional societies, while indicating that colonialism may have reinforced them and introduced others (9). Is it really necessary, for example, to be married before becoming a mother as taught by the missionaries? All emphasize both mother hood and economic independence although the details of their lives diffe r depending upon age group and e ducation. According to Mae Henderson, the various ideas within a cultural environment create a dialectic of identity as the women are sharing their ideas with each other (119). Each woman is privileging herself while recognizing that she speaks from a multiple and complex social, historical, and cultural [position]. . (119). Alt hough the novel explores traditional and contemporary choices for women, there seems to be a greater need to examine contemporary choices for women. The novel One is Enough most definitely invites th e reader to ask questions. Nnaemeka has stated that Nwapa's work captures the complexity, ambiguities and contradictions of her environment . Her wo rk . invite[s] us to ask questions, many questions (104). The reader asks whethe r the Igbo women should have to choose between traditional and modern avenues in life. Why cant they use a combination of customs and still be accepted by the commun ity? Is one method better than the other? Does a woman have to be a mother to be respected and accepted as a person? Does education help or hinder gr owth and development in th e community? What about the differences between Christianity and traditiona l religions? Education and Christianity are supposed to be positive influences on a cultu re, but if their introduction causes future
150 generations to no longer respec t Igbo traditional heritage, then something is lost or forever compromised. The ambiguities and cont radictions that exist between traditional Igbo culture and modern European teaching cr eate much of the tens ion of Amaka's life. However, One is Enough actually ends with a satisfie d female character, one who does not leave the reader wondering if she is happy at the end as Idu and Efuru do. The two earlier heroines appear happy with their la ter decisions in life, but there is ambiguity about some actions they have taken. With Am aka, however, there is no confusion at the end of the novel. It is evident that she is sure about the choi ces she has made in her life. The reader feels joy, freedom, and finality in her words and actions. Again, I refer to Amaka's very specific words, I dont want to be a wife anymore. . As a wife, I am never free. . No, I am through with husba nds. I said farewell to husbands the day I came to Lagos (127). Self-preservation a nd identity have been the key factors in Amakas decision to remain a single moth er; and her difficult journey from a single woman to a married, childless woman to an unmarried mother who is a successful businesswoman shows that a woman can achie ve her goals and find personal happiness within society. She represents independence for women within an evolving post-colonial society. Nwapa, through her narrator, also sugge sts that tolerance must exist within the community, and people must respect each others individual choices while acknowledging differences and difficulties. Nwapa allows Amaka and the other female characters to privilege themselves in newly emerging, evolving levels of conscious ness while establishi ng their dignity and earning respect from people in their rural hometowns as well as Lagos. Thus, Nwapa has successfully navigated the options for women in Igbo society and is advocating balance
151 and diversity within the community. An adjusting traditional consciousness and an emerging contemporary consciousness form th e driving force that creates the novel's dialogue within self and between self, fam ily, and societyall embedded in the narrator and guided by the implied authorthat has come full circle from Efuru to One is Enough
152 Conclusion After introductory chapters offeri ng background informationa review of feminist and dialogic theories in relation to African literat ure (Chapter I), a survey of literary criticism on Flora Nwapas novels (C hapter II) and material on Igbo culture (Chapter III)this dissertation has focu sed upon three of Flora Nwapas six novels: Efuru (1966) and Idu (1970), her first two novels, reflecti ng early colonial culture in the Oguta area of Igboland but dominated by traditional Igbo customs and mores, and One is Enough (1981), her fourth novel, beginning to reflect a post-colonial and even modern world. Between Idu and One is Enough Nwapa published a third novel, Never Again (1975), that is a narrative about the Biafra War, sometimes described as semiautobiographical, and two co llections of short stories focused upon specific cultural issues affecting women in Western Africa, This Is Lagos and Other Stories (1971) and Wives at War and Other Stories (1980). After One is Enough, Nwapa published Women Are Different (1986), a work continuing her portray al of the Igbo post-colonial world, and wrote The Lake Goddess (1995), an unpublished novel left with the Jamaican professor Chester Mills, in which she reverts to the traditional, turns from Christianity to the indigenous, religious source Uhamiri to find spiritual strength in the return to African traditional religions in times of great stress and uncertainty (Ogunyemi 10). Obioma Nnaemeka argues that Nwapas work is a biography, a collective biography of beautiful, strong Ugwuta women dependent upon the goddess Uhamiri,the goddess of
153 the crossroads. Nwapas work locates [reader s] at the crossroads, inviting us to ask questions, many questions (104). Such quest ions are often those of her female characters: What do choice and discovery mean for Igbo women expressing their awareness of self and their growth first in a colonized, then in a post-colonial, world? How successful are Igbo women in attaini ng personal satisfaction? Are they happy and respected in their communities and do they find their lives meaningful? It is clear that Nwapa sees women as having come a long way over a twenty-year period from voicelessness to voice even t hough they have encountered many difficulties. With womens voices becoming louder and bolder from Efuru to One is Enough Nwapas women achieve significant levels of self-consciousness a nd personal identity. Nwapas emphasis is, I believe, upon the exact areas Asanbe identifies in the work of Wole Soyinka: the individual human being, in dividual sensibility, and individual modes of reacting to specific problems (180), but Nwapa also emphasizes a communal ethic and happiness. My conclusion is that Nwapa s women find respect; some find happiness; some discover their self-identities as th ey move from voiceless to voice. Language empowers them and the community. Clearly tradition, colonia lism, and post-colonialism complicate the many changes in the lives of women and men and in Igbo cu lture that Nwapa emphasizes in her works. Because of the differences between ideas a nd customs, many Igbo in her works are in a state of moral and social confusion, and Nwapa advocates a range of solutions or compromises through the characters. Her works reflect her desire to open the avenues of communication between people of different ag es, education, regions, and sexes as they find individual happiness and a sense of self She asserts that members of the community
154 must find avenues to permit individuals to ma ke choices that may not necessarily reflect past generational expectations ; that the community needs to be mindful that many people have been educated in western traditions; and that the community must engage in a sensitive and intelligent dialogue that enable s individuals to help resolve conflicts. Usually her foci are gender issues in Igbolandparticularly courtship, marriage, motherhood, and female choice and independenc e in both personal and public, especially economic, areasbut her treatment of the Biafra War in Never Again also offers a universal statement about war and The Lake Goddess makes a significant religious statement for Nigerians. Short Story Collections and Women Are Different Nwapas short stories and Women Are Different focus upon many of the issues and develop many of the themes of Efuru Idu and One is Enough works in which strong women struggle to find their wa y in a traditional and patria rchal Igboland increasingly influencedeven disrupted, as symbolized by disease or natural disastersby western values and behavior. This Is Lagos (1971) reflects traditiona l and colonial tensions; Wives at War (1986), traditional, colonial, and post-co lonial. Brenda F. Be rrian suggests that Nwapa reinvents the African woman in One is Enough by disproving that a woman must have a husband to attain respect and success, even se lf-realization (Reinvention 54). Four different versions of that new woman appear in Women Are Different This Is Lagos and Other Stories includes a number of narratives in which men and women and children and their parents make many adjustments as they live in a world of both traditional and western cultures. Fo r example, in The Traveller, a young man
155 sees a former classmate many years later a nd immediately wants her to have a quick sexual relationship with him. When the young woman says no, he is surprised. Both individuals have changed due to age and edu cation, but his expecta tions of wanting the woman to submit to him without getting to know him bothers her. His assumptions, she feels, indicate that he does not recognize that a woman may have a moral code and respect for herself. The Road to Benin and This Is Lagos depict young people who have gone to school and learned western va lues and habits. The young man in The Road to Benin disrespects his mother when he returns home from school by asking her to serve his friends and him beer in the family home; he also gets arrested for drugs and needs the family to pay his fine. His mother is deeply shocked by such behavior that demonstrates a lack of respect for the mo ther, the female figure. Similarly, the young woman in This Is Lagos, like Efuru and cont rary to Nigerian tradition, decides to marry without consulting her family, and a year later the couple still has not been to visit her parents. This collection, then, like Nwapa s earlier works portrays women who voice their frustrations, pains, and joys. . They assert themselves through their determination to take charge of their lives; they attempt to control their destinies as far as that is possible, given the odds against them (Horne 442). Fifteen years later the collection Wives at War focuses upon the kinds of suffering women endure and the types of adjustments th ey make during the Biafra War. There is a sense, however, that the word war is also metaphoric, to include struggles between men and women in relationships and a cultural war between women and their families. For example, Mission to Lagos focuses upon a young Igbo woman who has fallen in love with a white man, but is afraid to marry him because of the traditional views held by her
156 family members; The Chiefs Daughter po rtrays an educated daughter who breaks cultural tradition by marrying w ithout her fathers permission rather than running the family business as her father has hoped. Wiv es at War explains the difficulties women experience during the civil war when they real ize the kind of propaganda they have been given and begin to discover more about the dangers surrounding their families and the town. The women also attack the leaders for not respecting their remarkable efforts, such as cooking for the soldiers and caring for th e sick. Certain Deat h portrays the harsh realities of war for the women. The main ch aracter loses her sister-in-law, nieces, and nephews in an aerial raid on the village. He r husband is in America and has no plans to return to Nigeria or Biafra at the time. T hus, she has only her grie ving brother left, and the military wants to conscript him into th e army. This woman pa ys a young man, whose family badly needs money, to take her brothers place. Nwapas fourth novel, Women Are Different, focuses upon four women who meet as young girls in grammar boarding school, follows their very different paths in adulthood, and concludes with the grown women reflecting upon their past experiences. Kolawole refers to One is Enough and Women Are Different as works that express a new realitythe dilemma of the westernized African women, which has often created a divided self and believes that this new real ity is being resolved (159). I concur with Kolawoles statement that the female characte rs of these works search for and [demand] self respect, dignity, self assertion, and new moral values in a quest for redefinition and self esteem (160). The fact th at a civil war has occurred a nd changed some ways of life deeply affects the choices that the four protagonists of Women Are Different make. Three
157 of them marry and have children, but none of the marriages last. One character, Rose, never marries or has children, but is quite successful in her career. Each womans life tells a di fferent story of a post-colonial world marred for years by civil war. For instance, Agnes interr upts her education beyond secondary school because her parents have selected a husba nd for her to marry. Gossiping women at her wedding refer to people who will sell their da ughters (53) and describe the husband as an impostor, actually a drug dealer prete nding to be a medical doc tor. After years of pretending to be a good wife and giving birt h to four children, Agnes registers for advanced classes to obtain a college degree ; and, when her husband objects, she threatens to reveal that he is having an affair w ith her stepmother. This dysfunctional marriage ends with Agnes finding a lover, leavi ng her husband, receiving a degree from the University, and becoming a teacher with her own apartment and car. Dora marries a young man whom she met in grammar school, becomes a nurse, and eventually opens a bakery. Her husband re fuses to work with her in the bakery, but works (for the Registry) in the High Court a nd accepts bribes, and then abruptly decides to go to England to study law. After mana ging to support her family by herself through the Biafra War, Dora locates her husband in Germany living with a German woman. She returns to Aba and obtains a divorce by traditional native law and custom so she can move on with her life. Comfort, the most unique of the four girl s, who never listens to rules but makes her own as she goes along, cautions Dora, Rose, and Agnes never to really get emotionally involved with a male, never inve st everything in one person, and plan to marry for money, not love. She plans to live life fully and if a man cannot maintain the
158 standards she wants, [she] will be on the move (30). Rose, on the other hand, is the obedient one who takes Christian teachings very seriously, graduates from the University of London with a diploma in Education, and teaches math in Nigeria, eventually becoming the Head Education Officer at Queens College. Romantically, however, despite several courtships and even a pregnanc y of several months, Rose never marries or has children. At the end of the novel, when the four women come together to discuss their choices in life, they are satisfied with some choices but not all of them. Agnes and Dora accept their failed marriages, but are not plea sed with the moral and economic choices their children are making, such as leaving husbands, moving in with other married men, and selling drugs. Comfort believes in loving and staying in a relationship until one gets what one needs and then moving on; she accu ses Rose of holding onto missionary beliefs about life. Rose is somewhat disappointed because she never lived the married life. She thinks it was best to have married even if it does not work, but the others envy her freedom. Ironically, Rose gives the best ad vice to the group, especially to Dora. She advises that Whatever we do, we must not impose our will on our children. . We have to make allowances for all that ha ppened when we were young children and now (111). She acknowledges that the young people of the second generation have their own set of rules just as their pa rents had and no doubt are experime nting with ways of life just as their parents have experimented. At this point, the women are trying to make peace with their past experiences and choices in li fe. Their speech and actions demonstrate that Igbo society as well as Nigeria has changed gi ven Christianity, European education, postcolonialism, and the Biafra Civil War. Both men and women displa y actions st range to
159 other Nigerians. There is less communal resp ect for each other. In particular, Nwapas strong Igbo heroines pull from both the trad itional and Western cultures and create a new world in which social values, attitudes, and their contradicti ons can be evaluated from various angles (Berrian, In Memoriam 998). Never Again and The Lake Goddess In two of Nwapas novels gender issues are secondary to, on the one hand, the horrors of warfare and, on the other, to th e search for spiritual survival and healing. Nwapa, even though focusing on the perils of war and its aftermath, still emphasizes the importance of women, not only at this diffi cult time, but in society in general. Never Again an account of the Biafra War based on Nwapas own experiences, presents a wartorn Ugwuta in which propaganda misleads the people, any questioning of military or governmental decisions is considered trea chery, and deathand madness and disease seem to be everywhere. The half-crazed narr ator, Kate, struggles to survive so she can tell the world what it means to be at wara civil war at that, a war that was to end all wars. I wanted to tell them th at reading it in books was nothi ng at all (1). Many people believe only the goddess of the lake,Uhami ri, can save the town, Ugwuta, from destruction When a boat of Nigerians sink in the lake, the event appears to support the peoples belief that the lake will save them and also complicates their relationship to Christianity and indigenous Igbo beliefs. As in Nwapas earlier and later novels, Uhamiriand thus womanplays a nurturing a nd healing role in a world of intense psychosocial troubles and pain. Ogunyemi de scribes the remarkable achievement of Never Again and the wonder of its narrator:
160 At least, one person will survive th e holocaust to tell the storythe maddened woman whose narrative in the open confessional of the autobiographical mode disseminates knowledge of the bloodiness and wastefulness of war. She heals hers elf magically by dissociating herself from lying propaganda and telling he r war storya female version which has hitherto gone unheardthat more women and children die or are injured in wars than male soldiers. Telling her story generates hearing voices. (13) In a 1995 interview with Marie Umeh, Nwapa suggests that women could not ever be restricted again af ter the Nigerian Civil War. During the war, she explains, women saw themselves playing roles that th ey never thought they would play. They saw themselves across the enemy lines, trying to tr ade, trying to feed their children and caring for their husbands. They also, however, bega n to enjoy their economic independence. So what they tolerated before the war, they could no longer to lerate after the war (Poetics26). As Nwapa evaluates the gender situation in Nigeria after the war, she is describing parts of her 1981 and 1986 novels, One is Enough and Women Are Different If a woman discovered her marri age did not give her satisfa ction or that her in-laws were worrying because there were no children, whatever the case may be, the woman could just decide to leave that family and go to the big city, to Lagos, an urban world in which the woman was anonymous, where nobody s eemed to care what [she did] for a living (26). In her last novel, The Lake Goddess (unpublished), however, Nwapa proposes a very different path for woman in a destab ilized and painful world. Calling the work a
161 woman-centered radical novel, Amadiume sees it as the most religious of Nwapas novels with a radical feminist reconstruc tion of womans place in Igbo traditional religious beliefs, particularly emphasizing th e idea of spiritual submission (517-18). The novel covers many issues, but of special importance are the father-daughter relationship, tensions between both tradition and modernity and between Christia nity and indigenous Igbo beliefs, and the pursuit of happiness and contentment. Ona, the major character, has a stronger more balanced relationship with her father than with her mother. She can be described as a person with a mental illness w ho refuses to submit to societys traditional expectations if they do not suit her needs or as an individual with the gift of prophecy who receives dreams and visions from Uhamiri, whom she is destined to serve. Early in the novel, Onas mother, referred to as a Chri stian fanatic since she totally rejects Igbo tradition, and other women convi nce the midwife to fake Onas circumcision while the women perform an elaborate ritual celebrati ng the procedure. (It is important for the community to believe the circumcision has occurred; otherwise, no man will want to marry Ona.) Later, the product of a missi on school, Ona does marry and have three children, who bring her neither happiness nor satisfaction. The tensions of her life are finally resolved when her family and the co mmunity recognize her divine calling: another wife is found for her husband and Onas parent s raise the three child ren. Ona herself, as disciple of the powerful but kind Lake Goddess, becomes mother, nurturer, and healer of the community, a higher responsibility [than motherhood] since it signifies an ennobling duty and calls for Ona to devote her time and en ergies both to act as spokesperson for the Lake Goddess and to mediate between th e Lake Goddess and the people (Umeh, Finale117). Linda Strong-Leek argues that Ona never completely conforms simply to
162 be accepted, nor does she allow society or her fa mily to totally dictate her life (542). She believes Onas life answers Efurus earlier question about why women worship Uhamiri. Uhamiri (or Ogbuide or Mammywater)an im portant figure in all of Nwapas works clearly wants all women to have voice s. Further, as Ogunyemi explains, The rehabilitative agenda of Uhamiri is crucial in all [Nwapas] texts. As a female, she speaks to womans traditi onal, salvationary role. As a deity, she performs a spiritual function. As a body of water, the lake itself serves a domestic need, suffusing Nwapas writings with a cleansing and healing aura. (14) Coda Flora Nwapa (1931-93) was the first West African woman to publish a novel in English and to be published inte rnationally. She was perhaps the first author to attempt to develop authentic and indivi dual identities for African wo men; she also undertook to demarcate the important role women play in the transmission of culture from one generation to the next (Wilentz, Afracentrism 43). Nwapas readership has always been pr oblematic. She never lived in the United States or England for any extended period of time even though her primary audience has been western feminists (Gardner qtd. In Nnaemeka 103). With her works regarded as minor or Third World, they were not distributed internat ionally by her first publishers. In addition, the people who might ha ve constituted her la rgest reading public, Nigerians themselves, could often not affo rd to buy her books in the 1980s and 1990s. In
163 fact, Nwapa became the first female African publisher, establishing Tana Press, in an attempt to distribute her books herself (Umeh, Poetics 22). Although all critics acknowledge the great est influence upon Nwapas writings as being the voices of her literary foremothers in the oral tradition, Nwapa also spoke, in a 1995 interview, of the influence of Chinua Achebe, Ernest Hemingway, and Charles Dickens on her work. She spoke with passion about her writing, explaining I write because I want to write. I write because I have a story to tell. There is this urge always to write and put things down. I do not presume that I have a mission. If you continue to read my books, maybe you could find the mission. But I continue to write becau se I feel fulfilled. I feel satisfied in what Im doing. (Umeh, Poetics 126) Nwapa denied any autobiographical elements in her works, declaring None! I am not like Efuru, neither am I like Idu, neither am I Amaka in any way (Umeh, Poetics 126). Critics have reacted very differently to Nwapas fiction. Some emphasize what they see as the highly negative qualities of th e western style Nigerian life she describes: the destruction of traditional beliefs and behavi or, the disruptive influence of Christianity and western customs and mores, and the chao s and decadence ensuing. This dissertation has instead emphasized the positive changes th at have occurred in West African womens lives, often resulting in positive changes for the whole community. Hopefully future studies will focus upon the nature of dysfunc tional marriages, the ro le and flight of husbands, father-daughter relationships, and mother-son relationships. Much also needs to be done on the role of the narrator in Nwa pas fiction: how cons istent the narrators
164 voice is both within and between different work s and to what extent the narrators voice reflects that of Nwapa, the implied author. Another area calling for extensive work is reader response to Nwapas work, especially when there is a major difference in culture between reader and characters. Can a reader become an inoutsider? And as Nwapas narrator permits characters immersed in tr aditional ways to ne gotiate choices and changes, how will the reader become a part of the negotiation? Most interestingly, how aware can the Christian, western reader be of the nuances and complexities of Igbo culture? Finally, since male voices tend to be less defined in Nwapas works, who will speak for these silent ones perhaps more puzzled than the women who are developing their voices as Igbo patriarchy and wester n patriarchy encounter each other.
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About the Author Mary Mears was raised in Virginia, but she has lived in Georgia since graduating from college. She holds a B.A. degree in English Education from Virginia State University and a M.A. degree in English Lite rature from Clark Atlanta University. Ms. Mears began her teaching caree r in the Atlanta public schoo ls. From 1980-84, she taught at Clark Atlanta University; from 1984 to the present, she has been teaching English, Reading, and African-American Literature at Macon State College in Macon, Georgia. Ms. Mears special interests include African Literature and working with the Southeast Model African Union (SEMAU). Over a number of years she has presented many papers at conferences of the College Language Association.