A limited woman : character in question in Buchi Emecheta's novel The joys of motherhood

UNCW Author/Contributor (non-UNCW co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Kristin N. Holmes (Creator)
The University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW )
Web Site: http://library.uncw.edu/
Kathy Rugoff

Abstract: Buchi Emecheta’s The Joys of Motherhood tells the story of Nnu Ego, a rural Igbo woman. Nnu Ego finds herself in Lagos, the urbanized capitol of Nigeria. Through the feminist lens, patriarchy is frequently considered to be a main factor at play in the oppression of women within both tribal and colonized countries. Similarly, postcolonial theory often focuses on capitalism and how a western sense of superiority wrongly affects the definition of self, particularly for people native to third world countries. Based on these findings, the majority of critics also argue about the extent to which Nnu Ego plays an integral part in her oppression and eventual downfall. However, in regard to The Joys of Motherhood and in the case of Nnu Ego, certain factors are overlooked by such critics. Throughout the novel, Emecheta inserts evident contradictions that blur the lines between opportunity and victimization, making it difficult to judge Nnu Ego’s character. These contradictions are evident in the portrayals of polygamy and economics within Lagos. There are also other criteria to consider. It is obvious that Nnu Ego at times plays a crucial role in her own oppression. Her disjointed reasoning and illogical faith in motherhood cause her to repeatedly make poor decisions. These poor decisions become evident causal factors for her demise. Yet, when her upbringing is taken into account and when other characters also show to be limited, the setting is brought into question as a key factor in her oppression. There are also several operating forces at play within the novel that affect Nnu Ego in a way that make it difficult to critique her character. The degrading work force, World War II and the Christian concept of heaven play major roles in exacerbating her subjugation. These forces along with motherhood and the mentioned contradictions open a window into Emecheta’s intentions in writing such a limited character as Nnu Ego. When her second and somewhat autobiographical novel, Second Class Citizen, is considered, and the main character Adah is juxtaposed with Nnu Ego, a new platform to evaluate the character and Emecheta’s purpose emerges. It becomes evident that Buchi Emecheta is purposely writing Nnu Ego as a limited character that plays a role in her own oppression while simultaneously relinquishing her of blame.

Additional Information

A Thesis Submitted to the University of North Carolina at Wilmington in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirement for the Degree of Masters of Arts
Language: English
Date: 2009
Emecheta Buchi The joys of motherhood--Criticism and interpretation
Emecheta, Buchi. The joys of motherhood -- Criticism and interpretation

Email this document to