Wings of Courage: Feminist Consciousness in the Select Texts of Buchi Emecheta and Flora Nwapa


Dr. Anupama L
Guest Lecturer in English, All Saints’ College, University of Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India


Buchi Emecheta;Flora Nwapa;Black Feminist;black women;Feminist Consciousness


Buchi Emecheta’s Second-Class Citizen (1974), The Joys of Motherhood (1979) and Flora Nwapa’s Efuru (1966) are texts that can be read in the light of feminist literary theories. These texts were selected as it dealt with the obstacles and oppression that Nigerian women encountered in their lives. These texts attack patriarchy and examine the personal from black women’s point of view. These selected texts attempts to cleanse the society that upholds patriarchy and analyze the situation of black women from their own point of view. Both fictional and autobiographical elements in these texts serve to highlight the experiences of different black women and expose the various ways by which women are affected by race, gender, culture and tradition. The focus of the book is on the lived experiences of black women in Nigeria. An attempt is made to analyze the lives of black women as is seen by the Nigerian women writers, Buchi Emecheta and Flora Nwapa.

The selected novelists outline the changes in the social and cultural arenas due to the spread of western education and Christianity. Both Efuru and The Joys of Motherhood portray the ostracization of the childless women prevalent in the community. Efuru analyzes the western influence on traditional Igbo beliefs and customs. Efuru, the protagonist is not shattered for being childless. She emerges as an independent woman, creates new identity and spiritually nurtures her community.

Emecheta’s The Joys of Motherhood does not glorify motherhood. Children do not necessarily have a loving relationship with their mothers. Emecheta states in the novel, “the joy of being a mother is the joy of giving all to your children” (219). The title of the novel is taken from Flora Nwapa’s Efuru and sounds bitterly ironic. The Joys of Motherhood is her most complex novel where she differs from the existing socio-political and cultural imperatives. She uses literary devices like flash back, interior monologue and bildungsroman. In this novel she deals with several issues like the problems of polygamy, motherhood and situation of widows and childless women. While male writers like Chinua Achebe portray mother with reverence, Buchi Emecheta presents the problems and chaos involved in a mother’s life.

Nnu Ego, the central character in Emecheta’s The Joys of Motherhood realizes that children do not always bring fulfillment. As Marie A. Umeh points out in “The Joys of Motherhood: Myth or Reality?”

What Emecheta does is to present an African woman’s reaction to a universal problem. Children often fail to honour their parents. In voicing this idea through the traditionalist, Nnu Ego, Emecheta emphasizes the fact that women have the social responsibility to criticize and participate in the social order (41).

            Nnu Ego evolves from a staunch traditionalist to a feminist as she realizes her second class status. As Umeh states,

The ironies and cruelties of her life force the protagonist to move from the collective consciousness to the individual consciousness … Like her spokesperson, the narrator, Nnu Ego having found a place for herself in the new order of female emancipation divorces herself from the traditional African concepts in her search for abundant life” (43).

Finally she realizes that sacrificing friends and comforts of life for her sons were mistakes. Sometimes Emecheta personally identifies with the character as when she says, “The men make it look as if we must aspire for children or die” (187).

Second-Class Citizen successfully depicts the protagonist Adah’s growth from a naïve young girl to her final stage of self-realization and independence. The novel discusses the numerous struggles of Adah as a mother, wife and as a migrant. Though she faces racism in London, her husband, Francis is her major opponent. The novel describes her life in a foreign land with an inconsiderate and selfish husband. Katherine Frank asserts that “the best place to approach Emecheta’s fiction is with neither her first nor her last book, but with Second-Class Citizen” (479).

All these selected texts throw light on women’s dreams, their ability to master pain and betrayal with courage and their capacities to evolve into strong independent women. The women characters in these novels like Efuru, Adah, Nnu Ego and Adaku assert the needs of both collective and individual female identity within their culture. These women transcend the barriers imposed by the traditional Igbo society though Nnu Ego becomes a rebel only after her death. They participate fully as human beings for the welfare of their community instead of confining themselves to their roles of daughters, wives and mothers.









  • Introduction
  • Journey towards Liberation: A Review of Black Feminist Literary Theory
  • Representation of Women in Buchi Emecheta’s Second-Class Citizen and The Joys of Motherhood
  • Locating the Self in Flora Nwapa’s Efuru
  • Conclusion


April 23, 2021

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