The Joys of Motherhood
How we cite our quotes:
Dr. Meers peered over the paper, smiled mischievously and answered, "Goodnight, baboon."
Mrs. Meers straightaway went into a torrent of words, too fast and too emotionally charged for Nnaife, who stood there like a statue, to understand. He gaped from husband to wife and back again, wondering why she should be so angry. The woman went on for a while, then suddenly realised that Nnaife was still standing by the door. She motioned with her arm for him to go away. He heard Dr. Meers laugh and repeat the word "baboon".
Women were all the same, Nnaife thought as he made his way to his own part of the compound, determined to ask someone in the near future what the word "baboon" meant. Not that he was the type of man who would have done anything had he known its meaning. He would simply shrug his shoulders and say, "We work for them and they pay us. His calling me a baboon does not make me one." (4.11-13)
Nnaife is philosophical about how the white man treats him. As long as he gets his paycheck, he doesn't care if they think he's beneath them.
If the master was intelligent, as it was said all white men were, then why did he not show a little of it, and tell his wife to keep quiet? What kind of an intelligent man could not keep his wife quiet, instead of laughing stupidly over a newspaper? Nnaife did not realize that Dr Meers's laughter was inspired by that type of wickedness that reduces any man, white or black, intelligent or not, to a new low; lower than the basest of animals, for animals at least respected each other's feelings, each other's dignity (4.14)
Nnaife is confused by British culture, and assumes that part of intelligence is keeping your wife in line. He doesn't realize that the Meers are laughing at him.
All the time he was saying this, a sick sensation was turning round and round inside Nnu Ego's head. That she had to keep such a joyous thing as this quiet because of a shriveled old woman with ill-looking skin like the flesh of a pig! If Nnaife had said it was because of Dr Meers, Nnu Ego might have swallowed it; but not for that thing of a female whom she would not dream of offering to an enemy god. O, her dear mother, was this a man she was living with? How could a situation rob a man of his manhood without him knowing it?
She whirled round like a hurricane to face him and let go her tongue. "You behave like a slave! Do you go to her and say, 'Please, madam crawcraw-skin, can I sleep with my wife today?' Do you make sure the stinking underpants she wears are well washed and pressed before you come and touch me? Me, Nnu Ego, the daughter of Agbadi of Ibuza. Oh, shame on you! I will never marry you in church. If she sacks you because of that, I shall go home to my father. I want to live with a man, not a woman-made man?" (4.58-59)
Nnu Ego has not adjusted to the situation in Lagos, where whites rule, and her husband (like all black men) is their servant. As servants, black men must follow certain rules in order to keep their jobs. Nnu Ego recognizes that this is not the way men behave, traditionally, in Ibuza. It is the way slaves behave.