The Joys of Motherhood
How we cite our quotes:
She whirled round. "Who is going to stop me? Who dares to stop me? You?" she wailed, very near hysteria. "Bah! You think you have the right to play God, just because you are Agbadi? You have your wives—they can look after you. You have your slaves—let them mop up your stinking blood!" (2.26)
In this fight between Ona and Agbadi, we see that in traditional Ibo culture, there is a distinction made between wives, on the one hand, and slaves on the other. We also know that slaves could become wives, and we see that women are considered to be owned by their husbands.
Then her personal slave was ceremoniously called in a loud voice by the medicine man: she must be laid inside the grave first. A good slave was supposed to jump into the grave willingly, happy to accompany her mistress; but this young and beautiful woman did not wish to die yet.
She kept begging for her life, much to the annoyance of many of the men standing around. The women stood far off for this was a custom they found revolting. The poor slave was pushed into the shallow grave, but the struggled out, fighting and pleading, appealing to her owner Agbadi. Then Agbadi's eldest son cried in anger: "So my mother does not even deserve a decent burial? Now we are not to send her slave down with her, just because the girl is beautiful?" So saying, he gave the woman a sharp blow with the head of the cutlass he was carrying. "Go down like a good slave!" he shouted. (2.84-86)
Though it is the custom and tradition that slaves die with their owners, this slave woman is stubborn and doesn't want to die.
Nwokocha Agbadi took his daughter home. Most of his wives, now elderly, were sympathetic and nursed her mentally back to normal. They made her feel that even though she had not borne a child, her father's house was bursting with babies she could regard as her own. Her father renewed his expensive sacrifices to her chi, begging the slave woman to forgive him for taking her away from her original home. He told her through the rising smoke of the slaughtered animals that he had stopped dealing in slaves and had offered freedom to the ones in his household. He even joined a group of leaders who encouraged slaves to return to their places of origin, if they could remember from where they came. All those in his own compound who refused to go were adopted as his children; he had seen to it that proper adoption procedure was carried out, in that they were dipped in the local stream and had the chalk of acceptance sprinkled on them. It would be illegal for anyone in the future to refer to them as slaves; they were now Agbadi's children. He made all these concessions for the emotional health of his beloved daughter Nnu Ego. (3.64)
It is believed that Nnu Ego's infertility results from the influence of her cruel, slave woman chi that is tormenting her. Because of his daughter's experience with infertility, Agbadi realizes that he wants nothing more to do with slavery.