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The Joys of Motherhood

The Joys of Motherhood


by Buchi Emecheta

The Joys of Motherhood Theme of Women and Femininity

We learn very quickly in The Joys of Motherhood that a woman's role in traditional Ibo society is to produce children, and in particular, to produce male children. Her value as a woman is dependent on her fertility. If she is infertile, she is a "failed" woman. If she has only girls, she isn't a failed woman, but she lacks honor. Nnu Ego has absorbed these values, and her life's greatest wish is to be a honored woman. She has child after child, but ultimately, realizes that the rules of the game were made by men, and that her children have become a chain around her neck.

Questions About Women and Femininity

  1. How are girls trained to become women?
  2. What is the definition of a successful woman in traditional Ibo culture? What is the definition of a failed woman in traditional Ibo culture?
  3. Why are girls valued less than men? What is the irony in this?
  4. How does the intrusion of Western values influence the position of girls in Ibo society, in both positive and negative ways?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Although it may seem that the urbanized women in Lagos are less oppressed by patriarchs, traditional Ibo culture actually afforded women a great deal of independence.

Although it may seem that Western culture and values is to blame for the misery in Nnu Ego's life, it is actually her adherence to traditional values that created her problems.

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