Study Guide

The Joys of Motherhood Chapter 12

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Chapter 12

Men at War

  • The narrator tells us how, in the 1940s, more and more men were leaving the rural areas to look for work in the cities. The flood of unqualified workers meant it was hard to find work.
  • Nnaife was lucky to find work with the government. If you stayed with the government long enough, you could retire with a small pension – an utterly new thing in the life of Ibos.
  • Nnaife didn't mind being a grass-cutter. He figured someday, he'd meet the right person and move up into a better position. For this reason, he still attended church occasionally.
  • Nnaife grows to prefer his position. He realizes that he likes working outdoors, and he's used to the routine.
  • But the morning after his wives' strike, Nnaife has no breakfast when he arrives at work, and the other men tease him about his wives being on strike.
  • They all laugh, and Nnaife helps himself to one of his friend's food. They all shared food regularly. Nnaife says that he has just heard that Nnu Ego has repented, but he doesn't think Adaku has yet. Nnu Ego is afraid that if she continues the strike the family will eat up her profits from her trading business. Besides, Nnaife suspects that Nnu Ego is pregnant, and that is why she is behaving so strangely.
  • That afternoon, army trucks pull into the yard, and a crowd of European officers accompanying it. When the whistle blows to let the men know that work is done. the men rush to leave, but instead, they're ushered into the lorry (a truck). Nnaife is one of the men caught and shoved inside.
  • Since slavery has been outlawed, he wonders what is going on.
  • They're taken to a small field, where somebody takes their names and they're given something to eat. Nnaife eats. Then a doctor comes and examines them. He says that Nnaife is OK.
  • Then the men are taken to a corridor, where they wait. Some people are called and leave and Nnaife never sees them again.
  • Eventually, Nnaife learns that he's joining the army. He's been conscripted.
  • Some men weep, while others shout. The officer tells them that their wives and relatives will be taken care of and that they won't have to serve for more than a year.
  • Nnaife gives Nnu Ego as his contact person. He's assured that she'll be sent money from time to time, with an initial sum of twenty pounds given to her. When they are returned, they'll be promoted to better jobs.
  • Nnaife thinks this over carefully. This might be the chance he needs to make something better of his life.
  • Nnaife sends directions to Nnu Ego that she should use some of the money for school fees, and that she should give five pounds to Adaku so she can start a trade. He decides he's doing the right thing. He doesn't make much money as a grass-cutter. He's sure that Nnu Ego will manage with the money she receives from the military.
  • Ubani (Nnaife's friend) wakes Nnu Ego and Adaku the next day and tells them that Nnaife has been forced to join the army. Nnu Ego and Adaku are shocked and despairing, but they know that the British own them and there is nothing they can do.
  • Nnu Ego asks Ubani how they're supposed to manage and Ubani reassures her that her Ibuza family will help her.
  • The neighbors lament with the women. The Yoruba landlord asks what kind of life it is when a man can be abducted in broad daylight. They all want to know why the British can't fight their own wars.
  • That night, they learn from Nwakusor that Nnaife will probably be taken out of the country within 24 hours.
  • Adaku says she can manage, especially after her baby is born. But everybody agrees that Nnu Ego will be better off if she moves back to Ibuza. Nnu Ego's father, Agbadi, sends messages, urging Nnu Ego to come home. Besides, he is dying.
  • But Nnu Ego doesn't know how to go when she doesn't have any money. And she's worried about Nnaife. She doesn't really know if he's alive or dead.
  • Eventually they receive a letter from Nnaife, and they learn that he's on his way to India. She also learns that he's sent some money.
  • Although they now have twenty pounds, they can't count on anything more.
  • Finally, Nnu Ego leaves for Ibuza, asking Adaku to get any additional money to her in Ibuza if Nnaife sends more.

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