Study Guide

The Joys of Motherhood Chapter 14

Advertisement - Guide continues below

Chapter 14

Women Alone

  • People begin to wonder when Nnu Ego is going to go back home to Lagos. It's been seven months since her father died. She knows she should go back to be there when her husband returns, but life is so stressful there.
  • One night Nnu Ego sits in front of her hut enjoying the night. Adankwo is playing with the baby, Nnamdio, and says he is trying to suck at her breasts.
  • Nnu Ego tells her to go ahead but Adankwo says she is too old to breastfeed. Then she says she and Nnu Ego must talk.
  • She mentions that the dead are with us. A good person may decide to come back and live among us again. But in order to have that choice, you must be good to begin with.
  • Nnu Ego waits for Adankwo's point. She wonders if Adankwo thinks that Nnaife might be dead.
  • But Adankwo means Nnu Ego's father. She mentions how Nnu Ego's father died five days before she arrived, but he kept coming back until he could say goodbye to his daughter. So, she continues, would it be right for Nnu Ego to offend such a father?
  • Nnu Ego wants to know how she's offending him.
  • Then Adankwo admits that it's time for Nnu Ego to go back to Lagos, to fulfill her duties as a wife and mother. She is running away from the position of senior wife, and leaving it to a wife that Nnaife inherited from his elder brother. Nnu Ego's place is at Nnaife's side.
  • Nnu Ego protests that Nnaife is still fighting, but Adankwo suggests that he might have hurried home and only found Adaku waiting for him.
  • Nnu Ego says that Oshia has settled down and likes farming. Adankwo counters that he should be trained and educated to enter the new world. Everybody knows change is coming. She urges Nnu Ego to go back to Lagos and "secure your children's inheritance" (14.27).
  • When Nnu Ego returns to Lagos, things have changed so much, it's as if she's been gone for years. Rent had almost doubled, food cost twice what it used to, and Adankwo was right, Nnaife had been back for a short visit a few weeks ago and hadn't let Nnu Ego know.
  • And Adaku had done well for herself as a trader. Nnu Ego frets, looking at Adaku's stalls and wares.
  • Nnu Ego tells Adaku that she has chosen fine clothes and money, but Nnu Ego has chosen her children. She may be poor in Lagos, but she has family and friends at home. She is wealthy in people.
  • Adaku can't help but sound triumphant as she tells Nnu Ego to go back to her cigarette stall in front of the house. In fact, during Nnu Ego's absence, several neighbors had started selling things in front of the house.
  • Nnu Ego doesn't know what to do, so she starts selling firewood. It costs little, but does require energy.
  • Life is not the same as before. Adaku is rich and stays away until late at night. There is no point in Nnu Ego waiting to eat with her.
  • Nnu Ego feels helpless. She has little help with the children. She stops going to the family meetings. So Adaku goes and reports back what she hears and learns.
  • It is one thing to be poor, Nnu Ego reflects, but another thing altogether for everybody to know you're poor.
  • Nnu Ego begins to behave jealously, trying to point out to Adaku her superior position as senior wife and mother of sons.
  • Yet Nnu Ego is beginning to feel desperate. She isn't sure how she'll afford the school fees for Oshia and Adim, her first and second born sons.
  • One day, Nnu Ego has a visitor. It is a woman from Ibuza, Ibonoba's wife, who also happens to be a relative of Adaku's. Like Adaku, she is a successful trader and is wearing expensive clothing.
  • Nnu Ego fails to be welcoming and Ibonoba's wife feels some anger. She plans to wait for Adaku anyway, though. When Nnu Ego continues to stare at her, Ibonoba's wife invites herself in, asking Nnu Ego why she's staring like that.
  • Finally, Nnu Ego can't stand it. She breaks down and tells the woman to leave. Then she and the children start singing in forced happiness.
  • Ibonoba's wife can hardly believe her ears. She waits outside in the rain, thanking God that she has her own children, and wondering if Nnu Ego is trying to make her jealous of her children.
  • Adaku and her children come home to find Ibonoba's wife waiting in the rain. They go inside, while Ibonoba wonders if she should let Adaku know how Nnu Ego behaved before she arrived. She decides it's not worth the trouble.
  • But Nnu Ego, stricken with guilt, runs around making the guest feel at home. Adaku wonders why she's being so solicitous, but Ibonoba's wife knows that Nnu Ego is begging her for forgiveness.
  • She feels sorry for Nnu Ego, for the way she has lowered herself. This behavior is especially surprisingly given that Nnu Ego is the senior wife.
  • Adaku does hear about it three days later, from Adim. She's too mad to mention it to Nnu Ego. Instead, she calls Nwakusor to play the role of judge.
  • But although Nwakusor does indict Nnu Ego for her behavior, they also tell Adaku that because she has no son, she cannot complain about Nnu Ego's behavior. She, Adaku, is committing a sin by not giving Nnaife sons because that is how he achieves immortality. Although they all admire how industrious and rich Adaku has become, she is nothing without sons. But they also tell Nnu Ego that she needs to guard her reputation more.
  • Nnu Ego knows that she only behaved that way out of jealousy, so she has no good excuse. She says only that Lagos has made her forget how to behave properly.
  • They fine her a keg of palm wine and a tin of cigarettes.
  • Even as Adaku looks on, she sees how she is ignored. She realizes that Nnu Ego isn't being asked to apologize to her. Adaku suddenly realizes she has no rights. As junior wife, she is nothing.
  • After the men leave, Nnu Ego goes to bed. She feels sorry for the way the men treated Adaku, but she doesn't know how to smooth all the bad feelings over. And she's glad she has three sons, otherwise, she would be treated like Adaku.
  • She hears Adaku crying. She knows her behavior has been wrong but they had made it seem like she wasn't because of her sons. Men were clever that way.
  • Finally, Nnu Ego speaks and apologizes to Adaku, saying she shouldn't have called the men.
  • Adaku says she got what was coming to her – they have told her what Nnu Ego has been trying to tell her ever since she got back from Ibuza. She is grateful to have gotten the message.
  • Nnu Ego asks her what she's going to do, and she says she's going to do what Nnu Ego has wanted her to go – leave this place. Nnaife doesn't want her, his people didn't want her, why should she stay?
  • Adaku reveals that when Nnaife visited, he was angry that Nnu Ego had gone back to Ibuza, that she preferred her father's home to his. He only comforted himself with Adaku because she was available. She let him do it because she wanted a son. When Nnu Ego came back with so many children, she was jealous. What else is there to do but make money? She is leaving tomorrow.
  • Will you go and worship your chi? Nnu Ego asks.
  • No, Adaku says, she's going become a prostitute. She's going to make money and give her girls what they need.
  • Nnu Ego wonders if she should blame herself for Adaku's decision. She tells Adaku that she's making a mistake. Perhaps she'll get a son when Nnaife returns.
  • But Adaku isn't willing to wait. She can't live up to Nnu Ego's standards. It's time for her to strike out on her own.
  • Nnu Ego asks Adaku's chi to be her guide. As she goes to sleep, she is grateful for her own motherhood.

This is a premium product

Tired of ads?

Join today and never see them again.

Please Wait...