Study Guide

The Joys of Motherhood Chapter 16

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Chapter 16

A Mother of Clever Children

  • Nnaife finally knows they should move, so they move to a mud house in an area with no running water or electricity.
  • Despite all that, Nnu Ego is glad to have her own room. Mama Abby told her not to worry about her children, and she reminds Nnu Ego to be grateful that Nnaife's money arrived in one lump sum, otherwise.
  • Nnu Ego is glad. If she hadn't been quiet about that, Nnaife would have forced her to use that money to pay for Oshia's education. Instead, Nnaife gives her five pounds of his money, and she uses it to put a down payment on a sewing machine. She begins to teach herself to sew.
  • She lets Nnaife "have his way" (16. 3) with Okpo, knowing that if she complains, people will call her selfish.
  • Oshia leaves home for his new college, and Adaku and Mama Abby come to wish him off. Adaku brings yards and yards of material and Nnu Ego says she shouldn't have been so generous. But Adaku reminds her that Oshia is a brother to her own daughters, and she is proud that Nnaife's son is going to an expensive school.
  • Nnu Ego asks after Adaku's girls, and Adaku says they're in a convent school. She just may send them to college.
  • Nnu Ego admits it would be something to see women making money like a man. She was only able to send the older twin girls to school for a couple of years. They'll be married in a few years, and the little reading they can do should serve them well. The most important thing, Nnu Ego says, is that they get good husbands.
  • Nnu Ego goes with Oshia to his new school and is despondent when she sees how wealthy the other children are. She reminds Oshia not to become like them, and he says he won't.
  • Nnu Ego returns to Lagos and to counting pennies.
  • She used to say everything would be better when Nnaife got back from the war. Now she thinks, that everything will be better when Oshia graduates from college.
  • Some years later, Adim also wants to go to secondary school.
  • Nnu Ego explains to him that they don't have the money. She says that if he passes his exams well, then she will somehow manage to pay for his fees at a local secondary school.
  • Adim has a small fit. Just because he's the second son, he wants to know, why shouldn't he also be helped? Why does Oshia get everything?
  • Adim vows that he will become somebody anyway.
  • Nnu Ego says that when Oshia is done, he'll help pay for Adim's school fees.
  • Adim knows many things that his parents don't know, including the fact that Oshia intends to go to university. His help, if it ever comes, will be a long time in coming.
  • Oshia had told Adim once that you only get twelve pounds a month with a good Cambridge school-leaving certificate. Oshia wants to know how can you help with only twelve pounds a month?
  • To Adim, twelve pounds a month sounds like a lot of money. The school he wants to attend is only six pounds a year. He mentioned this, and Oshia told him he's too young to understand.
  • Adim is despondent. He remembered all the times he'd helped his mother get firewood to make ends meet, the time when there were locusts and he bagged them to make snacks for sale all because "my brother is at college, and when he comes out, we will be rich!" (16.31).
  • That night, Adim didn't sleep. He won't sacrifice his own life for somebody else, he decided. He will fight for himself.
  • So now he tells Nnu Ego that he will not wait for Oshia to finish before he gets his own education.
  • He works hard at school and at home. He wonders if Oshia is right, to go for the top position before helping others.
  • Adim can see his mother is pregnant again, and he wonders why his parents keep having children when they don't have enough to feed the ones they already have.
  • When Oshia comes home on the holidays, Nnu Ego tries to help Oshia see that he might have a duty to help Adim, but Oshia resists her.
  • Oshia says he doesn't blame Adim for wanting to go to college and, he adds that he plans to go to university when he graduates from Hussey.
  • Nnu Ego asks if he hasn't learned enough. Oshia replies that he hasn't and that he doesn't want to be like his father.
  • Nnu Ego asks what's wrong with your father? Then she mentions that the medicine man had said Oshia would be a great man.
  • Oshia laughs at the idea of the medicine man and his idea.
  • Nnu Ego is despondent until Nnaife asks her what's wrong with her. She tells him it is her latest pregnancy. It's been a difficult one.
  • Fortunately, Okpo treats Nnu Ego as a long-lost mother. She had been orphaned at an early age so she understood suffering. She did whatever Nnu Ego wanted her to do.
  • Nnu Ego gives birth alone, after Okpo and the girls have left for the market. The baby is as small as a kitten. And dead.
  • Nnu Ego stares at the dead baby. She speaks to the baby, saying she's sorry that she's not staying but glad that God has taken her back. Her own joy, she adds, is that she is able to have children without any effort.
  • Then she feels guilty. Had she wanted her child to die? Would that explain the relief she felt when she saw that it was just a girl child? She prays to God to give her something to prove that she didn't kill her child. Had she refused this child because she is disappointed in Oshia?
  • She faints.
  • When she comes to, she finds that she has been ill for days. She is still looking for some sign that she had wanted this child. She mulls this over for days.
  • Adim comes home one day to say that he's been accepted to St. Gregory's college.
  • Nnu Ego tries to be glad, but her first thought is of the expense. She says she's glad, but Adim isn't fooled. Adim says that he will work to make things easier, and if it comes to the worst, he can stop in his fourth year.
  • Okpo is delighted, and she shouts with joy. She says she is glad all the children in this family are clever. Even her own child will not lack in intelligence.
  • Nnu Ego accepts the news of Okpo's pregnancy with little outward surprise but she's wondering how to bring another child into the household.
  • Okpo asks Nnu Ego about the material she'd been using to make clothes for the baby she just lost. Okpo wants to know if she can have the materials for her own baby.
  • Then Nnu Ego remembers that she had prepared clothes for her baby. She did want this child, after all. She had wanted her. The death had been an accident.
  • She teases Okpo, saying that she has only just found out about the baby and she wants to build it a tower.
  • Yes, Okpo continues, we will work hard so that Adim can go to school. Then Adim will take care of his little brother. And my child will do the same for his little brother, she adds.
  • Nnu Ego realizes that for once Nnaife had done the right thing. Okpo would stay with him until he died. Okpo is completely different from Adaku.
  • Adim teases Okpo that she married Nnaife so she could have clever children. They are both so glad, so young, and so enthusiastic for their futures.
  • Nnu Ego realizes that if they had lived in other times, Okpo never would have wanted for anything. Okpo would have given Adim just what he needed so that when the time came, he would have taken care of his father's wife after his father's death.
  • Nnu Ego is grateful to Okpo.
  • They all work so that Adim can go to college.
  • And Nnu Ego is known as the mother of very clever children.

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