Study Guide

The Joys of Motherhood Chapter 18

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Chapter 18

The Canonised Mother

  • Nnaife's release and defense cost money that the family doesn't have.
  • Adim's schoolwork falls to the wayside.
  • Nnu Ego thinks to herself that if you don't have children, the worrying will kill you. Once you have children, the worrying will kill you.
  • Nnu Ego has a heart to heart with Adim, saying that everybody blames her. She wants to know if he is he going to desert her too.
  • Adim tells her that he wrote to Oshia to tell him what happened and Oshia said there was nothing he could do to help.
  • Nnu Ego looks hopeful as she asks after Oshia, wondering if he's being treated well over there.
  • Adim is confused. Oshia has treated her so badly – why does she still care?
  • Adim suggests that Oshia should have helped them, and Nnu Ego defends him, saying he probably doesn't even have enough to eat in America.
  • Adim starts to cry, because he believes that Oshia started all of this. It was because Nnaife was so angry over Oshia that he lost his mind.
  • Nnu Ego laughs. Adim suddenly notices how old and worn-out his mother looks. He feels sorry for her.
  • Nnu Ego defends Nnaife. She says that things have changed and Nnaife couldn't change with the changing times.
  • Nnu Ego says the new way may be best after all, and she wishes she had had the money to send the girls to school as well.
  • She reminds Adim that no matter what, a mother can't forget her children. So no matter what Oshia has done, she cannot reject him.
  • At Nnaife's hearing, the lawyer presents Nnaife as a good man, one who took care of his children. He says that Nnaife is a man with smart, educated children. He claims that he pays for Adim's school fees.
  • But it comes out that Nnaife drinks, and Nnaife admits to drinking because there is never enough food or money between two wives, the children, and school fees.
  • They discuss Kehinde, and how Nnaife doesn't want her to marry a Yoruba. He expects the bride price, because that's how a man proves his manhood.
  • Nnu Ego is put on the stand. She says that Nnaife was the best of husbands and fathers, but the prosecuting lawyer gets her to admit that she is the one who pays Adim's fees. She keeps insisting that Nnaife does it, because the money she makes belongs to her husband. So Nnaife pays for Adim's school fees. She doesn't understand the inherent contradiction in her statement.
  • The mostly Yoruba courtroom is also surprised and not sure what to think about Nnaife's various wives, including those he inherited from his brother. The custom is strange to the Yoruba.
  • The judge mocks as he says that Nnaife must be a very strong man, to have all these children and impregnate all these women.
  • Nnu Ego continues to try to defend Nnaife, but it's clear that Nnaife drinks too much, doesn't support his wives and children, and has a temper. They also establish that Nnaife believes he owns his wives and children.
  • Nnaife is sentenced to five years' imprisonment.
  • Outside the courtroom, Okpo is crying, while Adaku explains to Nnu Ego that the problem was that nobody in Nigeria owns anybody anymore.
  • Nnu Ego tells Adaku that she now understands why she left Nnaife when she did.
  • Nnu Ego wonders what she did wrong. She had always believed that children made her a woman, and she had had nine children, seven who survived. God had been merciful to her. But was it fair that the rules of the game had changed mid-life while she was still playing by the old rules?
  • Nnu Ego realizes she would have been better off making friends with a lot of women. But she'd always been too busy trying to feed and clothe her family.
  • She also realizes that Nnaife blames her for everything. He has such contempt for her that they will not be able to live together when he's finally released from prison.
  • To add to her lamentations, Nnu Ego realizes that her children have deserted her. It is not what she expected.
  • Lawyer Nweze visits her. He told her that Nnaife might be released in three months because some important people had decided he was not responsible for his actions. Nnaife would lose part of his pension but it was better than nothing. The family should remain quiet about all of it or people would believe that Lawyer Nweze was involved in shady dealings.
  • Nnu Ego makes plans to go back to Ibuza. She can't afford the rent and she doesn't want to struggle anymore.
  • Nnu Ego asks Taiwo's fiancée where he stands. He says he would like to marry Taiwo right away. The bride price belongs to Nnaife, so Nnu Ego has him give it to Adim, Nnaife's representative.
  • Nnu Ego tells Adim to use that money to pay his school fees for the entire year, and to put some money away in the post office so he can use it to eat until he can find a job.
  • Nnu Ego helps Taiwo get ready for her wedding, while Adaku spends a lot of her own money helping too. Taiwo was a good girl and she wants her to be married in style.
  • Nnu Ego says goodbye to her family. Taiwo and her husband Magnus keep Obiageli, one of Nnu Ego's daughters. Magnus says that Obiageli will start school and be a help to Taiwo in running the house, since Taiwo will soon have children.
  • Nnu Ego still isn't sure, but Adim tells her that Magnus is an "enlightened" man and will help take care of Obiageli well. It's time Nnu Ego rested.
  • But Nnu Ego protests that she doesn't know how to be anything but a mother. Adim assures her that she still has Malachi and Nnamdio with her. He tells his mother that she'll be plenty busy as soon as Kehinde and Taiwo start having their own children.
  • As she leaves, Kehinde calls out, asking Nnu Ego to pray for them so that their lives will be as "productive and fertile" as hers had been (18.108).
  • As they drive away, the driver tells Nnu Ego that it's nice to have daughters. Nnu Ego tells him that she also has sons and he calls her a rich woman.
  • As they drive away, the lorry driver tells Nnu Ego that women are lucky, because the fathers do all the work, but the women get all the glory.
  • Nnu Ego laughs silently to herself.
  • In Ibuza, Nnu Ego stays with her own family because Nnaife's family calls her a bad woman.
  • Nnaife is released and comes home to Ibuza to live with his family and his wife, Okpo.
  • Nnu Ego's health goes downhill. Though her daughters send her money from time to time, she never hears from Oshia in America or Adim, who later goes to Canada. It breaks her heart. She hears that Oshia has gotten married to a white woman.
  • One day, she dies, with none of her children there to hold her hand.
  • All the children, even Oshia, come home for her funeral. They throw her the second-most expensive funeral that Ibuza had ever seen, and they build a shrine so that her grandchildren could come and pray if they were barren.
  • But people said that Nnu Ego was wicked even after death. No matter how many women pray to her to make them fertile, she doesn't answer their prayers.
  • They don't understand it – having children is everything. And didn't Nnu Ego's children give her everything, such an expensive funeral?
  • Still, she never answers prayers for children.

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