Study Guide

The Joys of Motherhood Chapter 3

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Chapter 3

The Mother's Early Life

  • Nnu Ego is filling her father's evening pipe when she hears the people in the courtyard addressing Obi Idayi with his praise names. Agbadi points out that most of the voices are men's voices, and Idayi echoes this when he comes in, telling Agbadi that he needs to control his wild daughter.
  • Idayi urges Agbadi to allow Nnu Ego to get married, and asks him if he wants to be like Ona's father?
  • Agbadi laughs and calls Obi Umunna (Ona's father) stupid, even while he says that he can't bear to part with Nnu Ego, since she is the only part of Ona that he has left.
  • Agbadi admits that he has promised the senior Amatokwu that he will think about his son, and Idayi agrees that it might be a good choice.
  • Agbadi agrees to the marriage. Although he accepts the normal bride price, not demanding more, he sends Nnu Ego away with great riches to show how much he values his daughter and how wealthy he is.
  • The next day, the people from Amatokwu's compound come back with six kegs of palm wine to show their thanks for Nnu Ego and to show that her virtue was intact. (This means that Nnu Ego was found to be a virgin.)
  • Getting drunk, Agbadi and Idayi agree that it won't be long before Nnu Ego has a baby.
  • Yet as the months pass, Nnu Ego fails to conceive. Her husband Amatokwu suggests that she go and make sacrifices to the slave woman, her chi.
  • But the longer Nnu Ego goes without conceiving, the more afraid she becomes. At a certain point, she can no longer talk about it with her husband.
  • One night, Amatokwu tells her that his people have found him a new wife. Nnu Ego will need to move to another hut. Because Amatokwu is the first-born son, his family needs him to have a son.
  • The new wife becomes pregnant right away, filling Nnu Ego with shame and fear. She begs her chi not to punish her anymore.
  • Amatokwu changes towards Nnu Ego. He's no longer loving, fails to satisfy her sexually, and orders her around like she's nothing more than farm help.
  • Nnu Ego says she has been reduced in stature since coming, and she wishes she had her mother's pride.
  • Agbadi reassures Nnu Ego that she can come home at any time if she finds life unbearable.
  • Though Nnu Ego gets along with Amatokwu's other wife, the other wife uses Nnu Ego as a babysitter so she can stay with Amatokwu until very late.
  • One night, frustrated with the crying child, Nnu Ego feels like she can't go get the younger wife from Amatokwu's hut.
  • Nnu Ego begins to nurse the crying child herself, offering him comfort. She continues to do this over days until her breasts begin to drip with milk. Noticing this, Nnu Ego runs to her chi to beg her to let her get pregnant.
  • On the night that the second wife gives birth to her second child, Nnu Ego forgets to lock her door as she nurses the son. Her husband, watching her, hits her from behind and takes the child away.
  • Agbadi says he doesn't blame Amatokwu for beating her, but he will take Nnu Ego home and let her rest for awhile. Perhaps with some time, space, food, and rest, she will become fertile again.
  • Agbadi's wives nurse Nnu Ego back to health.
  • Though Nnu Ego is ashamed that she is back on her father's compound, she doesn't want to return to her husband. As she gains her beauty back, men begin to confer with her father, haggling over marrying her.
  • Nnu Ego understands that she will be married to a different man this time, but her father wants a man who will be patient with her.
  • The narrator tells us that Agbadi is no different from other men. Though he may neglect his own wives, he wants the best for his daughter.
  • Agbadi and Idayi discuss the issue together over pipes. Agbadi admits that he would like to see Nnu Ego married to a man from the Owulum family who lives in Lagos. But he's not sure he trusts men making money in such far off places. Why can't they make it here? Also, how would he know Nnu Ego was being treated well, if she was so far away?
  • Idayi thinks Agbadi should let Nnu Ego go and try it. If she leaves Ibuza, he suggests, her chi may give her some peace. He also thinks that she will do better if she's away from the spying eyes of the Amatokwu family. Amatokwu is probably wanting another wife now and will be happy to receive Nnu Ego's bride price back to make a divorce official.
  • Agbadi asks Nnu Ego if she would like to be married again and Nnu Ego says she would. She wants children. She believes that it's important to have children in your old age to look after you.
  • Agbadi says he is thinking he would like to see her marry a man called Nnaife Owulum, who has been working in Lagos for five years.
  • Nnu Ego says that although it's a long ways away, she will do what her father wishes.
  • Agbadi says that Nnu Ego will leave next Nkwo day. She will accompany the elder Owulum brother to Lagos.
  • Agbadi returns the twenty bags of cowries that Amatokwu had given as the bride price, and even adds a goat to it, in order to insult them.
  • By the time Amatokwu sends his thanks, he learns that Nnu Ego has already left for Lagos. Let her go, he thinks, she's as "barren as a desert" (3.97).

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