Study Guide

The Joys of Motherhood Chapter 5

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Chapter 5

A Failed Woman

  • Nwakusor, an Ibo man who works on the docks, is returning home after a long night of labor. He is sleepy and is swerving on his bike. He is so startled that a mini-bus hits him and his bike is damaged. The driver yells at him that if he wants to kill himself, he doesn't need to kill others at the same time.
  • Nwakusor begins to walk his broken bike home. He sees a crowd on one side of the bridge and realizes that they are talking about a woman behaving oddly, like she's doing some sort of acrobatic dance. He looks away, keeping his eyes on the traffic, realizing he doesn't want to look death in the face twice.
  • But suddenly he sees that the woman is trying to jump into the water. He runs across the road.
  • The crowd roars as the woman lays a man flat who is trying to rescue her. Another man rushes forward to save her but she fights him, and everybody worries that he'll give up.
  • Nwakusor suddenly realizes that this woman is Ibo. He then he realizes it's Nnu Ego.
  • He calls her by name and she looks up, realizing that somebody in the crowd of people in Lagos knows who she is.
  • As she hesitates, Nwakusor throws his bike to the side and rushes towards her. He wrestles her to the ground and other men come forward to help him save her life.
  • Nwakusor chides her, telling her that she's shaming her motherhood.
  • That's when Nnu Ego begins to cry for the first time since seeing her dead child. She wishes with all her heart that everybody had let her commit suicide.
  • Another Ibo woman steps forward and begins to chide Nnu Ego for disgracing her husband. The woman slaps Nnu Ego, who begins to cry and then tells everybody that she's not a woman anymore. Her child is dead. Her chi (personal god) has taken him from her and now she wants to face her chi to demand answers.
  • That is when people understand her behavior. They all begin to cry, understanding her anguish. They all agree that a woman without a child is a "failed woman" (5.30).
  • Nwakusor leads Nnu Ego home.

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