Study Guide

The Joys of Motherhood Chapter 7

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Chapter 7

The Duty of a Father

  • It's now three months since the death of Ngozi, and Nnu Ego wishes desperately that she hadn't been saved from committing suicide. But at least her husband's people don't know how unhappy she is. More and more, she longs for a man like Amatokwu. He is truly a man, not like this current husband of hers.
  • That morning, she had argued with Nnaife, telling him that if she'd had Ngozi in Ibuza, she never would have come to Lagos. Nnaife wants to know what it profits her to hurt him. Wasn't Ngozi his child as well?
  • Now she hears a familiar voice calling her name. It's her friend Ato, Nwakusor's wife. She had thought Ato was in Ibuza, but here she is in Lagos, looking happy and healthy. Nnu Ego resents her immediately.
  • But Ato tells her to stop looking so unhappy. Does she want her father to hear about all her sorrows and to be unhappy, too?
  • Ato observes how unclean Nnu Ego's home is but says nothing. Instead, she asks her friend if it's true that she's stopped being sociable and instead became unhappy because she lost her child.
  • Ato urges Nnu Ego to let Nnaife sleep with her again, to get her pregnant. She reminds Nnu Ego that even if he isn't a good lover, he may be loving, and might be able to give her babies.
  • Nnu Ego admits that he is very loving and he's not bad as a lover, either. It's just that she didn't expect to marry a man like him.
  • Ato says she didn't expect to marry a man who would be away at sea for a long time either. And they say that men like that have other women in other parts of the world.
  • Nnu Ego claims that Ato's husband, Nwakusor, would never do anything like that.
  • Ato says it doesn't matter.
  • When Nnu Ego realizes that she's gossiping like all the women, she stops, pleased. Maybe she's recovering after all.
  • Ato lets Nnu Ego know that her father is glad that Nnu Ego isn't barren, and that she should get pregnant again soon and come home to make sacrifices so that this next child will live. Ato urges Nnu Ego again to let Nnaife sleep with her.
  • Nnu asks how her friend doesn't know that she isn't already sleeping with Nnaife.
  • Ato says she lived on a compound with many wives. She knows the look of a neglected woman.
  • Nnaife comes home and is excited to see Nnu Ego chatting with Ato happily.
  • Nnu Ego begins to tell Nnaife all about the big chunk of bush meat that her father sent them. Nnaife sounds nostalgic as he asks about home, then reminds Nnu Ego not to send Ato home without feeding her.
  • Months later, Nnu Ego is pregnant again. She dreams she sees a baby boy, three months old, abandoned by a stream. He is half covered with mud and mucus. She picks the child up and washes him in the stream, waiting for the mother, but the mother doesn't come. Then she sees the woman slave, her chi, on the other side of the stream, telling Nnu Ego, "Yes, take the dirty, chubby babies. You can have as many of those as you want. Take them" (7.49). Then she laughs and disappears into the forest.
  • Nnu Ego wakes up and exclaims that it can't happen again.
  • Nnaife is anxious, wondering what is the matter.
  • Nnu Ego tells him that everything is OK, that she's just picked up another child beside the stream in her dream.
  • Nnaife doesn't understand and questions her. Nnu Ego doesn't know how to explain that she knows she will have a baby boy. She imagines him as the perfection vision of manhood, tall and slender like a farmer.
  • She prays to God that this child will stay with her and grow up to fulfill her future hopes and joys.
  • But still she reflects on the dream. When she picked up Ngozi by the side of the stream, in her dream from her first pregnancy, he was clean. But this baby was dirty and neglected. What could it mean? She decides she doesn't care. Dirty children don't remain dirty when they've been washed. Her baby boy will grow up into a man she can respect.
  • She writes to her father to let him know she's expecting another child. Agbadi replies that the oracle has said it will be a boy. He sends charms for Nnu Ego to wear as protection, and soap for bathing.
  • Months later, as Nnu Ego looks at her son, she realizes that he looks like Nnaife. They are unable to afford a naming ceremony, like the one they gave Ngozi. Instead, friends and neighbors gather some kolanut and palm wine to celebrate the naming of the child.
  • They name him Oshiaju, which means "the bush has refused this." A Yoruba friend gives him a Yoruba name – "Ibo ko yi," which means the same thing.
  • Six weeks later, Nnu Ego feels more certain that Oshia will live. She has no money to help her husband, but they live in the white man's world, where men provide everything. She is just content to be a mother.
  • Nnu Ego realizes that when she had Ngozi, she had tried to be an Ibuza woman in a modern urban setting by running a small trading business. This time, she will try to live life according to the new rules. Perhaps after Oshia was weaned, she could try to work again. But she wonders who she could leave her son with. There were no grandparents in Lagos to help her. So she tries to be happy with the little money Nnaife brings in.

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