Study Guide

The Joys of Motherhood Chapter 9

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Chapter 9

A Mother's Investment

  • Oshia wakes up in the middle of the night when an ant bites him. He screams, but no mother comes to comfort him. He searches for her and screams but she's nowhere in their room.
  • But the next-door neighbor, Iyawo, hurries to his side. She has a funny smile on her face, but she tells him he couldn't find his mother because she's next door, nursing his new little brother.
  • Iyawo refuses to let him see his mother, saying she's still too tired. Resentful, Oshia goes back to sleep.
  • Oshia hates the baby. It's small and it can't even talk and Nnu Ego gives it all her attention. Sometimes, Oshia just screams for no reason to get some attention.
  • The family is poor, and Oshia is constantly hungry. Ever since the birth of the new baby, Nnu Ego hadn't been able to get to the market so she made a display stand outside the house.
  • Oshia would sit at the stand and if there was a customer, he would shout until an adult came to take care of the exchange of money.
  • A neighbor named Mama Abby wakes Oshia up from sleeping in front of the stall. She calls to Nnu Ego that something is wrong with her child. Nnu Ego weeps, hoping he doesn't have iba (malaria).
  • Iyawo is nearby, too, watching Nnu Ego. She suspects that the child is hungry but doesn't feel it's her place to say anything.
  • Nnu Ego has nothing but more garri (a corn porridge) to give Oshia, which is all they ate.
  • Oshia says he wants pepper soup, so Nnu Ego rushes to the market to spend her precious few pennies on the luxury item. But the food is too rich for Oshia and he throws it all up.
  • Three days later, with Oshia still listless and not hungry, Nnu Ego is certain he is going to die.
  • Nnu Ego begs him not to die.
  • Oshia realizes that she believes he's doing better if he asks for something, so he asks for some water.
  • Nnu Ego gave him some water, but he throws that up too.
  • Iyawo cooks a delicious yam stew and thinks about Nnu Ego and her two sons, one on the verge of dying.
  • Iyawo also realizes that Nnu Ego is also in danger of dying. She is pretty sure the problem is malnutrition, so she takes the yam porridge next-door, worried that Nnu Ego might get offended.
  • But Oshia and Nnu Ego are grateful and Oshia eats. Nnu Ego tells Iyawo that she hopes God hears her prayers and gives her children of her own.
  • Looking at her son, Nnu Ego realizes that all Oshia suffers from is hunger. As she begins to nod off, Iyawo says it's time for her to go. Nnu Ego thanks her for being such a wise doctor.
  • When she wakes up to breastfeed, Nnu Ego feels Oshia and realizes that he's going to live. She wonders if she should go back to Ibuza.
  • The next day, when everybody realized that Nnu Ego and Oshia almost starved to death, people bring food. The landlord tells her not to pay rent that month. Nnu Ego can use that money to buy cigarettes to begin trading again.
  • Mama Abby takes Oshia on a trip to the island when he's better. Nnu Ego dresses him in a suit she'd bought, back when they lived at the Meers and had more money. It was an impractical purchase, she realizes, looking at it now.
  • Oshia dresses in the suit but begins to pout because it's too short.
  • Nnu Ego reminds him that she's been telling him he would grow tall.
  • Oshia is proud of the compliment, and says that when Nnaife returns, he'll get a new suit.
  • Mama Abby fusses over him. The narrator breaks into a short monologue about Mama Abby's life. Mama Abby lives cheaply so that she could spend her money on her son, who is brilliant, and who will lead the way for his mother into upper class society.
  • While Oshia is gone with Mama Abby, Nnu Ego goes to the docks to try to get cigarettes. But there's nothing there. Everywhere, there's a shortage of cigarettes.
  • Nnu Ego decides to sell something else, but realizes she may need to go home to her father.
  • When she returns, Mama Abby and Iyawo are laughing together, and Nnu Ego worries that Oshia misbehaved. But no, they urge her to go inside, where she finds Oshia and Nnaife, playing the guitar.
  • She runs inside to show her husband their new baby son.

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