Study Guide

The Joys of Motherhood Men and Masculinity

By Buchi Emecheta

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Men and Masculinity

Manhood in traditional Ibo society is a privileged position. As a man, you have the right to several wives and you own your wives' labor, through which you may enrich yourself. But at the same time, you have an obligation to produce male heirs who will contribute to the family line. If you are infertile, or if your wife is infertile, your manhood is in question. The more children a man has, the more he has achieved. There are other privileges associated with being a man, such as drinking palm wine, being at the top of the social food chain, being taken care of by your children as you age. But in The Joys of Motherhood, traditional culture is changing as a result of colonialism. As a result, Nnaife, like Nnu Ego, is never able to realize his expectations. Ultimately, Nnaife finds little joy in his children, and even feels like his wives have mistreated him.

Questions About Men and Masculinity

  1. Why are boys so important in Ibo society?
  2. What is Nnu Ego's "ideal" man? How does Nnaife fail to fulfill her ideal? What is the "ideal" man in Ibo society?
  3. What is the role of men in Ibo traditional society?
  4. How does Western culture and colonialism change men's role in Nigeria? Does it change it in positive or negative ways? Why?

Chew on This

Although it may seem that boys had an enviable position in Ibo society, the expectations placed on them were unrealistic once Western culture eroded traditional values.

Men were given so many privileges that it's clear selfishness placed a role in Oshia and Adim's decisions not to help their family.

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