Study Guide

The Joys of Motherhood Mortality

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Death is common in Nnu Ego's world. Having children is a way of ensuring your immortality, in the sense that they will continue your gene pool. Children are also expected take care of you in your old age so you don't have to suffer all your life. Nnu Ego is seen as a successful and much loved woman because of the enormous and expensive funeral her children throw for her upon her death. At the end of her life, however, Nnu Ego feels as though she sacrificed everything for her children, but got little in return. She dies alone, with no children by her side. Nnu Ego's spirit doesn't think much of her funeral, or of the shrine her children build for her. After death, she refuses to answer the prayers of her descendents when they ask her to give them children.

Questions About Mortality

  1. Which characters die in the course of the novel? Why and how do they die? How does Nnu Ego react to each death?
  2. Why does Nnu Ego want to kill herself at the beginning of The Joys of Motherhood? What prevents her from going through with her desire to die?
  3. How do the dead influence the living in this novel?
  4. How does Nnu Ego influence the living after her death?

Chew on This

Although Nnu Ego feels that death will be a respite from life's woes, she discovers that even after death, there is no peace; descendents continue to pester her to fulfill their desires and needs.

Although death is a constant threat throughout the novel, Nnu Ego fights to survive, wanting a better life for herself and her family. Even though she is disappointed with the end results, her story is actually a story of triumph and victory.

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