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SECOND CLASS CITIZEN by Buchi Emecheta | SUMMARY | SETTINGS | THEME

SECOND CLASS CITIZEN by Buchi Emecheta
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If you’ve found your way to this page, it indicates that you’ve been assigned a task or you’re currently in an exam hall, seeking solutions for the AFRICAN PROSE titled “SECOND CLASS CITIZEN” by Buchi Emecheta.

This AFRICAN PROSE is now part of the reading material for literature students in WAEC, NECO, and JAMB from 2023 to 2025.

We’ve taken the initiative to support students by offering insights, including background information, themes, structure, and a summary of the Novel titled “SECOND CLASS CITIZEN” by Buchi Emecheta.

This is aimed at helping them better comprehend and prepare in advance for their examinations.

ABOUT BUCHI EMECHETA THE AUTHOR OF “SECOND CLASS CITIZEN”

Buchi Emecheta (1944–2017) was a Nigerian-born British author known for her novels, essays, and plays that explore themes of gender, race, and identity. She was born on July 21, 1944, in Lagos, Nigeria. Emecheta’s early life was marked by challenges and hardships, including the loss of her father at a young age. Despite facing adversity, she was determined to receive an education.

Emecheta moved to London in 1960 to join her husband, Sylvester Onwordi, whom she had married in Nigeria. While in London, she faced the difficulties of being an immigrant woman and dealt with the cultural and societal expectations placed on her. She found solace in writing and pursued her education at the University of London.

Her debut novel, “In the Ditch,” was published in 1972, followed by “Second Class Citizen” in 1974. These works were semi-autobiographical and drew heavily from Emecheta’s own experiences as an African woman living in London. Throughout her career, Emecheta authored numerous novels, including “The Bride Price” (1976), “The Joys of Motherhood” (1979), and “The New Tribe” (2000).

Emecheta’s writing is characterized by its exploration of feminist themes, the challenges faced by African women, and the intersection of traditional African values with Western influences. Her work often examines the struggles of women in patriarchal societies and the impact of colonialism on African communities.

Buchi Emecheta received recognition for her contributions to literature and was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2005. She passed away on January 25, 2017, leaving behind a significant body of work that continues to be studied and appreciated for its insights into the complexities of identity, migration, and gender dynamics.

Other Books/Novel Written by Buchi Emecheta

  1. “In the Ditch” (1972)
  2. “Second Class Citizen” (1974)
  3. “The Bride Price” (1976)
  4. “The Slave Girl” (1977)
  5. “The Joys of Motherhood” (1979)
  6. “The Moonlight Bride” (1980)
  7. “Destination Biafra” (1982)
  8. “The Rape of Shavi” (1983)
  9. “Double Yoke” (1982)
  10. “Gwendolen” (1989)
  11. “Kehinde” (1994)

These works cover a range of themes, including the challenges faced by African women, the impact of colonialism, and the clash between traditional and modern values.

SECOND CLASS CITIZEN by Buchi

SECOND CLASS CITIZEN by Buchi

“SECOND CLASS CITIZEN” | SETTINGS

Second Class Citizen” by Buchi Emecheta is primarily set in two locations: Nigeria and London. The novel follows the protagonist, Adah Ofili, through different phases of her life, and the settings play a significant role in shaping her experiences and challenges.

Nigeria

Adah’s early life is set in Nigeria. The novel provides a glimpse into the cultural and social expectations in a traditional Nigerian society. Adah grows up in the village and experiences the dynamics of family, community, and gender roles in this setting.

London:

The majority of the novel takes place in London, where Adah moves with her husband, Francis, in pursuit of a better life. London represents the challenges faced by immigrants, particularly African women, in a Western urban environment during the 1960s and 1970s. Adah encounters racism, cultural differences, and the struggles of being a woman trying to pursue her ambitions in a foreign land.

The contrast between these two settings underscores the cultural and social adjustments Adah must make as she navigates the expectations of her Nigerian upbringing and the realities of life in London. The novel explores the concept of being a “second-class citizen,” both as a woman and as an immigrant, and how these dual identities shape Adah’s experiences and aspirations

“SECOND CLASS CITIZEN” SUMMARY

Adah Ofili, an Ibo from Ibuza, Nigeria, born during World War II, faced parental resistance to her education as her brother attended school. Enrolling herself at Methodist School led to her mother’s arrest. Despite challenges in her uncle’s home—treated like a slave, rigorous chores, and pressure to marry—Adah pursued education, working for the British embassy in Nigeria.

After her father’s death, Adah lived with her uncle’s family. She faced hardships but stayed in school and gained employment at the British embassy, becoming a desirable bride. Marrying Francis, who upheld traditional Igbo beliefs, she played multiple roles but lacked love. Moving to the UK, Adah faced disillusionment as Francis deemed them second-class citizens. Adah worked, cared for their children, and endured Francis’s increasing abuse.

Francis, resentful and dismissive, burned Adah’s manuscripts, prompting her to leave the abusive marriage with her children and a fifth pregnancy.

THEMES IN ‘SECOND-CLASS CITIZEN’  BY BUCHI EMECHETA

Loveless Marriage:

In Emecheta’s portrayal of Francis and Adah’s union, love is conspicuously absent. Adah, marrying Francis at a young age out of necessity, views the marriage as an opportunity rather than a result of genuine affection.

The foundation is shaky, beginning with their underage status and a wedding devoid of even a ring. Francis, primarily interested in Adah’s contributions, underscores the absence of true love in their relationship.

Feminist Struggle:

‘Second-Class Citizen’ delves into Adah’s feminist journey, challenging societal norms that subordinate women. From the unrecorded birth due to societal preference for male children to discouragement from education compared to her brother, Adah confronts gender bias.

The novel highlights her defiance in choosing a younger suitor over societal expectations of an older match. Adah’s feminist spirit, depicted as the “IBO tigress,” becomes evident as she boldly leaves her marriage to secure a two-bedroom apartment for herself and her children, asserting her independence.

Concept of Second-Class Citizenship:

In ‘Second-Class Citizen,’ the notion of second-class citizenship initially centers on the mistreatment of females in Nigerian society. Adah’s birth disappointment and lack of recorded age highlight societal bias against girls. Despite societal discouragement, Adah persists in education, challenging her second-class status.

In England, second-class citizenship extends beyond gender to encompass race. Francis, conscious of racial inequalities, reinforces Adah’s status when she aspires to write. The destruction of her manuscript becomes a turning point in their relationship, illustrating the impact of racism on Adah’s dreams.

Racism and Prejudice:

The novel portrays racism and prejudice as formidable obstacles to Adah’s aspirations. In London, the couple faces explicit discrimination in housing due to their race. Advertisements stating “Sorry, no colored’s” highlight the pervasive racism. Adah, disguising her voice to hide her race, encounters rejection based on skin color, emphasizing the harsh reality of racial discrimination.

Furthermore, Emecheta explores prejudice within the Nigerian immigrant community in London, depicting stereotypical views and suspicions between Yoruba and Ibo people. The novel reveals the extent of bias as Adah, to secure housing, conceals her Ibo identity from a Yoruba landlord.

SECOND-CLASS CITIZEN – CHARACTERS

“Second Class Citizen” by Buchi Emecheta features several characters who contribute to the development of the story. Here is a list of some of the key characters in the novel:

Adah Obi Nee Ofili:

Adah, born to railway worker Pa and seamstress Ma in Ibuza, overcame odds to pursue education. Despite her modest appearance, she displayed remarkable intelligence, stealing to enroll in school after Pa’s death. Married to Francis in her early twenties due to societal pressure, Adah became a prolific mother of four, expecting a fifth child before parting ways.

As the primary breadwinner, she faced Francis’s emotional neglect and physical abuse of their children, culminating in her departure after he burnt her manuscript.

Francis Obi:

Adah’s husband Francis, married in Nigeria as a teenager, struggled academically and blamed Adah for his failures. His self-conscious nature and conservative beliefs, rooted in Igbo culture, influenced his traditional views on gender roles.

Despite failing to provide financially, he sought to assert his male dominance. Francis’s actions, including having a mistress and burning Adah’s manuscript, revealed a vindictive and traditional mindset, contributing to the breakdown of their relationship.

Minor Characters:

Babalola: Babalola, an unmarried man from Northern Nigeria on scholarship, lives by a carefree philosophy, enjoying life with ample money. Serving as a link between Adah and Trudy, his financial loss leads to social isolation. Moving from an upscale area to Ashdown Street, he becomes involved with Janet, a sixteen-year-old pregnant English girl.

Mr. Cole: A Sierra Leonean teacher at Methodist School, Mr. Cole resides near the Ofilis in Lagos. Adah attended his class on her first school day, and he impresses her with his handsome and robust African appearance. Mr. Cole kindly escorts Adah home, buying boli for her.

Trudy: Introduced by Mr. Babalola, Trudy becomes the childminder for Adah’s two children, in addition to two others. Living nearby, she handles the children during the day. Adah discovers Trudy’s negligence when her child, Titi, stops talking.

Visiting unannounced, Adah uncovers Trudy’s fabrications about the children’s care. Trudy faces consequences, with her name removed from the approved childminders’ list as a penalty for her carelessness.

DICTION

The novel “Second Class Citizen” by Buchi Emecheta, like many literary works, has a distinctive diction that reflects the author’s style and the cultural contexts within the narrative. Here are some aspects of the diction in the novel:

Language and Dialogue:

The novel uses a blend of English and occasional Nigerian Pidgin English to convey the characters’ speech. This reflects the cultural and linguistic diversity of the characters and settings.

Cultural References:

The diction includes references to Nigerian cultural practices, traditions, and societal norms. This provides readers with insights into the cultural background of the characters and the challenges they face in navigating between traditional values and the demands of a new environment.

Colloquialism:

The characters’ dialogue often includes colloquial expressions and idioms, adding authenticity to their speech and reflecting the informal nature of their conversations.
Narrative Style:

The narrative is likely to be descriptive, allowing readers to visualize the settings, characters, and events. Emecheta’s storytelling style may include vivid imagery and sensory details.
Themes of Struggle and Identity:

The diction may emphasize themes of struggle, resilience, and the quest for identity. The language used to describe Adah’s challenges and triumphs contributes to the overall tone and message of the novel.

Symbolism:

The author may employ symbolic language to convey deeper meanings. Symbols related to gender roles, cultural clashes, and the immigrant experience may be embedded in the diction.

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