Compare and Contrast the Characters of Adah and her mother, Mrs Ofili in Buchi Emecheta’s Second Class Citizen
In this post, I shall briefly compare and contrast two characters from Buchi Emecheta’s Second Class Citizen. They are two women from the same world but with different aspirations and varying reactions to the dictates and conventions of their society. One goes by the name of her husband – she is formally Mrs Ofili. The other character is simply identified as Adah.
Mrs Ofili is Adah’s mother and she is mostly referenced as Ma in the novel. She is a seamstress whose literacy does not go beyond her ability to read the Bible. Her relationship with her daughter is not entirely ideal and smooth as should be found in a typical mother-daughter relationship. Theirs is a strained relationship.
Adah is the main character in Second Class Citizen. The novel is in fact her story from childhood to adulthood in a gender-biased society. There are more than one versions of Adah in the novel. We see Adah as a little Miss Adah Ofili who yearns for education much more than people of the opposite sex. We also see Adah as a married woman, a Mrs Adah Obi, dutiful and committed to her motherly and wifely duties.
Both mother and daughter have some things in common. They also have distinct traits that distinguish one character from the other.
Of the things that bound them together, the repressive situation of girls and women in their society is one. Both Mrs Ofili and Adah come from a society with fixed view about the inferiority of women; that decides what women can or cannot do; and is also characterised by gender discrimination. There are the subjugation of women and the apportioning of domestic assignments or tasks as the primary responsibility of women. This view would influence the thought pattern of every mother albeit in a negative way and as well inhibit her dreams and aspirations. Mrs Ofili is one such mother.
Mrs Ofili evidently has bought into the patriarchal society’s definition of the roles of a woman and the destination of a girl child. This is justifiably shown in her designs for Adah. She wants Adah to become a seamstress just like her. She believes Adah only need education in order to be able to read the Bible just like her. Adah on the other side even as a child wants something much more. She wants to be well educated and secretly aspires to travel to England someday.
- Buchi Emecheta’s SECOND CLASS CITIZEN and Yejide Kilanko’s CHASING BUTTERFLIES: The Point of Convergence
- Buchi Emecheta’s SECOND CLASS CITIZEN: Things You Need to Know
In principle, while Mrs Ofili is submissive to the designs of the society for her and people of her gender, Adah is rebellious and quite ambitious to submit herself to such inhibitory dictates. She forges ahead to achieve her dreams even when the odds are stacked up against her.
Adah, as a Mrs Obi, is a more successful parent than her mother. Despite her demanding job at the library, she ensures she gives her children what her mother could not give her. Her relationship with her children is everything hers with her mother is not. Adah is a caring mother. Unlike her mother, she does not discriminate between children on the basis of gender. This of course is lacking in her relationship with her mother. Mrs Ofili sustains the societal gender discrimination in their household through the preferential treatment given to Boy, Adah’s younger brother, especially in terms of education.
In addition, they both have different kinds of husband. Mr Ofili, Adah’s father, fits in into the African description of a responsible husband. From the little that is said of him, it is easy to deduce that he shoulders a larger chunk of their household’s financial engagements. He even sees to it that Boy and later Adah attend an expensive preparatory school. Adah’s husband, Mr Francis Obi, is a direct opposite of Mr Ofili. He is an irresponsible husband and father that hardly contributes to the economic resources of his home. Adah is practically the breadwinner of the Obis.
As we can see from the ample time Mrs Ofili has to gossip, Mrs Ofili is more of a full-time housewife. Her seamstress work is only complementary. In contrast, Adah is a working professional woman who, despite her working schedule, has to combine work with her domestic affairs. Adah is somewhat a prelude to the African modern woman; perhaps, an epitome of the modern African woman.
Besides, while Mrs Ofili is more of a chronic gossip, Adah does not seem to have a social life.
Again, the preset societal view about women comes to play when each of these characters lose their husbands. While Mrs Ofili loses her husband to the gnawing jaws of death, Adah divorces her husband after she has tried severally to make her marriage work. Mrs Ofili is inherited by one of her late husband’s brothers as if she is some property. Adah, on her part, is still acknowledged as Francis’ by a Nigerian colleague. These of course set straight the societal view about women and the perceived abnormality of being a single mother. The fault is always the woman’s.
Ultimately, both Adah and her mother are victims of a gender-biased society. Their reactions to this society differ. While Adah is a fighter, her mother submits willingly, conceding to defeat, allowing to be used for the same purpose.
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- Q & A: Discuss the theme of girl-child education in Buchi Emecheta’s Second Class Citizen