Q & A: Compare and contrast the characters of Francis and Adah in Second Class Citizen


Compare and contrast the characters of Francis and Adah in Second Class Citizen.

Francis and Adah are two important characters in Buchi Emecheta’s Second Class Citizen. In the text, they are a married couple with five children to their names.

They however play antithetical roles in the novel. Adah is positioned as a resilient and determined woman who is bent on breaking the barriers of gender exclusion and racial discrimination. Francis in contrast is a lazy African man who in the novel represents the entitled domineering men in a male dominant society whom Adah has to contend with in the novel.


This is not to say they have no commonality. They have things in common as much as they have their glaring differences.

To start with their town of origin, the two characters are from the same town. They are from Ibuza but grew up in Lagos. It appears that none of the two has ever been to Ibuza. Adah for example is born and bred in Lagos; she has never been to Ibuza. That they are both Ibuzans is not enough to sustain their marriage.

The two characters are born in the 1940s and within the same age bracket. They are characteristically young when they marry each other. This may have been the reason for the naivety of either one of them in different situations.

Both Francis and Adah desire education. Francis’ bid to further his education and get certification in accountancy makes him engineer his way to England. Likewise, Adah’s interest in education is shown in her sheer determination to be properly educated which of course comes at a price of the humiliation of her mother by the police, and her stealing of Cousin Vincent’s money. When Adah gets to England, she still does not rubbish the idea of furthering her education.

The difference between the two is their academic prowess. While Adah is strikingly brilliant and remarkably successful in her studies, Francis is a failure in this respect. He keeps failing his accountancy test year in, year out. He is so poor in his studies that he becomes a financial liability of sort as a fragment of the family’s income is drained by his perennial academic failures.

Moreover, Adah is an enigma of a modern African woman while Francis is a traditionally-inclined man. His inability to control Adah and put her in her place creates insecurities for him in their marriage. He believes in the sanctity and the finality of a man’s words in a typical African home but chooses to ignore the fact that an African man provides for his family, not the other way round. He relegates his position in the other of things with his heavy, parasitic reliance on Adah for the fulfillment of his and the family’s financial obligations.

In Second Class Citizen, Adah is portrayed as manipulative, and Francis wicked. The extent of Adah’s manipulation is seen in how she manages to convince her mother-in-law to allow her join her husband in England, baiting her with her jewelries. Francis shows his wickedness when he burns Adah’s manuscript. We see in this act how destructive Francis could get just to prove a point.

The novelist profiles Francis as a lazy, irresponsible husband and father who conveniently uses his religious mood swing to switch from one religious faction to the other just to avoid giving his children the necessary festive experience. Emecheta profiles Adah as a hardworking, innovative woman and the breadwinner of her family.

In the end, their marriage does not work out. Apart from sex and getting Adah impregnated every other time, Francis is non-committal to the marriage, failing in his matrimonial duties. He is not in the least romantic. Adah, on contrary, tries to make the marriage work. This much is demonstrated by her diligence and sacrifices. She even imagines her and Francis, living in a castle, wife and husband, romantic to each other in the distant future. Her imagination precludes Francis’s irresponsibility, overdependence, and laziness. This is to show how Adah envisaged the marriage would work out.

What other differences and similarities do you see in these two characters? Let us know in the comment section.

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