Chapter by Chapter Summary of Buchi Emecheta’s Second Class Citizen

Second Class Citizen

Buchi Emecheta’s Second Class Citizen is segmented into thirteen (13) chapters, each with its own respective title that captures the focus of each chapter. Elsewhere, we have given a plot summary of the novel. In this particular post, we have provided a chapter-by-chapter summary of Emecheta’s bildungsroman novel, Second Class Citizen.

Chapter One Summary

Chapter 1 of Second Class Citizen is titled ‘childhood.’ This chapter focuses on Adah’s life as a child.

She is very young when she develops the desire to go to the United Kingdom. She watches the women prepare for the welcome of Lawyer Nweze, a man from their hometown of Ibuza.


Adah, like most girls of her time, was not privileged to be sent to school. She spends her time assisting her mother with house chores while her brother ‘Boy’ is sent to school.

One day, Adah revolts and sneaks into the Methodist Primary School, where her neighbour, Mr. Cole, teaches. This act lands her mother in police custody for negligence. Adah apologises and is enrolled in a school. Her father, Pa, enrols her in a more prestigious school like Ladi-Lak Institute.

Pa dies shortly after, and this causes a great turn in Adah’s life.

Lawyer Nweze eventually arrives; however, Adah is not allowed to welcome him as it falls on a school day. The people believe strongly that Lawyer Nweze will help and provide for them.

Related: Chapter 1 Summary of Buchi Emecheta’s “Second Class Citizen”

Chapter Two Summary

Chapter 2 of Second Class Citizen is titled ‘Escape into Elitism.’ After Adah is sent to school, Pa dies shortly after. This change affects his family severely. Ma remarries Pa’s elder brother. Adah is removed from school to provide money for Boy’s education. She is only valued for a high bride price because of her education.

Adah is forced to live with Ma’s brother. There, she is treated as a servant. She steals money meant for meat to buy an exam form for the Methodist Secondary School. She excels, and, is awarded a scholarship. She performs excellently in school. Her rough adventures earn her the name ‘Igbo Tigress.’ She refuses a lot of old men who wish to marry her.

After she graduates, she hurriedly marries Francis Obi. They are both underage, but she wishes to find a home.  She gets a job at the American Consulate in Lagos.

Francis’ parents control him. He does not have a mind of his own. He decides to go to London to study accounting, which is sponsored by Adah. Adah gives birth to a daughter and names her Titi. She convinces her parents-in-law to let her join Francis. She also gives birth to a boy named Vicky.

Chapter Three Summary

Chapter 3 of Second Class Citizen is titled ‘A Cold Welcome.’ Adah arrives in London. She is welcomed by the extremely cold weather.

She is pleased and happy to fulfil her dream and be classified as a ‘been to.’ She meets Francis and is surprised by his public display of affection.

Adah does not only get a cold welcome from the weather, she is also treated coldly by Francis. He accuses her of being disrespectful when she says he is lying about the jokes about death.

She is shocked when she sees their new living conditions. Francis warns her not to complain and he describes them as ‘second-class citizens.’  She gets pregnant with their third child. She also gets a job at the North Finchley Library.

Chapter Four Summary

Chapter 4 of Second Class Citizen is titled ‘Daily Minders.’ Adah continues to work at the North Finchley Library.

Francis begins to complain about looking after the children. He believes that they are a source of stress or burden for him. The landlord and other tenants advise Adah to keep her children with a foster mother.

She meets Janet, a cockney girl who is married to Babalola. She helps Adah find Trudy as a minder. She also has a son of about 18 months, a good playmate for Titi.

Francis fails his exams and blames it on Adah. She discovers that Trudy does not treat and care for her children properly.

Chapter Five Summary

Chapter 5 of Second Class Citizen is titled ‘An Expensive Lesson.’ Adah pregnancy grows, and their place of living becomes uninhabitable.

Adah endures her hunger as she has little money to feed herself. Vicky falls ill with viral meningitis. Adah blames Trudy and threatens to kill her if anything happens to her son.

Trudy is so scared that she moves to another place. Francis supports Trudy and continues to sleep with other women.

Chapter Six Summary

Chapter 6 of Second Class Citizen is titled ‘Sorry, No Coloureds.’ Adah walks up to Francis and informs him of their landlord’s quit notice. They embark on a search to find a new house.

Adah feels disheartened, as most of the vacant houses are not open to black or coloured people like her.

She also fakes the voice of a white woman to get an appointment with a landlady. On seeing her colour, the lady claims that no room is available. This emphasizes the discrimination faced by blacks in London. Their search ends in futility.

Chapter Seven Summary

Chapter 7 of Second Class Citizen is titled ‘The Ghetto.’ In it, Francis and Adah’s search for a new room continues.

They meet Mr. Noble, a Nigerian with so many stories attached to his name. It is believed that he was the son of a chief in Benin and that he had six wives and twenty children before coming to London. Another version claims that he was sent on a scholarship to study.

He worked at a train station and suffered a severe injury when he tried to operate the lift manually. He did this to please the white men and earn some money, however, he was badly injured. He was laid off by the company and paid well.

He gets a house with the money, lives a lavish lifestyle, and marries Mrs. Noble. Adah and Francis are lucky to get a room here. The room, however, is in worse condition than the previous one.

Chapter by Chapter Summary of Second Class Citizen
Chapter by Chapter Summary of Second Class Citizen

Chapter Eight Summary

Chapter 8 of Second Class Citizen is titled ‘Role Acceptance.’ Adah’s pregnancy grows. She begins to feel contractions one morning and gives birth to a bouncing baby boy whom she names “Bubu.”

Francis is not kind to her; he is also annoyed that Adah does not have a home birth, as they have planned to save extra money.

Chapter Nine Summary

Chapter 9 of Second Class Citizen is titled ‘Learning the Rules.’ Adah is hospitalised after the birth of her child. She is proud of her son but feels jealous, as she is the only mother not treated properly. She finds it difficult to make or keep friends due to the inferiority complex she has developed.

Wearily, she tells Francis she needs a nightgown. Two days later, it arrived. It is a plain blue one in the same style as the hospital’s, but she no longer cares. She is not proud of it and does not want to show anyone.

The nurses love “Bubu,” which makes Adah suspicious; she wonders if they are teasing her or just curious about an African baby. But their affections seem genuine, and she starts to feel guilty for her attitude.

She wishes she could confide in someone and misses her Pa. She decides she will not care about Francis anymore and will let him do what he wants, and all her focus will go to her children.

Chapter Ten Summary

Chapter 10 of Second Class Citizen is titled ‘Applying the Rules.’ While Adah is on maternity leave, Francis gets a job as a postman and complains bitterly about it.

He continues to treat Adah poorly. He claims that they are Jehovah Witnesses when he is unable to afford Christmas gifts for his children. He conveniently comes up with one excuse or the other to shirk away from his responsibilities.

Vicky falls ill again, but this time it is from a bed bug bite.

Chapter Eleven Summary

Chapter 11 of Second Class Citizen is titled ‘Population Control.’ Adah is fed up with constantly getting pregnant. She seeks to get contraceptives. However, Francis is against her decision. She goes against him, and it causes a huge problem when he finds out.

Francis fails his exam again and blames Adah for making him get a job instead of studying.

Chapter Twelve Summary

Chapter 12 of Second Class Citizen is titled ‘The Collapse.’ Adah goes to her Indian doctor and tells him she wants the pregnancy terminated. He is sympathetic, and he gives her some white pills. She decides she will not tell Francis. This is simply a new challenge, and she can face it alone, and she and her children will prevail.

The Presence is back too, and she talks to Him all the time. She does not go to church.  For her, in England, “churches were cheerless.” London killed her “congregational God and created instead, a personal God who loomed large and really alive.”

Adah concentrates on working and enjoying her new job. She befriends the people there: Peggy, an Irish girl who is heartbroken over a summer boyfriend in Italy; the big boss, Mr. Barking, a kind man; Bill, a handsome Canadian man who married the children’s librarian Eileen the year before, who liked black writers and encouraged Adah to read them, and who was her first real friend outside of her family.

Adah finally tells Francis she is going to have another baby, and all he can do is laugh ruthlessly. She does not care, though, and starts making beautiful baby clothes. Her maternity grant will not go to Francis this time, she vows.

She also learns that she can live off of something called ‘assistance’ until the children grow up. She’s heard of this before and does not know if she can claim it, but it intrigues her.  She also decides now is the time to try writing and pens what will be “The Bride Price.”

Chapter Thirteen Summary

Chapter 13 of Second Class Citizen is titled ‘The Ditch Pull.’ The five months after Dada’s birth are glorious since Adah gets to be a stay-at-home mother. Francis, though, is annoyed since she is educated and now, she is not earning money.

Adah does not care what Francis thinks. She finds joy in writing her novel. She does not care if it is actually published, because all that matters is that she wrote a book.

Adah sees that she is a thorn in Francis’s flesh because she does not conform to his idea of what a woman and a wife should be like. She does hope he might change, but she is not holding her breath. She takes the manuscript to her friends at the library, and they say it is very good. Bill even encourages her to publish it, saying that it must be typed out. This is exciting and nerve-racking for Adah, who realises she must tell Francis about the book now. She wonders if she is a real writer.

Adah goes out and leaves the children with Francis. When she returns home, she smells burning paper. She confronts him and asks what he is doing, unnerved by the smile on his face—the smile of cruelty and deviousness.

To her horror, she realises that he is burning her story. This is the last straw for Adah. She gets a new job at the British Museum as a library officer and, after a purgatory time at home, moves her children out to a dirty two-room flat.

Adah “walked to freedom, with nothing but four babies, her new job and a box of rags.”  She is elated to be away from Francis, but he finds her and starts banging on her window one day.

He angrily tells her that, in their country (Nigeria), there is no such thing as divorce and separation, but she retorts that he broke the laws of their people first, not her. He starts beating her, and she worries he will stab her, and it is not until an old Irish neighbour breaks down the door that she gets away.

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