Plot Summary of Buchi Emecheta’s Second Class Citizen

Second Class Citizen by Buchi Emecheta focuses on the life and growth of Adah. It recounts her childhood experiences and her marital life.

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Second Class Citizen
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Second Class Citizen by Buchi Emecheta focuses on the life and growth of Adah. It recounts her childhood experiences and her marriage and family with Francis. It focuses on her sufferings and ability to succeed in the face of challenges.

Second Class Citizen Summary

The novel begins with Adah as a young girl during the 1950s in Nigeria. Adah is bright, and from a very young age, she knows she wants an education. She also dreams of moving to the United Kingdom one day.

Despite the fact that it is less prevalent in her family for a girl to be educated, Adah secretly goes to school. Her parents beat her, but they let her attend anyway. After Adah’s father dies, she is sent to live with her uncle’s family. She secretly enrols in a high school, and despite being beaten for it again, she receives a scholarship due to her high score in the entrance exam.

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As Adah comes of age, her family pushes her to marry, but she only chooses to do so once she realises she has to have a husband and a house in order to pursue her studies. She marries a man named Francis, who seems quiet and kind, and finds a job as a librarian. The couple has a solid income at the time due to Adah’s job, and Francis begins to adopt the mindset that she must work to support him.

Adah suggests they move to England, and Francis agrees. He goes first to study accountancy, and after the birth of her second child, Adah convinces her in-laws to let her follow him.

Plot Summary of Second Class Citizen
Plot Summary of Second Class Citizen

In London, Adah discovers that things are not as she expected them to be. Francis finds a place to live in a poor neighbourhood that is surrounded by other Nigerian immigrants. He tells her that they can’t expect better because they are second-class citizens. The welfare system is complicated, and the English people Adah encounters are often slovenly and coarse. 

Adah finds a job for herself as a librarian again to support her family. Her husband lazily mopes around, refusing to study or work, while at the same time verbally and physically abusing her.

She gets pregnant again, and she is alone during her birth. She decides to secretly take contraception, but Francis discovers it and beats her for it.

Adah gets pregnant yet again, and her husband gets progressively more abusive. She tries to fight back, telling him to find a job, and concludes that she will no longer support him because her children are her priority.

During the first months after her fourth child is born, she writes a book based on her life, and her friends at the library support her and encourage her to try to publish it.

Francis, on the other hand, burns the book, and Adah leaves him and takes the children to live elsewhere. He follows and attacks her. The novel ends with Adah going to court against Francis.

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