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A study Of Thematic Exploration Of Buchi Emecheta The Joys Of Motherhood And Second Class Citizen

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1.1     Background to the study

Feminist movement emerged in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in Europe and America respectively. Before this time, women were regarded as the oppressed group. Women have contributed a great deal to industrial activities with the introduction of feminism. This is to say that women became members of the working class in labour market thus, paving way for new industries centres. A feminist concept therefore consists of taking interest in the life styles, activities and occupation of women both at home and in societal growth. Feminism believes that women have been denied their rights as human beings in a world ruled by men and that they need to be liberated from patriarchy.

Feminism is also a world-wide ideology and political movement directed at changing the existing power relations between man and women. It is a social theory that highlights the inequalities in the male and female relationship in any society where patriarchal hegemony is practised. Patriarch is an ideology that gives men confidence to subordinate the female or treat, the female as an inferior being, men in such society hide under guise of patriarchy to subjugate women by a system of sex role stereotyping to which they are subjected from the early age. Thus, feminism as an ideology, according to Achufusi in feminist inclination of Flora Nwapa (1994:164), came about from the realization that a woman can never hope to have the proper recompense for her services until her usefulness and her success in life are not only demonstrated but fully understood and acknowledged.The early feminist believed that the solution to women subjugation should come from a political movement since patriarchy is tagged an oppressive political system.

However, woman quickly recognized the realities of their new situation and as the century wore on, became the focus of an emergent feminist movement. Pressure for the right to maintenance and custody in the event of divorce or separation began as early as the 1830s. The Governess Benevolent Institution was founded in 1843 and was followed by a long campaign to improve women’s education opportunities, a campaign to improve women’s education opportunities, a campaign which included, the founding of Queen’s and Bedford Colleges in 1869 and 1871 respectively: The first attempt by a woman to register as a medical student was as early as 1856, and the first parliamentary Bill to give married women the right to own property was introduced in the same year in Britain, Patricia Stubbs (1920:3).

Feminism as an ideology later finds a fertile ground in Africa in the 1960’s. Obioma Nnemeka (1995:40) establishes the functional purpose of the discourse when she asserts that “it provides the opportunity of re-evaluating attitudes and misconception about women which have been buttressed all along both by African culture and misogynous traditions of European colonial masters”.

There are other African Feminist writers like Acholonu who believes that women should not be seen as objects to decorate the homes with, but they should be regarded as major contributors to the growth of the nation without really affecting their roles as mothers and wives at home. In her article titled; Buchi Emecheta (1988:62) Acholonu asserts that:

Women should no longer be decorative accessories, objects to be moved about and companion to be flattered or claimed with promises. They should see themselves as nations primary fundamental   root from which all else grows and blossoms, women must be encouraged to take a keen interest in the destiny of the country.

She tends towards the modernist theory that admonishes women to reactualise themselves but not to the detriment of their homes and familiar. Other feminist writers who can be tagged modernists also extol the value of motherhood as they do not Jettison the essence of manhood as well as their matrimonial role in their attempt to empower the female with good education and good jobs.

Womanist perspective that portrays women as mothers and wives while at the same time agitating for gender equity helps to prepare the woman for the challenges a head. The female characters of such writers with this perspective are therefore created with equitable dynamic attributes to make them economically independent for self retrieval and survival in a patriarchal society, without affecting their feminine roles in the home.

However, each variety offeminism aims at addressing the different needs of women and each need tends toward an accommodationist principle which advocates joints effort across gender in solving human problems and in developing a solid society. This intention therefore brings the works of African female writers into the limelight such works become crucial key for self-realization and self-liberation processing in the African setup where patriarchy is utilize to subjugate and reduce women to second class citizens.

This concept of subjugation in a family is an African tradition that permits the male sex to exercise unlimited authority and emphasize male supremacy over the female. This is basically to bring impediment on the path of the woman’ in the realization of her potentials. Joseph (2001:10) asserts that; “In order to be almost inextricably successful in that chauvinist patriarchal and authoritarian setup, the society conditions and manipulates the economic and psychological being of a woman”. Thus, any woman who dabbles into the masculine roles is regarded in the society as being obstinate.

Modupe Kolawole (1998:60) perceives this hold that tradition has on some African women as being so tremendous that they will place cultural acquiescence over existing law designed to facilitate women’s mobilization. The subjugate concept is further enhanced in African society by the low level of educational attainment of women especially in the 1960s that is why major female characters in feminist writing are created to be educated to give them the boldness they need to challenge patriarchy. Also this authoritarian concepts is more pronounced in a society where Islamic injunction aids the practice of Purdoh which according to Fatima Adamu (1998:40) makes women “to be dependents, submissive and dominated by their husbands and their lives assumed to be restrictive and repressive”.


Buchi Emecheta was born in 1944 in Lagos, Nigeria. She is a Nigerian writer with a B. Sc. Degree in Sociology. She attended Methodist Girls High School, Yaba, Lagos and the University of London, United kingdom where she studied Sociology.

She was appointed Senior Research Fellow in the Department of English and Literary Studies, University of Calabar in 1980. She was a teacher, a Liberian and a community worker. She has also written articles for the News statesmen, the time Educational Supplements as well as plays for television. A member of Arts council of Great Britain, Member of Advisory Council, Home Secretary on Race and Equality in United Kingdom. Her Award include Best Black writer in Britain 1978, Jock Campbell Award 1970 and Daughter of Mark Twain an American Literary Award.

Her novels include: In the Ditch published in 1972, Second Class Citizen 1974, The Bride Price 1976, Destination Biafra 1982, Her Autobiography Head above Water which was published in 1986, The Joys of Motherhood, the Moonlight Bride, and The Wrestling Match. All her novels centre on the plight of women as wives and mothers and at the same time a contributor to  society growth in the typical African society. She portrays her heroines as agitating for freedom of women from the hands of their oppressors that is the male in the society. She believes that woman should have economic, social and racial equal rights as their male counterpart.


The purpose of this study is to expose the numerous forces militating against the rights of African women specifically in traditional set up, cultural beliefs and customs which are destructive enough to keep women perpetually at the background.

Also, this study is meant to portray the effort of women through literary works to make women aware of their rights and fight for such in a patriarchy society like Africa through economic independence.

1.4 justification of the study

Many criticalworks have been done on feminism and the selected female writers for example Joseph (2003) in “Feminism against the Grain of patriarchy” talks on feminism being against the spread patriarchy using Ba’s So Long a Letter to project education as the key to economic Independent that can free women from all forms of oppression. She asserts that the novel has a radical feminist stance with education as a weapon needed for the challenges of self determination. Also Kolawole (1998) in “Reversing Gender Myths and Images in Buchi Emecheta’s novels’ also confirm that women are presented as the victims of male subjugation and agitate for a change”.

This study is different from the aforementioned because it will bring out a kind of comparative analysis of the effects of patriarchy on women folk and their different attempts in the different regional locations in Africa to redeem the degraded image of Africa women. Therefore, this study is meant to contribute its own quota to knowledge as it highlights the means to self-actualization in any patriarchy society.

1.5     scope AND DELIMITATION of THE study

In this study, scope of study shall be limited of feminist concept in Buchi Emecheta’sThe Joys of Motherhood and Second Class Citizen as touching the forces militating against women’s self actualization in a patriarchal society and how they can and have been able to reform themselves in such society.

1.6     methodology

The sociological approach to literature is preferred in this work since the novel portrays the experience of women in the society. It is sociological because of the prediction of the role of the novel as a medium of instruction. Sociological approach shows that any work of art is didactic that is, it has the purpose of teaching or giving instructions that will contribute to the progress of the society.


Acholonu C. O. (1988), Buchi Emecheta in Perspective on Nigeria Literature

1900 to the present. Vol. 2 Yemi Ogunbuyi Ed. Lagos: Guardian Book, Nig. Ltd.

Achufusi J. A. (1994) Feminist Inclination of Flora Nwapa. A Critical

Theories of African Literature Today Ed. Eldered Durosimi, Ibadan: James Currey Ltd.Patriarchy, Ilorin. University of Ilorin Press.

Kolawole Mem (1998) Reversing Gender Myths And Images In Buchi

Emecheta’s Novels In Gender Perception And Development in

Africa, Lagos:Arrabon Academic Publisher.

Robert C. And Roland S. (1989) Contemporary Literary Criticism 2nd (Ed)

New York: Longman.

Stubbs Patricia (1979) Women and Fiction. London Harvest Press Ltd.

The Macmillan Dictionary of Women’s Biography London: Macmillan Press

Ltd Second Edition.



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