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The ugly and humiliating treatment meted out to childless women in African societies
and the subsequent misrepresentation of these women characters in the literary works pose a
great problem and raise a need for this research. The image created of these childless women in
African fiction is so deplorable such that they are subjected to serious oppression, humiliation
and even made to know that they have not much stake in the society. These women indeed suffer
the pains of both cultural and societal injustices which stem from the patriarchal domineering
nature of African societies, which all through history have been unfavourable to women. Using
Flora Nwapa‘s novel, One is Enough and Osofisan‘s Wuraola, forever, the study examines the
various traumatic experiences that childless women pass through in gender-biased societies like
that of Amaka in One is Enough and Wura, in Wuraola, forever. It is the attempt to redeem the
image of childless African women characters, whose status have been poorly debased in literary
works that this research is set to achieve. The research therefore, calls for a review of attitude,
thought, and approach towards childless women whose condition demand understanding and

Title Page——————————————————————————————————i
Acknowledgements ——————————————————————————————iv
Table of Contents———————————————————————————————vi
Chapter One: INTRODUCTION ———————————————————————–1
1.1 Background to the Study —————————————————————————1
1.2 Preamble ———————————————————————————————2
1.3 Statement of the Problem —————————————————————————5
1.4 Objectives of the Study ——————————————————————————5
1.5 Significance of the Study —————————————————————————-6
1.6 Scope of the Study ———————————————————————————–6
1.7 Methodology ——————————————————————————————6
1.8 Theoretical Framework ——————————————————————————7
Chapter Two: REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE —————————————–10
2.1 Definition of Key Concepts. ————————————————————————-10
2.2 African Worldview on the Issue of Childlessness in Marriage. ———————————11
2.3 Importance of Children in the Family. ————————————————————–13
2.4 Place of Childless Woman in Marriage. ————————————————————14
3.1 Societal Perception of Childlessness in Marriage ————————————————18
3.2 Traumatic Effects of Childlessness in the Family ————————————————20
3.3 Impact of Societal Scorn on Childless Women in One is Enough and Wuraola, forever- –31
3.4 Feminist Struggle against Social Injustice in One is Enough and Wuraola, forever ———37
4.1 Setting —————————————————————————————————43
4.2 Characters ———————————————————————————————–45
4.3 Narrative Techniques in the Novels —————————————————————–47
4.4 Diction —————————————————————————————————48
Chapter Five: SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION ————————————————-50
5.1 Summary ————————————————————————————————50
5.2 Conclusion ———————————————————————————————-51


1.1 Background to the Study
The undue victimization and societal humiliation experienced by childless women in
traditional societies and in some African novels inspired this study. The image created of these
characters is very deplorable even in African literature of the past and present. These unfortunate
childless women are often vilified, victimized and even compelled to leave their matrimonial
homes. Of course, women have often in every aspect of their lives, be it social, economic,
educational, political or marital, not been well treated when compared with their male
counterparts. This unfair treatment and prejudice stem from the patriarchal nature of African
societies which blame every shortcoming in the families on the womenfolk. It is from this
perspective that we are going to study Childlessness in the novels of Flora Nwapa and Femi
The clamour for posterity and the quest for increase in human capital have caused a lot of
anxiety among married couples in Africa. The anxiety wanes with the appearance of the first
pregnancy while signs of infertility after few years of marriage heighten the tension. The reason
for this is that in African societies, the expectation of every family is procreation. Africans value
children through marriages; for this reason, childlessness remains a lasting stigma in the lives of
couples, especially the women.
Childlessness, therefore, is one major problem that disintegrates marriages especially in
Africa and puts some couples in perpetual agony. In the Western world, for instance, marriage break down mainly for reasons of infidelity, lack of trust, and lack of support from either partner,
and so on. However, unlike in the Western world, the major factor that breaks marriages in
African societies is childlessness. This phenomenon is often blamed on the woman who is
considered the object of procreation. Childlessness therefore appears to be the greatest plague
that can befall any married couple in Africa.
Childless African women not only face family hatred but also societal scorn, mockery
and isolation. This stigma shatters their joy and renders them hopeless in the family where they
are meant to attain fulfilment as wives. Above all, childlessness threatens the bond that unites a
wife with her husband thereby reducing her to the status of an outcast in her matrimonial home.
It is, therefore, the root of most family crises and unrests in African societies till date.
This ugly situation of childless women in Africa has inspired Flora Nwapa and Femi
Osofisan, who use their novels, One is Enough, and Wuraola, Forever respectively to x-ray the
anomalies and injustices meted to childless wives. Through their novels, these feminists expose
the emotional and psychological trauma faced by childless women.

1.2 Preamble
Childlessness is a terrible situation in African matrimonial homes. It is such a topical
issue that attracts the attention of every member of the society. This is because of the social,
emotional, spiritual and psychological trauma it generates on both the couple and the extended
family. It has raised a lot of dust that medical experts, churches, social workers, lawyers, literary
artists and the entire society have joined in the campaign to address the problem and find
solutions to it.
In her article, ―African Motherhood-Myth and Reality‖, Lauretta Ngcobo observes that
―Marriage amongst Africans is mainly an institution for the control of procreation. Every woman
is encouraged to marry and get children in order to express her womanhood to the full‖ (533)This is because of the high premium placed on children as the symbol of family continuity and
this accounts for the reason why procreation is considered the paramount and the primary
purpose of any marriage contracted in Africa. For a man, it is a sacred duty towards his whole
lineage to advance the family name. The failure to immortalize the ancestors, according to
Ngcobo, is thus, a taboo and a shame that a man cannot bear.
In the past, childlessness was considered an irrevocable scourge that constitutes untold
crises, havocs, instabilities and continuous unhappiness in several marriages. Today, many
marriages collapse owing to childless. Separations and remarriages are occasioned by this
particular problem of childlessness. Infidelities are rampant among childless couples as these
couples often want to experiment their own fertility in another union or marriage. Low status or
hidden contempt is accorded to childless couples and they have little or no say in the society.
As it is always the case in Africa societies, the woman always gets all the blame for
childlessness in marriage, whether the cause is from her or not. According to Helen Chukwuma,
in her article titled, ―Voices and Choices‖, ―The female character in African fiction hitherto is a
facile lack-lustre human being, the quiet member of a house-hold, content only to bear children,
unfulfilled if she does not and handicapped if she bears only daughters‖ (131). In view of this, a
childless marriage is generally recognized as ill- luck in the traditional African society. Basden
accounts for this in his book, Marriage Among the Ibos of Nigeria, when he asserts that ―A
childless marriage is a source of serious disappointment and sooner or later leads to serious
trouble between man and wife‖ (1). Often, a childless woman is considered a monster, a
nuisance, a witch, and as someone who should be dispensed with in the family. She is subjected
to societal mockery and isolation because of this singular problem. A common effect of a
couple‘s infertility usually leads to the expulsion of the woman from the husband‘s house with or
without a formal divorce. A woman automatically loses her respect, value, and regard even
among her womenfolk who should be more understanding and sympathetic. These undue
vilifications, victimizations and injustices meted out to childless women attract the attentions of
writers like Flora Nwapa, Femi Osofisan, Buchi Emecheta and others who through their novels
challenge and satirize these hostile forces that make the world a hell for childless women.
In Flora Nwapa‘s One is Enough, Amaka suffers untold humiliation, embarrassment, and
oppression in the hands of her husband and mother-in-law because her marriage is bereft of
children. Though she is not expelled like Wura, her life is made miserable in her marital home
that she has to quit the marriage and vows never to remarry. In the same vein, Osofisan in
Wuraola, forever, demonstrates that a childless woman is nothing but a monster and as such is
treated with such disdain as a nuisance in her society. This is manifested in the cruel humiliating
treatment meted out to Wura, the heroine of this novel simply because she is unable to bear a
child for her husband. Not minding her kindness and virtues, Wura is subjected to societal
mockery and eventually she faces the embarrassment of sudden expulsion from her marital
home, while another woman is arranged to take her position as a wife.
Through the ugly experiences of these female characters on account of childlessness,
Nwapa and Osofisan satirize the forces of oppression and injustice that enslave women in Africa
and call for fair and humane treatment of the second gender especially in issues that demand
societal understanding, sympathy and consolation for the woman. It is the attempt to analyze,
interpret and give succour to childless African women, whose image has been poorly debased in
literary works because of their misfortune that inspired this research.

1.3 Statement of the Problem
Female characters in African literature especially those in the novels under study are
often victims of cultural and societal prejudices and hatred. Because they exist in a gender bias
society and because their conditions are often interpreted from a purely patriarchal perspective,
these female characters are often found to be struggling against the pains of both cultural and
patriarchal injustice. This study, therefore, adds to the existing wealth of knowledge in African
literature by exploring the traumatic effects of childlessness on African women characters. It
equally addresses the obnoxious cultural and social norms that threaten the cohesion, love and
happiness that should have cemented a happy relationship of husbands and wives.

1.4 Objectives of the Study
This research intends to examine the various implications of childlessness on married
It examines the extent to which societal scorn, isolation and victimization affect the psychological and emotional stability of childless women.
The study equally looks into the various ways these childless female characters challenge and break off from unjust tradition that exploit, humiliate and isolate them in the society, and how they achieve in the end, a measure of independence and self actualization in life. Above all, the research calls for societal review of attitude, thought and approach towards childless women who suffer from social and psychological disadvantages in a patriarchal society like that of Amaka in Nwapa‘s One is Enough and Wura in Osofisan‘s Wuraola, forever. The study intends to create awareness among men and women (both married and unmarried) that childlessness should no longer disintegrate the marriage of couples so long as amicable solutions are harmoniously sought by those involved.


1.5 Significance of the Study
(a) The study has both practical and theoretical significance to the general public
especially social workers, psychologists, feminist activists, sociologists, legal
practitioners, religious and guidance counsellors as well as literary artists in
understanding societal notion of childlessness and establishing true ground for proper
appreciation of childless couples in African cultural milieu.
(b) The awareness being created by this study will eventually, if adopted by the society, put
an end to the seeming endless trauma of so called childless couples and give them a sense
of belonging in the society that isolate them and make the world a hell for them.


1.6 Scope of the Study
Basically, the study is focused on African prose works with particular reference to Flora
Nwapa‘s One is Enough and Femi Osofisan‘s Wuraola, forever as portraying the contemporary
Igbo and Yoruba cultural settings in Nigeria.

1.7 Methodology
In the course of this research, we shall embark basically on library research. Equally, we
shall consult the Internet for wider information on the topic. Above all, childlessness is a
problem freely discussed in many social circles with the result that our own knowledge of the problem will also be useful.


1.8 Theoretical Framework
This research is situated within the Feminist Literary Theory which evolves as a reaction to women‘s marginalization, oppression, exploitation, and humiliation. Feminist movement was launched officially in 1792 with a book published by Mary Wollstone Craft titled, A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792). This was followed by another publication by John Stuart Mills in 1869 which was titled, The Subjection of Women. These two texts were serious efforts to advance the course for the social, legal and cultural freedom and equality of women with their male counterparts. These were followed by various activities of women suffragette movement in the 20th Century. Later in 1929, Virginia Woolf came up with an important feminist document, A Room of One’s Own (1929), a work that continued to address women authors who suffered from economic, social, educational and cultural disadvantages in patriarchal societies where the male folk prevent the female ones from realizing their productive and creative potentials. Based on their utmost commitment to women‘s case and condition, Mary Wollstonecraft and Virginia Woolf stand out as strong exponents of feminism.
As a literary theory, feminism is applied in the analysis of literary texts and it seeks to address the misrepresentation of women in literary works. Going by this account, feminism basically is concerned with women and the sad experiences they pass through in a gender-biased
society. Thus, according to Tuula Gordon, ―Feminism is concerned with redefining the world on the basis of the location and experiences of women, noting their oppression and subordination‖
(37). Gordon‘s proposition seeks to address the many injustices perpetuated against women and prompts the readers to see women as possible initiators of a new world view or as reconstructors
of their own worlds. For Helen Chukwuma, feminism is a reaction to an action which is subjugating and negative. Equally Udumekwu has it that feminism is committed to righting the wrongs against women. Boyce Davies in examining African feminism adopts Filomina Steady‘s view as a point of departure, thus: ―True feminism is an abnegation of male protection and a determination to be resourceful and reliant‖ Literature and Black Aesthetics (139). This notion reveals the efforts by African women and women characters in breaking loose from the shackles of oppression and exploitation in their patriarchal society, thereby striving for self assertion and fulfilment. Feminist literary theory in essence, aims at defining and establishing a feminist literary canon which seeks to re-assess and re-interpret literature from a feminist perspective. It tends to unveil the prejudices inherent in the appreciation of literary works. This theory, among other things, traces a woman‘s identity by challenging the patriarchal values that deny women equal opportunities with their male counterparts. It seeks to oppose the order that sees women as inferior‘‘ beings, incapable of playing active roles in families and in societies. In its place however, it proposes that authentic, active, and heroic roles be given to female characters that have been relegated to perform passive and irrelevant roles in the society and in literatures. Feminism adopts different shapes in different parts of the world. Eurocentric feminism for instance, does not only seek equality but dominion over the male folk. On the contrary, the Afrocentric feminism calls for revolution against the patriarchal domineering nature of African men folk. It advocates fair treatment and proper representation of female characters in literary works and demand certain basic rights such as the right to education, choice of marriage partner and fair hearing of their positions in social, political, economic and legal matters. These women according to Akachi Ezigbo are not revolting against the male folk, per se, but against societal norms and laws which have made them men‘s appendages thereby depriving them of their existence as authentic individuals (121). In essence, African feminists are requesting for better treatment, recognition, self-assertion and the opportunity to live their lives as individuals independent of their menfolk. (Ezigbo, Akachi. A Companion to the Novel, 1998: 121). It is from the African feminist doctrine therefore, that we draw our analysis for this study. Consequently, writers like Flora Nwapa, Buchi Emecheta, Mariama Ba, Zaynab Alkali, Femi Osofisan, among others try to redeem the image, status and role assigned to womenfolk in African fiction. They not only exalt womanhood but also show concern for the material and spiritual well-being of the society of which women belong. This theory however, asserts its relevance in this study as it seeks to address the many injustices, affronts as well as cultural and
societal norms that enslave childless women in male dominated societies like that of Amaka in One is Enough and Wura in Wuraola, forever.



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