Effect of Colonialism in Tsitsi Dangarembga's Nervous Conditions By Ayebanoa, Timibofa Department of English University of Uyo 3 Treva Broughton, Southern Africa Review of Books, blurb at the beginning of Tsitsi Dangarembga's Nervous Conditions. 23 24 TSITSI DANGAREMBGA'S. Nervous conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga, , Seal Press edition, in English.
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Nervous Conditions. Sigauke, He worries more about 'what people would say' than what he is and what he should be or should do truthfully for his family regardless of outsiders' opinion. It also makes Babamukru to fend for his immediate as well as his extended family. They rarely offer any of their opinions though, because the men, of course, do not expect that see pp. In all that we are doing for you, we are preparing you for this future life of yours and I have observed from my own daughter's behaviour that it is not a good thing for a young girl to associate too much with these white people, to have too much freedom. When she tries to tell the truth about herself, he feels she is challenging him see p. Postcolonial African Literature and Counter Discourse.
So that even if she is educated with an M. Her resentment shows in her sometimes sarcastic comments pp.
Nyasha on the other hand, is modern, carefree, unpretentious and feels she must be able to speak her mind. The main obstacle to her happiness is her father, Mr.
Sigauke and Tambudzai's uncle or Babamukuru. There is a vagueness in the novel about the kind of education that this man acquired. He too came back from England different pp. He no longer interacts with his family freely and naturally. He is always aloof and people should not talk or make noise in his presence. When greeted he merely 'grunts' p. The author here has not described enough reasons for this nor given enough background to Mr.
Sigauke for us to understand why he has turned out this way. Whatever it is, it has to do with his education which has alienated him in a different way from the way it has affected his children. Babamukuru, on the other hand, has become much more severe, intimidating, less flexible and visibly more sexist, patronizing, unfriendly and ready to perpetuate the patriarchal values in the homestead which he claims to be his own with such exaggerated firmness that the inmates of that homestead feel helpless, powerless and some even feel emasculated by his severe presence.
So far as women are concerned, perhaps we can agree with Lemmer when she explains that we should not assume: Education is the only nor even the most important variable in gender equality.
Neither [should we] presume that society or the school is gender neutral; rather, [we should look] at schools as patriarchal institutions which have served to perpetuate women's position in society. Sigauke who does not consider women to be his equals, but second class citizens who should do what men like him say. He always feels he must subdue Nyasha for instance; she must do as he says. When she tries to tell the truth about herself, he feels she is challenging him see p.
She must not read certain books. She must sit down at table and eat all her food because he says so, but must wait till her mother has finished serving him or to use his expression, she must wait until her mother has finished waiting on him.
This home at the Mission, which should be pleasant and liberating physically and spiritually as imagined and visualized by Tambudzai, ends up being very stifling. In the village, at least Tambudzai could talk to her father and even ask questions sometimes. At the Mission Nyasha can do nothing of the sort. Her mother is nervous, unsure of herself, scared of her husband, appears delicate and childish, even though she definitely does not like her lot.
Nyasha suffers more from these stifling, nervous conditions than her brother because being a boy, he can do what he wants. He is rarely at home, does not visit the village often and gets totally assimilated into the White people's culture as he associates more and more with the Bakers. This leaves Nyasha at the crossroads, not knowing which way to turn: The father does not approve of the words she speaks or the clothes she wears like mini-skirts, while the mother does not mind them and in fact buys the mini-dresses for her which could be her way of protesting against the father's values — see pp.
Lemmer, 'Gender issues in education', in EMse I.
Dekker and Eleanor M. Lemmer eds. See also Greene and Kahn, Making a Difference, The day she comes home late from a dance because she wanted to learn a few more dance steps from Andrew Baker, she is accused of being a whore because 'no decent girl would stay out alone, with a boy, at that time of n i g h t. It is these kinds of accusations, assumptions and orders that Nyasha rebels against. She cannot simply take them sheepishly, obediently, placidly.
For example, on the Andrew Baker dance problem, in anger and frustration she ends up shouting, 'What do you want me to say? You want me to admit I'm guilty, don't you. All right then. I've confessed. She returns the blow to her father's horror, who vows that he will kill her for challenging him that way pp. Ironically, because of her rural background and different cultural understanding of how children should talk to their parents, Tambudzai finds herself not approving of Nyasha's carefree nature either, particularly of the way she interacts with her parents.
There is also the pretence and hypocrisy in Mr. Sigauke, He worries more about 'what people would say' than what he is and what he should be or should do truthfully for his family regardless of outsiders' opinion. The author has not been explicit as to the source of this attitude in him, but it surfaces each time he 'disciplines' Nyasha pp. Apparently Nyasha should appearto be decent by not befriending or associating with boys, not for her own or her family's sake, but more to impress the people around the mission as he angrily pronounces, What will people say when they see Sigauke's daughter carrying on like that?
How can you go on disgracing me? Like that! No, you cannot do it. I am respected at this mission. I cannot have a daughter who behaves like a whore. She realizes that it is not a question of rural backwardness, urban advancement or even education that matters. It is a problem of femaleness versus maleness and that they are all victims as long as they are female pp.
Nyasha is no whore, as the reader and the other characters in the novel know She is an intelligent girl whose insight into social and political issues is very sharp. She analyses issues maturely and is the only other character besides Tambu's mother who seems to understand the crippling colonizing effect of Christianity.
She gets quite annoyed with this and delivers a lecture on the dangers of assuming that Christian ways were progressive ways: That's the end, really, that's the end. Baker's interest in having her brother, Chido, attend a multi-racial school in Salisbury on a full scholarship, 'to ease his conscience. The boy needs the cash, old man!
She forbids Tambu to join Lucia and her mother in over-praising her father for offering Lucia a job: Thank him, y e s. Sadly, in the effort to assert this kind of human truth, to assert her rights and herself generally, she gets brutalized. She wastes away and finally succumbs to a mental and nervous breakdown which comes out through the food battle with her father.
He constantly forces her to eat all her food as evidence of his authority over her and believes that she challenges him if she does not eat even if she is full or not hungry p. This makes Nyasha equally determined to gobble up the food and then throw it up, a symbol of final defiance of her father's maniacal oppression and she rebels against this ultimate symbol of patriarchal authority pp.
In her delirium though, she partially but accurately identifies the cause of her and her family's misery They put him through it all I'm not one of them but I'm not one of you'. The real cause of her breakdown then is a combination of colonization and the father's desire to uphold his African tradition's patriarchal, sexist values. The latter is what really makes him feel that he cannot and should not listen to women or girls like Nyasha or children in general. After all, he is the man of the house, 'the father' p.
He even fails to notice the symptoms of his daughter's suffering! Tambudzai points out that Nyasha's rebellion fails and perhaps she is correct because Mr. Sigauke does not recognize Nyasha's illness to be a result of his treatment of her. He is not changed by it and neither is the 31 Ellie Ragland-Sullivan, 'The sexual masquerade: So that while the child has made a strong statement to the reader, the parents have remained exactly the same, unmoved, and perhaps will even blame her for getting ill!
The fact remains that Nyasha has not been subdued. She has rebelled and that is a strong enough statement to push the novel beyond being mere womanist or female. Because she has no other place to go or a different home to run to, her rebellion becomes a psychological one — as if to say if she cannot physically get away, she will psychologically not be tied down to these repelling conditions.
So she ends up under psychiatric care. Although Tambudzai's and Nyasha's mothers are entrapped, they do not like their woman's lot. The problem for both women, however, is that they do not know how to get out of their situations. Tambudzai's mother reacts in a variety of ways: When all her protest seems futile, she simply resigns herself to her situation p. She also stops cleaning the home, including the toilet, and eventually stops washing herself and her baby, and becomes a psychological invalid as she suffers from a serious depression.
She even goes through the wedding ordeal mechanically, without interest pp. It takes Lucia, her more aggressive sister, to jerk her back to life p. Yet Tambu's mother is quite a clever, intelligent woman; she is the second person in the novel who is aware of the racism in the country and how it makes the woman's position doubly burdensome see p.
She is also aware of the alienating effect of Western education which she says 'took [her son's] tongue out so that he could not speak to [her]', referring to Nhamo who claimed that he could no longer speak Shona after being at the Mission for a few weeks or months. When Tambudzai tells her about Nyasha's illness, she identifies the problem immediately as 'the Englishness.
It will kill them all if they aren't careful. She proceeds to warn her daughter, 'You just be careful. This condition reminds one of Mrs. So her assessment and conclusions are correct. It is just that she sees no way out of this womanly trap.
For instance, she has no power or control over her fertility,33 a situation which, intentionally or unintentionally results in yet another baby, Dambudzo, and of course, he has to be a boy as if to replace Nhamo and please the patriarchy see Babamukuru's comment showing that he has already started saving for him without thinking about the other girls in the family — p.
A lot of times, Maiguru reacts nervously and childishly to her situation of entrapment.
Tambudzai thinks that because she is educated, her life is a bed of roses. But to her surprise, she learns that Maiguru does not even receive her salary!
Yet she resents a lot of things that her husband does and how she has to work hard for his family. The climax is reached when she too rebels in her own way and walks out of the house to go to Salisbury where she stays with her brother for a week, though Nyasha does not approve of the fact that she has to run away to a man perhaps this symbolizes the total entrapment for this woman — there is nowhere to go, she moves in circles — pp.
However, given time, she may work out her life differently. So these two women, Tambu's mother and her Maiguru notice we do not even hear their names end up locked up in their situations but they have shown us that they do not enjoy their circumstances. In the village, Tambu's mother leads discussion against the patriarchy who try Lucia in her absence pp.
The only problem is that these women end up victimizing Maiguru as if she is the problem, which demonstrates the women's fear of pointing at the real problem for them, the patriarchy. The fact that we know this means that the author has not just described a woman's condition and left it at that. She has demonstrated a certain kind of unrest which threatens to explode at some future point in time. That is why these two women are said to be trapped: We wanted it now!
Lucia on the other hand, does and says what she wants. She disciplines Takesure when he speaks nonsense about her pp. Yet Tambu's mother is in no position to benefit from it. Obviously Maiguru is in a better position seeing she only has two children and a career even though that has not guaranteed her happiness. See Eleanor M. Lemmer, 'Gender issues..
She uses men to get what she wants in life, including Takesure whom she calls a 'cockroach' and Babamukuru, and her final triumph is that she enrolls in Grade One in order to fight illiteracy while working at the Mission.
Hence, she escapes from poverty and male dominance. Her future is certain to be bright; she too has not been static in the novel and perhaps it is significant that she remains unmarried.
But we also notice that the men are not changed or conscientised by her different attitude, with Takesure calling her 'vicious and unnatural. So they take her as a joke. We must realize that in this novel it is not only the women who feel oppressed by the patriarchal system as enforced by Babamukuru. Other 'lesser' men feel the oppression acutely, particularly when they find it difficult to fulfil their masculine gender roles.
These 'lesser' men are Jeremiah and Takesure. The two feel castrated or emasculated in front of the towering image of Babamukuru. The aggression they display towards the women is typical of men who have lost the grip on their manhood.
Babamukuru's aggression in turn is typical of a man who displays the side- effects that accompany loss of face, loss of grip on his own culture, and humiliation elsewhere. He too has been emasculated or castrated by the colonial system or by the educational system which blatantly displays its inherent racism. He cringes to these foreign people though we have to remember that the author has not been quite specific on this , so he has to bully the women and the other younger and less successful men to compensate for this emasculation.
These are men who are no longer sure of themselves, of their gender roles within their own societies; it all seems to begin with Babamukuru who then pretends that everything is all right with him. It is these other men who do not know what they are doing. Hence, Tambudzai wishes his brother and father could stand up straight like Babamukuru, but they always looked as though they were cringing.
I used to suppose that they saw it too and that it troubled them so much that they had to bully whoever they could to stay in the picture at all.
He does not work hard to fend for his family, so that in a year when all people around have a bumper harvest, his family's is poor pp. It is his wife who then works hard enough to obtain enough school fees for at least one child and of course, that child has to be the boy not the girl, Tambudzai, even though the money has been generated through woman's toil, a situation Irigaray explains by saying,.
From the very origin of private property and the patriarchal family, social exploitation occurred. In other words, all the social regimes of 'History' are based upon the exploitation of one 'class' of producers, namely women, whose reproduc- tive use-value reproductive of children and of the labour force and whose consti- tution as exchange value underwrite the symbolic order as such, without any compensation in kind going to them for that 'work.
For example, he takes credit for sending Tambudzai back to school when it is her own earnings that enabled her to do that p. In his turn, Babamukuru who commends these improvident men, does not even ask who did all these things, assuming automatically that it had to be the men of the house! I think the women here are far too modest.
They could have set the record straight. To further understand the behaviour of men and women in this novel we should also refer to Toril Moi's discussion of Beauvoir's main thesis in the latter's book, The Second Sex , where she says: Or, in more existential terms: One is also reminded of men like Okonkwo in Achebe's Things Fall Apart London, Heinemann, — s e e especially Chapters 4 and 19 , w h o are helped by the w o m e n t o grow yams, yet the yam is then regarded a s the man's crop, w o m e n having no authority in its distribution t o their own households.
Feminist Literary Theory London and N. For instance he forbids his brother, Jeremiah, to kill oxen because they are his i. Babamukuru's — p. Generally, he calls the homestead 'his' home p. Men like Takesure therefore succumb completely to this pressure and become totally useless, which is why Lucia can even discipline him in public. He has a family but cannot fend for it and so runs away to the homestead to enjoy Jeremiah's company as they go drinking after all, Babamukuru was even saving money for him to finish marrying one of his wives — so why should he worry?
To show that Babamukuru's presence oppresses these men, when he leaves the homestead after Christmas, they all give a sigh of relief: It was good to have Mukoma here, it was good. As Jeane Block argues, Sexual identity means There are other women, 'the paternal aunts', who have been described by Tambudzai as having 'a patriarchal status' and so have the privilege of sitting with the men, not doing any house work and endorsing the men's decisions.
It is a duty these aunts must perform. They rarely offer any of their opinions though, because the men, of course, do not expect that see pp. She breaks the African norm like Tambu which see women as appendages of their husbands. Therefore, it not totally true that; the colonial experience brought only crises but many benefits as well. Style Style is the avenue and manner with which the writer brings to bear his underlying message. The novelist applies some of these tools which help to foreground her message.
The novel starts with the first person pronoun I when she asserts: I was not sorry when my brother died. Nor was I apologising for my callousness as you may define it, my lack feeling She uses this I pronoun to draw home her message of colonialism and patriarchy.
The pronoun I suggest that the narrative is a reflection of the writers experiences. It helps to authenticate her message and build confidence in the reader that indeed the story is to too fictional but an autobiography about the writer.
The diction of the novel is also deliberate. She adopts a simple diction to easy communicate with her audience. She uses the daily conversional language so that an average reader can grasp the intended message. These words foreshadow the conflict in the novel. She uses her characters to demonstrate her themes. She raises the roles of the female characters equal to their male counterparts.
This is reveal in the characters of Tambu, Nyasha and Maiguru as they compete favourably with the men and even better. It has also demonstrated how her fictional characters received these effects in various areas of their lives. The essay concludes that colonialism brought many advantages aside its many negative effects. Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart.
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Isitsi Dangerembga. Nervous Conditions. Seal press, Jackson, Elizabeth. Westchester University press, Kehinde, Ayo. Postcolonial African Literature and Counter Discourse. Lawrence Hill and co. Related Papers. By Ernest Klu. Space Matters: By Nora Bengoechea.
Disembodying The Corpus: By Deepika Bahri. Western Experiences: By Rahul K Gairola. By Bahman Zarrinjooee. Download pdf. Remember me on this computer. Enter the email address you signed up with and we'll email you a reset link.