Something that struck me in Buchi Emecheta’s Second Class Citizen, is the way the protagonist Adah used domesticity as a form of strength instead of a crutch. In class this semester we often discussed the norms of society within twentieth century Britain, and a lot of those norms discussed are oppressive to women. The sphere of women that we discussed is in the realm of the home where she is usually wife, mother, and homemaker. We have seen women who have fallen into this norm and lost their individual identity, such as Clarissa in Mrs. Dalloway, and women who have rebelled against the norm, but disgusted readers, like Deborah from To Bed with Grand Music. Adah is a different type of woman. She remains in the domestic sphere, but she uses that to empower and motivate herself.
Adah is often called a second class citizen, and not just in that she is black, but also that she is a woman. Adah does not let this discourage her though. Instead, her status as a mother, a homemaker, and a provider for her children empowers her. Perhaps Adah’s resilience can be attributed to the “Presence” that she felt so strongly in her when she was seeking an education. This “Presence” helped Adah overcome her own doubts about her limitations and her abilities; “’You are going, you must go and to one of the very best schools; not only are you going, you’re going to do well there,’ Adah heard the Presence telling her” (Emecheta 20). This “Presence” becomes synonymous with Adah’s will, and it refuses to let her give up despite her situation. Adah is also different from other female protagonists because she does not let her children act as a burden to her. She recognizes that by having children that doing simple things like working and finding an apartment are going to be more difficult, but she does not condemn or blame her children for that. Adah often tells the reader that her children are the only thing of worth that Francis ever gave her, and she sees potential in her children.
Adah’s character offers a new and refreshing way to look at women. Instead of being held prisoner by domesticity Adah uses it to her advantage.
Emecheta, Buchi. Second Class Citizen. George Braziller Inc., 1974.