Religion in Second Class Citizen

The concept of religion in Buchi Emecheta’s Second Class Citizen is interesting. Adah discusses religion throughout the novel. She sometimes discusses the goddesses of her traditional Igbo religion, and at other times, she talks about Jesus. It seems Adah believes, or at least wants to believe, in something, she just is not sure what. I think this confusion has to do with the colonizers and the religion they brought with them. I believe the influence of the colonizers and their religion mixed with traditional African religious concepts for Adah. I also believe Adah’s religious experience could be exemplary of the religious experience of post-colonial Africa as a whole, stuck between two cultures—their traditional one and British culture.

I think this conflict functions in Second Class Citizen in two important ways. First, in Adah’s understanding of Britain and the British culture, and secondly, in Adah’s view of Jesus and herself. Adah’s understanding of England before she moves there comes from, I assume, the stories she has heard from the colonizers and the “been-to” Africans. She idealizes England. Once she gets there she sees the country for what it truly is and realizes the error she made. Adah’s conception of England, as a better place than Nigeria, is probably a result of the presence of the colonizers in Nigeria. They brought their culture and presented it as better, or civilized. Adah accepts this premise and choses British culture over her traditional culture.

In accepting the culture of the colonizers and idealizing England, Adah also adopts the religion of the colonizers. She accepts it so much that she begins to see herself as a sort of messiah figure. Several times in the course of this novel, Adah compares herself to Jesus. This is interesting for so many reasons. First of all, it is almost an appropriation of the British culture for her own purposes. This seems fair, in some way, considering what Britain did with the cultures of the countries it colonized. Adah, when she arrives in England, comments that if she “had been Jesus, he would pass England by” (Emecheta 36). If I understand correctly, Adah’s idea of Jesus came from England, so this seems slightly Ironic. I think Emecheta could have several motives for this use of religion in Second Class Citizen. I wonder if one might be pointing out flaws she sees in religion. Despite this, I see a strong emphasis on the importance of some sort of faith. So, maybe it is more to point out the damage colonization did as far as culture goes, especially since Adah seems lost and without a true culture of her own in England.

-Rebecca

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