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

Advertisements

To Bed Without Shame

Simon Cropp

In Marghanita Laski’s To Bed With Grand Music, the reader is likely to ask significant questions about the moral quality of Deborah. Here resides a married woman that not only sleeps around, but she seemingly has no true interest in her child except as a tool to further her conquests.

to-bed

The issue with demonizing a character like Deborah comes from a very real place of shaming those who are not in line with society’s modern moral views. And morals, while often believed to be divinely inspired, are more often self-imposed, culturally created constructs used to control.

The woman who cheats on her deployed husband.. Women still have been assigned terrible labels and stereotypes if they play to this trope. Just scroll down and read some of the [warning: explicit] comments at the bottom of that linked post. The responses to the person who wrote that post aren’t, I can’t think, truly protecting a divinely inspired sense of morality.

But a culturally imparted morality used to keep certain segments of our population in control.

I wonder then if Friedrich Nietzsche, when he writes in Geneology of Morals, “Morality seems bound up with obligation, with codes and rules, and somehow I don’t see the ‘blond beasts of prey’ kowtowing to rules (any more than to a social contract),” speaks of how the blond beast of prey, is that next step is breaking free from moral contracts. How women like Deborah are treated in real life, in the novel, is cruel and sickening, and to say it comes from a place of morality is merely a perversion of morality. If Deborah sees herself as unfit to be a mother, a Wife, then she has that right to be who she is without the constructs of a puritanical society shaming her into a place of isolation. Isolation, namely, from all relationships except those of a sexual nature.thou_shalt_vs_i_will_by_shton-d853mhw

Morality is a cultural code. And I wonder, looking at Nietzsche’s quote again, if he believed in not morals (or better morals), but this evolution of the metaphor of the lion (the blond headed beast), and ultimately the child–which makes us better people. Not better moral constructs.

The Biggest Lie?

I feel that I have to start out by praising Swastika Night. This is by far my favorite of all the books that we have read so far in class. There is so much depth in this book that I am sad that we only have one class period to cover it.

One of the things that interested me most about this novel is the ideas about religions that are present. As I was reading the novel I looked up some of the names associated with the deity figure of Hitler. One of his associates who I found most intriguing was Goebbels, who had also been recorded as a legend among the Germans. Goebbels was the Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany, and his policy (I found debate about whether this was actually his policy or someone else’s), was that a lie repeated often and forcibly gains legitimacy as truth. This was fascinating to me because it reminds me so much of religion. I don’t intend to persecute religion in this blog, but religion has severe impacts on people.

People look for something to believe in beyond themselves, and religion is a great way to control people. That is not to say that all religions are lies, but that people tend to use religion as a means to whatever end they see fit. That is why there are books that are not included in the Bible, why pagan mythology is integrated into the Christian religion, and why in the Hitlerian society women are only above worms and Christian women. The Germans wanted a society that was dominated by men and manliness and to do this, women are pushed out of the picture. The Germans then used religion to create a perfect deity who had no connections to femininity at all “Who was not begotten, not born of a woman, but exploded” (Burdekin 5). And by using this model of creation women became disposable to society. I imagine that anyone who openly opposed the myth of Hitler in this tyrannical society is forced to correct themselves after being severely punished. After a time it seems only natural that this would become truth, and I think it works this way with many religions.

Something else that struck me in terms of religion was the way that the Hitlerian religion borrowed so heavily from the Christian mythology that they despised so much. In the Hitler Bible Roehm is a traitor, and von Hess describes him as a “Judas” saying, “Judas is in the Christian religion. The friend of Jesus who betrayed him.Roehm was a man who either did rebel against Hitler soon after he came to power, or did not rebel and was killed for some other reason” (Burdekin 137). There are so many areas of overlap between the two religions, yet there is so much hate between the two. This is present in the real world in terms of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, all of whom incorporate the Abraham arc into their religion. I found looking at the Hitlerian religion comparatively with Christianity was fascinating because it parallels so much with religious conflict in society, and I think this is intentional.

Burdekin’s novel has so much to say about society, and I find it amazing that some of what she is critiquing or commenting on, like religion, still is so relevant today.

Burdekin, Katharine. Swastika Night. The Feminist Press, 1985.

Samantha Hudspeth