Social Norms Challenged By Adah in Second Class Citizen by Buchi Emecheta

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Second Class Citizen by Buchi Emecheta is a novel that’s the main purpose is to inspire the reader to chase their dreams no matter the race, gender, or status. The story follows the growth of Adah, Nigerian women around the time of World War II. Adah was becoming established as a person as her dreams became more prominent, she never let her dreams die out. Adah was able to get out of Nigeria despite her conditions and go to England to fulfill the life she wanted to live. Furthermore, In both Nigeria and England, Adah fights against social norms that kept her suppressed, and as a result, she manages to achieve her independence.

Adah had to fight against her husband, Francis’ ideals of what a Nigerian wife should be like. When Adah wrote her first manuscript she didn’t come home to a supportive husband but a husband who burned her manuscript, Emecheta states: “You keep forgetting that you are a woman and that you are black. The white man can barely tolerate us, men, to say nothing of brainless females like you who could think of nothing except how to breastfeed her baby” (Emecheta, 167). Adah was in constant turmoil with her husband despite her being the breadwinner of the family. Francis is trying to control Adah and have her continue to live under his shadow. This society believes that the role of a wife is to simply to be a caretaker, Adah challenges that belief that women are only good for bearing children and taking care of their husbands by not only taking care of the household but holding down the family financially.

Francis was starting to merge into the stereotypes of his time that colored people couldn’t prosper in life because he told Adah that she couldn’t succeed because of her race. Francis is also very sexist because he thinks men are superior to women no matter how valuable the woman might be to the household. Francis wanted to suppress Adah’s dreams as a writer so she doesn’t gain too much freedom from him and used the excuse of “what would my family think” against her. Francis displays more insecurities than Adah because he doesn’t have much going for him. Adah didn’t conform to social norms used to knock her down such as her race, gender, and marital status when Francis would try and control her.

In England, Adah was expected to raise her children how other Nigerian families had to, but she refused. When arriving in England, Adah was told that most foreigners have two mothers, a foster mother, and a biological mother. The foster family would be a white family who the child would live with and the child would be able to obtain the luxury a white family in England will usually get, such as education and good housing. Adah took this to offense and felt like they were trying to tell her that if she keeps her children that her children will be bound to fail in England. It was common knowledge that people of England thought Nigerians aren’t expected to give their children a good home and have a fair educational background while living in England. A Nigerian isn’t able to give their children a successful life in England because the opportunities were limited for them so most foreigners will give their children up for adoption so that they could have those opportunities. Adah refused and wanted to give her children a great life

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in England herself. Adah didn’t want to fall into what is expected by England society of Nigerian children having a foster parent to live a good life in England.

In England, Nigerian women were not supposed to have high paying jobs and education. Adah was different and strived to get the education a Nigerian woman deserves and a job a black English woman needs. Adah was able to obtain a good-paying job despite her race and gender, Emecheta says: “She was in a white man’s job, even though everybody had warned her against it, it looked as if she was meant to keep it (Emecheta, 69).” Adah was able to secure herself a great job because of the education she fought for in Nigeria. It didn’t bother Adah that it wasn’t typical for a person of her gender and race to have a stable job. It was unheard of being a middle class or upper-class black woman in England. However, Adah proved everyone wrong, even Francis. Once Francis saw Adah was able to bring a stable income, he decided to sit back and feed off of her paychecks. Adah rejected the idea that only white men can have stable incomes in England.

In Second Class Citizen by Buchi Emecheta, Adah proved many people wrong of the social norms they grew up with such as men being superior, raising children how society feels is necessary, and Nigerian women can’t have a good education and get high paying jobs. Francis was a byproduct of how Nigerian women were viewed hence, why he treated Adah the way that he did. Adah, on the other hand, didn’t allow herself to be the byproduct of the social norms in both Nigeria and England of how a woman of color should live life. Adah didn’t let her husband

define her, she raised her children on her own without foster care, and she obtained a high paying job due to her well-educated background which a Nigerian woman was denied to get.

Adah is an inspiration for women in today’s society. Women still often feel suppressed by social norms they feel they must adapt to, but Adah was an example for women who want to break free from the cycle. She created her own identity separate from the social norms everyone instilled in her.

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Social Norms Challenged By Adah in Second Class Citizen by Buchi Emecheta. (2022, March 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 20, 2024, from
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