After our discussion about agency and they wives on Monday, I found the ending of the book very reflective of the tensions of finding agency as a woman in a society that is hesitant to grant it. Bolanle calls the other wives “inmates” at the end. Although the other wives had their own secret freedoms, the necessity of keeping those freedoms a secret paradoxically negates the freeness of them. Iya Segi had her stores and was able to earn her own money, which is certainly a way to gain agency. However, she had to keep her stores and money a secret from her husband. Had he found out he might have taken it all away — and he does take it away from her in the end. If your agency can be so easily taken by another, how much agency can you really claim? She was able to earn an immense living prior to her marriage to Baba Segi, and yet she had to marry him in order to keep it, or let him keep it for her. Iya Femi’s situation is similarly complicated. She escaped her life as a house slave only by finding a place in Baba Segi’s home. WHile she chose to pursue freedom from her former life, her only way of getting it was by giving up a different sort of freedom under Baba Segi’s roof. In fact, seems that her ideas about escape came from Tunde, another man, rather than herself. What are we to make of the fact that even her very idea of freedom was derived by a man, and that the freedom proposed was getting married and having children?
Although the social norms and laws negatively impact the possibility for agency in these women, there does seem to be some hope offered for female agency through Bolanle. Since she is educated and comes from a younger generation, Bolanle’s prospects for making a life for herself are not as grim as the other wives. Bolanle chooses to leave in the end and pursue a new life. Even though “men will hurt and ridicule [her]” she “won’t let them hold [her] back” (280). She knows there are still challenges ahead of her, she is still a member of a society that frowns upon independent women and tries its best to strip them of their agency. However, her decision to take hold of her future, to heal from the darkness of her past, and to step back into “the land of the living” suggests that Bolanle is an autonomous female individual, and that there is a possibility for female agency to develop and increase in the future.