Through our discussion of Graceland, the class pretty much came to the conclusion that one of Abani’s main objectives was to complicate the often singular Nigerian story. Queering the sexual, cultural and familial norms, Abani rejected the idea of definite and sole projected identity. Widening Nigerian discorse and identity was also the predominating theme in the TED talks given by Abani and Adiche. I would like to propose that The Secret Lives of the Four Wives, was written with a similar intent.

Simply analyzing the structure of the novel, focusing on the lives of four different women, all with different priorities and backgrounds, widens the “singular” story. However, they all function under a consumption with the importance of child-rearing. Even their names “Iya,” point to their able to reproduce. They are literally defined by their fertility. What is disappointed to me is that the educated wife, is the one that is singled out and eventually leaves the home. In the last chapter, all the other wives give up the things that give them any kind of freedom, Iya Segi closes her shops and Iya Femi can’t go to church. Baba says they must be the wives “he wanted them to be.” What is interesting is the Bolanle does not cite Baba’s oppressive terms as her reason for leaving. He even says he will give her whatever she wants. Instead, she cites the pain associated with Segi’s death and, more prominantly, her inability to give him children. Going back to the debate of Feminist or Anti-Feminist, I cannot help but thinking that through Bolanle, the protagonist and most educated, placing self-defining through child rearing, even at the end of the novel, might be a step back.

 

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About kwhudkins

I am a Junior at American University studying Literature and Multi-Ethnic Studies.

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