Lola Shoneyin paints a dramatic picture of life as a polygamist in a modernizing Nigeria. From this class, I have seen that polygamy has a deep-rooted tradition in Nigeria. In Things Fall Apart, we see a similar patriarchal family system with Okonkwo. Despite displaying polygamy, this practice was not the only challenged tradition, as the whole of Igbo way of life conflicted with colonial administrators. With this novel, the characters function as a sort of advocacy poster that speaks against the practice of polygamy.   This traditional practice is met with disdain in many modern societies, particularly our own. Shoneyin produces her own argument against the practice through the experiences of Bolanle and her four sister wives. 

One of the ways in which Shoneyin causes this argument against polygamy is through the intense control over the family unit, which possessed by Baba Segi. His method of conducting the family is almost in borderline authoritarian manner, as what he says is the rule of law. Many times, we see Baba speak for his wives in their place, effectively stifling out their voice and removing control over their own lives. His rule is not completely malevolent. If a wife do as he says by doing the daily chores, preparing food, agreeing with word he says, and produce children, then that wife garners favorable terms of engagement. However, if in Bolanle’s case, even falsely so, you fail to these tasks, then you risk being treated as a commodity. On a surface level, the control that men exhibit in the family is intense and over arching. It snuffs out any sense of agency or independence a woman can exhibit. During our last discussion, it was asked if whether or not women control the family? I would answer that with no. If there was control, it would be with a marginal degree, as women can do whatever they want, if their lord has stepped out. 

Also, if there was a character that had control, I would argue that Bolanle best demonstrates that independent female role. Sure, Iya Segi is the strongest voice of the wives, but only Bolanle is able to stand up to Baba Segi. That ability does can be attributed to her education. She is the most level headed and commonsensical of the four wives because of her schooling. This can be seen in her interactions at the hospital, as she is relatively calm and collected and Baba is raving and territorial. It is worth noting that this is  the very place where events begin to unravel the secret of the wives, a place where Bolanle exhibited her status of not being barren and control 


About cregacho07

I am a senior in SIS. I love books and talking about them. I particularly like literature that concerns itself with the developing world I am enrolled in this course to fulfill my Lit minor requirements and to engage the work of prolific Nigerian writers with equally enthused people.

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