Marriage, Slavery, and the Conclusion of Emecheta's Slave Girl

George P. Landow, Professor of English and Art History, Brown University

The novel ends with the protagonist, now a grown woman, "changing masters" once again:

Ojebeta came in then, carrying two bowls, one containing a heap of white, steaming rice, the other full of hot chicken stew. She was just in time to see Clifford stacking the eight pound notes into his leather Kano purse, and she knew what had happened and smiled gratefully at Jacob.

"The contract is completed, after all these years. I feel free in belonging to a new master from my very own town Ibuza; my mind is now at rest."

She placed the bowls of food on a small table that had been hastily pushed into thc centre of the one-room apartment. Then she walked round to where Jacob was sitting feeling very important and expansive, and she knelt down in front of him.

"Thank you, my new owner. Now I am free in your house. I could not wish for a better master."

"Women," laughed Owezim [English edition has "Enuha"], "they love to see money spent on them."

"Yes," agreed Clifford. "They love to know that they cost a lot of money."

Ojebeta giggled like a young girl of fifteen. For had she not been rightly valued? Would her mother Umeadi have wished another life for her daughter? Was the glory of a woman not a man, as the Ibuza people said?

So as Britain was emerging from war once more victorious, and claiming to have stopped the slavery which she had helped to spread in all her black colonies, Ojebeta, now a woman of thirty-five, was changing masters.[15, 184]

What does Ojebeta's happiness, of which the narrator apparently does not approve, have to do with local attitudes towards marriage to men outside one's region? What effect does Ojebeta's phrasing "free in your house" have upon the novel's likening of salvery and marriage? Finally, why does the novel conclude with a movement out of Ojebeta's household to Britain and its colonies and to the second World War?

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