Marriage and Slavery in Buchi Emecheta

One of Emecheta's main themes involving slavery is the assertion that in Nigerian society, all women are enslaved to and by men. One atypical version of this view appears in the statement that women who married out of their own local group were considered to have placed themselves in a situation equialvent to that of a slave: "It was bad enough," the narrator tells us, "for an Ibuza woman to marry someone from Ogwashi or from Asaba, but when you went beyond that and married someone who did not even speak the Igbo language, then you were regarded as lost or even sold into slavery" (27). More central to the main axis of the novel is the assertion that all women belong to some man:

Every woman, whether slave or free, must marry. All her life a woman always belonged to some male. At birth you were owned by your people, and when you were sold you belonged to a new master, when you grew up your new master who had paid something for you would control you. It was a known fact that although Ma Palagada was the one who had bought them, they ultimately belonged to Pa Palagada and whatever he said or ordered would hold. [ch. 10, 113]

Even after she acquires her freedom from the Palagadas -- surprisingly easy as it turns out -- she finds herself still enslaved:

In a sense she was still not free now, for no woman or girl in Ibuza was free, except those who committed the abominable sin of prostitution or those who had been completely cast off or rejected by their people for offending one custom or another. A girl was owned, in particular, by her father or someone in place of her father or her older brother, and then, in general, by her group or homestead. But at least she belonged to these people by right of birth, and nobody would dare to call her slave because she was not. [ch. 12, 161]

How do Emecheta's views of the position of women in Nigeria differ from those of Achebe's Anthills of the Savannah and Soyinka's Aké? Do you think these different views derive from matters of gender alone, or do genre, subject, and historical setting play a role as well?

Postcolonial Web Africa OV Nigeria OV Emecheta OV