Fertility, Infertility, and Failure

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

What does the following passage from one of Ken Saro-Wiwa's short stories suggest about the purpose of marriage and the value of women?

In time Lebia moved in with her husband. She cooked his meals, washed his clothes and swept their one room apartment. And at night, when he had had his meal and his bath, she did her duty. Faithfully. Loyally. Every day. The months passed by.

He expected that she would bear children. It was for that primarily that he had married her. For every man had reason to expect that he would be a father some day. Every man was capable of being a father. If he did not become a father, there was something wrong with his wife. Lebia knew as much. And she also prayed fervently that she would bear his fruit and so secure her place by his side. She wanted so very much to have a child, a son preferably. Because sons were inevitably more valuable than daughters. She waited anxiously every month for her monthly pain. And when it arrived, her heart sank. Month after month. And yet she lived in expectation. As he did. Patiently. For a year. And another year. And when it became obvious that she was "not productive," he made up his mind what to do. He did not tell her. He did not consult her. He knew precisely what was his duty in the circumstances. ["The Divorcee," A Forest of Flowers, 17-18]

What other roles for women does this author examine in his short stories? How do his representations of the plight of Nigerian women differ from those of Achebe, Acholonu, Emecheta, Okoye, and other ASfrican writers?

Postcolonial Web Africa OV Nigeria OV Saro Wiwa OV