Jeremiah’s Nervous Conditions


A nervous condition, a tension between two things, is a main idea in author Tsitsi Dangarembga’s novel, titled Nervous Conditions. In it, we follow Tambu and her family in Zimbabwe, and her quest for education. In it, Tambu’s father, Jeremiah, has a nervous condition of being the male patriarch, and also being second to his brother. Jeremiah is not educated so he cannot work a high paying job. His brother, Babamukuru, is educated, and works at a school in the city. Jeremiah, being the father and patriarch, wants the best for his family and to support them the best he can, but in his case, that means essentially giving his children to his brother to get an education at his school. This creates a nervous condition, because Jeremiah gave his brother the patriarchal responsibilities, but he still has the paternal feelings and choices to make.

A good example of his role as the father is on page 24, when Tambu wants to go to school and is trying to raise money for it. “And you, you think he is better than me. He wants someone to work in his garden. I forbid you to go”. Jeremiah wants his children to be educated, but is insecure about his lack of education, which in itself is a nervous condition. He initially doesn’t want Tambu to make her own money, because she is a young girl and should be at home learning to be a mother, but he also wants her to be able to make a better life for herself by becoming educated. He eventually lets Tambu go into the city to sell her maize after her mother convinces him to.

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