The Nervous Condition Between Self and Security


“What it is…to have to choose between self and security.” (103) Maiguru is a mother of two and wife to Babamukura, a well-educated man with a master’s degree who is the headmaster of the mission and in the book, is treated as a God. What we learn about Maiguru is that she, too, has a master’s degree from England. Many of the people in the book and even the readers would not have known that Maiguru is so well educated were it not for the conversations between she and Tambu. Why can’t we tell this about Maiguru? Because she has chosen to remain a faithful and traditional Shona wife in many respects and the responsibilities and restrictions imposed on her by this role hinder her ability to show her true educated self. The quote above continues as she says of her time in England, “When I was in England I glimpsed for a little while the things that could have been, the things I could have done if – if – if things were – different – But there was Babawa Chido and the children and the family. And does anyone realise, does anyone appreciate, what sacrifices were made?” (103) She concludes with, “As for me, no one even thinks about the things I gave up.” (104) A nervous condition is a tension between two things. For Maiguru, the nervous condition is her duty and love for her family and fulfilling the Shona responsibilities of being a wife and mother and the tension it causes with her want to be educated and to go and do things for herself in the world.


Going along with the nervous condition that Maiguru feels, in the book there is a nervous condition for women in general between education and home life. In Tambu’s case she wants to be educated and her father even agrees that it is good for her to be educated because it will, in the end, bring a larger dowry for her when she is to be married. On the other hand, it will be much harder to find her a husband because though educated women are more valuable, no man would want a woman to marry who is more educated than he is. Women are also made to feel as though they need to choose between family and education. Maiguru and Tambu both experience this. Maiguru chooses her husband and children over the use of her education while Tambu chooses education over her mother. Nyasha also respresents this decision in that she chooses to go against her parents’ will and reads higher level books and thinks for herself and pushes to further her education even though her parents very clearly do not want her to continue doing so. They ask her to slow down or to go back to the more traditional ways of the Shona woman but Nyasha refuses. This nervous condition between education and home life was a very serious and difficult one for women in this book and in many places around the globe in a time when women were supposed to be at home. It’s difficult to choose something for yourself when all of your society and upbringing tells you to choose what is best for your family and others around you. The image I chose represents the decision being made by these women to either work for themselves and advance their own knowledge and wealth or to work for their families and fulfill their wifely duties.

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