Discuss the disintegration of the family as a consequence of post colonialism in Buchi Emecheta’s The Joys of Motherhood.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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For Nnu Ego, the realization of her dream in having children is a fundamental challenge.  Part of the reason it is so challenging is because she is fighting two battles.  The first battle is the condition of motherhood, which is already a challenge that is seen in the work. The other reality that makes motherhood a challenge for Nnu Ego is that she is seeking to construct a traditional reality in the midst of the modernity of the urban setting.  

Lagos is depicted as a Post- Colonial reality, one in which the past has been rejected in favor of a future that is far from certain.  Nnu Ego is struggling to sustain the traditional model in a world of materialism, individual satisfaction and rejection of traditional culture.  Her husband's penchant for drink and his own self- indulgence have been transmitted and embraced by the children who cannot see the need to embrace something so foreign to them. At the same time, Nnu Ego's struggle to raise her children has involved the painful sacrifice of the modern setting, where economics places a price on everything, including the dignity of a mother who sacrifices for her child:

 It was not fair, she felt, the way men cleverly used a woman's sense of responsibility to actually enslave her.… [H]ere in Lagos, where she was faced with the harsh reality of making ends meet on a pittance, was it right for her husband to refer to her responsibility? It seemed that all she had inherited from her agrarian background was the responsibility and none of the booty.

The Post- Colonial reality is one in which men manipulated her "sense of responsibility to enslave her."  Such treatment represents how traditional familial bonds disintegrate in the modern setting. When Nnu Ego finds her children and husband gone, dying alone on a country road, it is a symbolic statement of how the bonds of the past have been severed in the name of the modern setting, a Post- Colonial reality where the only constant is the shared suffering of the past and the future: Nnu Ego's children end up suffering from the same fate that she did in terms wanting children. 

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