Throughout Second-Class Citizen, our protagonist, Adah Ofili, is expected to fulfill a variety of roles. She is a dutiful daughter, and after tragedy strikes, she becomes a ward and slave. Later, she becomes a wife, breadwinner, and mother. At the end of the novel, she stands up for herself and pursues an independent future for herself and her children.
In terms of the story that Buchi Emecheta is telling, I would argue that Adah Ofili’s role is portraying a powerful woman who is capable of bringing change to her life and who has the courage to defy the patriarchal norms laid out by her society. For starters, she remains determined to get an education. Even when her father, who was fairly liberal, passes away and Adah is sent to the “care” of abusive relatives, she manages, against the odds, to continue to pursue her education.
Adah’s role bridges the divide between what is expected of young women in Nigeria and what Adah herself, as a free-thinking, strong woman, wants from her life. She knows that she is expected to marry but chooses for herself to not marry a much older man. She accepts her role as a wife, which leads to her having five children.
Through her job at the library, she resolves to take more control of her life, and when Francis burns the manuscript of the novel that Adah has written and savagely beats her, Adah realizes that it is time to pursue an independent role.