Second-Class Citizen

by Buchi Emecheta

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How does Emecheta use biblical allusions in Second-Class Citizen?

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Emecheta uses biblical allusions in Second-Class Citizen to provide a wry commentary on characters and events. They are also used to illustrate the self-righteousness of Adah's husband, Francis, as he lectures her on the subject of virtue.

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In Second-Class Citizen, the story's protagonist, Adah, comes from a part of Nigeria where Christianity is the dominant religion. That being the case, it's not surprising that the author uses a number of biblical references throughout the book. Christianity appears to have shaped Emecheta's worldview to a considerable extent.

There is, however, a certain irreverence to Emecheta's use of biblical allusions. For the most part, they are used to make wry comments on the characters in the story and their situations. For instance, when Adah and Francis are deciding where their new baby is to be born, the narrator says that

It was alright for Mary to have hers in the stable in Bethlehem.

This is an allusion, of course, to the birth of the baby Jesus. That the narrator should compare the birth of Adah's child to that of Jesus is indeed irreverent, but only in a very gentle manner.

A biblical allusion is also used to illustrate Francis's insufferable self-righteousness. In one episode of the book, we see him lecturing Adah on womanly virtues. He does so by invoking the Wife of Noble Character in Proverbs 31:10, whose price was above rubies. Once again, we have a biblical allusion which is being used in a less than reverent manner as a means to expose Francis's negative character traits.

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