Second-Class Citizen

by Buchi Emecheta
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How does Second-Class Citizen broaden our understanding of modern European history?

Second-Class Citizen broadens our understanding of modern European history by showing us the prevalence of racial prejudice and how it affected immigrants.

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It has always been Adah's dream to go to London. Over the years, she's developed a rather romanticized image of the UK's capital city. In her imagination it is the epitome of all that is decent and civilized. However, when she finally sets foot on British soil, she's in for a nasty surprise. She quickly realizes that people like herself, immigrants from the Commonwealth, are not very welcome in the United Kingdom. Adah and her husband meet with racial discrimination wherever they go, whether it's in relation to finding a place to stay or obtaining employment. Far from being a dream, life in London rapidly turns into a nightmare.

Though a work of fiction, Second-Class Citizen gives us an insight into a particular period of post-war European history. At this time, many people from the developing world came to Europe for a better life, to escape the horrors of war and extreme poverty in their own countries. And yet so many of them, like Adah and her husband Francis, found themselves unwelcome in their host countries.

Despite the fact that most European countries formally committed themselves to equality and universal human rights, in reality many immigrants within their borders found themselves subject to shabby treatment simply on the basis of the color of their skin. The experiences of Adah and Francis were, unfortunately, by no means unusual. Modern Europe prided itself on its civilized values, yet in relation to its treatment of immigrants it often fell short of living up to them.

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