Second-Class Citizen

by Buchi Emecheta

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How is the theme of irresponsible husbandhood presented in Second-Class Citizen?

The theme of irresponsible husbandhood is presented in Second-Class Citizen through the character of Adah’s husband, Francis. Although his desire to emigrate to England seems to indicate his ambition, Francis proves to be weak and resentful. He is shown as irresponsible in failing to provide for the family and blaming Adah for their problems. His behavior turns from irresponsibility to violence as he physically abuses her.

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In Second-Class Citizen, the character of Francis Obi embodies the theme of irresponsible husbandhood. After they are married, Adah Ofili’s impression of him changes. Adah had been attracted to Francis in part because she believed that he shared her esteem for education. With marriage and children, his attitude is shown to support education for himself in particular and for men in general. With his parents’ support, he focuses on his studies while depending on Adah’s income.

It seems that Francis’s ambition to pursue higher education in England is based in his desire to provide for his family as well as to advance himself professionally. Once Adah arrives in London, however, a different side of Francis is revealed to her. Discouraged by the xenophobia and racism that he encounters daily, he tries to instill a negative impression of British society into Adah as well.

Although their finances are already stretched with supporting two children, Francis is more concerned with his own sexual gratification and imposing his will than the implications of having another baby. With Adah taking a library job, Francis refuses to care for their children while she is at work, thereby adding another expense for childcare. When he does take a job after she must stay home after a difficult birth, he complains constantly. As their situation deteriorates, Adah decides to try contraception. Beyond being furious and trying to humiliate her, Francis physically abuses his wife.

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