Second Class Citizen is a 1974 novel written by Buchi Emecheta. It tells the story of a Nigerian woman who overcomes sexist traditional African (Nigerian) practices to eventually provide an independent life for herself and her children. The novel is semi-autobiographical. The journey of the protagonist, Adah, mirrors the author’s journey from Nigeria to London.
Adah is happy with her life directly after marrying Francis. As time passes, she becomes increasingly disillusioned with their marriage. Francis violently forces her into a gender role which is common in Nigeria. In Nigeria, young boys are educated and prepared for a life of becoming the breadwinner, while young girls are trained for a life as a homemaker.
Francis wants Adah to mother their children. He becomes violent with her as she pursues a career as a writer. Francis is unable to deal with the fact that Adah wishes to pursue a life outside of tending to their children. Francis’s unwillingness to understand her perspective turns physical when he beats Adah.
Another important instance of sexism comes in the act of sex itself. Throughout the novel, Adah does not enjoy sex. Francis uses sex solely as a means to keep her pregnant, which ties her more firmly to child care. She does not have the freedom to pursue a career.