What makes Adah a good mother and a good wife?

Adah is initially a good wife and mother in conventional terms, passively accepting the abuse of her husband and hoping that he will reform. However, this behavior allows a situation which is not good for anyone to continue. When she leaves Francis, taking her children to safety, this is the action of a genuinely good mother and also a good wife, since Francis's weakness is only exacerbated by having someone to bully.

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There are two tensions in Adah's attempts to be a good mother and a good wife, leading to contradictions which are almost certain to emerge whenever a wife and mother is married to an abusive husband. The first difficulty is that Adah comes from a conservative background, in which it...

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There are two tensions in Adah's attempts to be a good mother and a good wife, leading to contradictions which are almost certain to emerge whenever a wife and mother is married to an abusive husband. The first difficulty is that Adah comes from a conservative background, in which it is normal for wives simply to endure the controlling and violent conduct of their husbands without complaint. Doing this, however, merely allows the abuse to continue, which helps nobody. The second tension is between being a good wife in even the most traditional sense and being a good mother. No good mother would permit her children to be abused, but stopping the abuse means relinquishing the conventional role of the good wife by leaving the abuser.

The paradox, therefore, is that Adah is not initially a good wife and mother, though she does what is expected of someone in her role by suffering Francis's abuse. She thinks she can change Francis but gives him no reason to change. The conservative Nigerian culture from which she comes would judge her as a bad wife and mother when she finally decides to leave Francis. However, this is when she fulfills her role best, certainly for her children and herself, but arguably also for Francis, whose weak character only becomes worse when he has someone to bully.

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