Second-Class Citizen

by Buchi Emecheta

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Second-Class Citizen, written by Buchi Emecheta, tells the story of Adah, a Nigerian woman who overcomes setback after setback in her life due to her being classified as a second-class citizen. The powerful novel shows the struggle women face when they are not treated equal to men in society. It also discusses the difficulties in trying to keep their own cultures and beliefs while adapting to new ones. This novel has been classified as semi-autobiographical because it closely follows the author's own life.

It begins when Adah is a young girl. She lives in Nigeria but dreams about going to school and living in the United Kingdom. One day, she sneaks off to a local school. Although her mother is punished for this, she is able to continue attending. Upon her father's death, Adah is sent to live with her uncle and his family. While under his care, she is allowed to continue her education since it will make her more desirable to suitors. However, as she meets different suitors, she shows no interest in them and redirects her focus on continuing her education.

She then marries a student named Francis, hoping that she will be able to continue her education at her own pace. Instead, she has a daughter and starts working as a library clerk. Francis travels to the United Kingdom to study law, and Adah, following her childhood dream, convinces her husband and in-laws that she and the children should also go to the United Kingdom. Although Francis believes they are second-class citizens and her in-laws prefer her to stay with them for financial reasons, Adah follows him to the United Kingdom and seeks out employment at another library. She is able to cover her and the children’s' expenses and continue providing care for the family.

As the novel continues, Frances becomes more and more abusive to Adah, and she realizes that he is not the man of her dreams. He does not support her when she tries to become a writer, and when Adah realizes how disrespectful Francis is, she takes her children and leaves.

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Second-Class Citizen is a book about Adah Ofili and her struggle both in Lagos (where she was born in the 1940s) and the United Kingdom (where she wants to achieve her dreams). Adah Ofili has a typical upbringing in Lagos until her father dies and she goes to live in the home of her uncle. More than anything else, Adah Ofili wants to be educated, so she sneaks away to a Methodist school (even though her mother gets in trouble for this act). Later, she is allowed to continue her education only because it will "fetch a higher bride price." Adah Ofili wins a scholarship to a prominent secondary school. Soon after, she marries a poor student named Franics Obi so she can continue school. Instead, she begins working at a library and has children. Eventually, the two move to the United Kingdom in pursuit of Adah Ofili's dream, but Francis Obi has a pessimistic attitude, insisting they are all second-class citizens in London. Even though housing conditions lend truth to Francis's idea, Adah Ofili learns she can fight for her rights in the United Kingdom. She continually fights for her children to get better care. The disinterested Francis Obi proves he is not the ideal husband (especially when he destroys Adah Ofili's writing); therefore, still pursuing her dreams and her civil rights, Adah Ofili leaves to become an independent woman in the United Kingdom.

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