Second-Class Citizen

by Buchi Emecheta

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Who are the characters in Second-Class Citizen by Buchi Emecheta? 

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Our protagonist in this great novel is Adah Ofili, and the story follows her life from childhood into adulthood. Adah was born in Lagos, Nigeria, and due to the "unfortunate" fact that she was a girl, she was not allowed to go to school despite desperately wanting to. Through sheer tenacity and determination, Adah eventually completes a four-year course at the Methodist Girls' School.

Knowing she would never be permitted to live on her own and further her studies at a tertiary level, Adah marries Francis Obi. Francis is a student, and he is poor. In fact, his family later comes to rely on Adah's income once she starts working.

One of Adah's children—a son named Victor—becomes ill, and his illness, together with the way that both Adah and Victor are treated by Francis, becomes a catalyst for Adah's realization that she cannot accept anything but the best for her children.

Adah's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Ofili, are other minor characters worth mentioning. It is thanks to the negligence of Mrs. Ofili, who gets distracted by something one fateful morning, that Adah is able to sneak away and get her first taste of what school was like. This first taste, of course, would fuel the fire of her lifelong passion for learning. Mr. Ofili, Adah's father, is a minor character in the early parts of this novel, until he goes to the hospital and never returns.

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Second-Class Citizen is a novel written by Buchi Emecheta about Adah Ofili. This novel follows Adah through her childhood into her life as an adult. The main characters in this novel are: Adah Ofili, Francis Obi, Adah's parents Mr. and Mrs. Ofili, and Adah's son Victor.

Adah Ofili was born during World War II in Lagos. When she was young, she was not allowed to go to school, even though she wished to do so. Her father went to the hospital and did not return home, which caused her uncle to become her guardian. Adah is a determined person throughout her entire life and strives for more. She marries, only to continue her education, and works hard to better life for herself and for her children.

Francis Obi is Adah's husband. He insists that they are second-class citizens. This bothers Adah and she eventually realizes he is not a good husband for her and leaves him.

Mr. and Mrs. Ofili are neglectful parents who have minor roles in this novel. Her mother refuses to let Adah go to school which could be a reason that Adah is so determined to follow her own dreams.

Victor is Adah's son who becomes quite ill. His sickness is another spark that encourages Adah to improve her family's living conditions.

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The book "Second Class Citizen" primarily follows the character of Adah Ofili, and eventually her husband, Francis Obi, and her family

Adah Ofili

Adah is an intelligent woman who was raised in Nigeria but has always aspired to move to the United Kingdom. Initially from Lagos, she moved to Nigeria and began her education there, enabling her to eventually get a good job working in a library, which earned her enough money to be a suitable bride.

Francis Ofili

Her eventual husband, Francis Ofili, is offered a job in the United Kingdom (to Adah's joy), and she begs him to let her and the children come with him. Upon arriving, however, Francis is filled with spite, believing they are doomed to be second-class citizens since they are foreigners of relatively low economic means. Adah, however, is overjoyed at being in the United Kingdom and happily takes on extra work to care for the family and help them increase their income and means. Francis, in bitterness, begins to turn angry and abusive, but Adah focuses her joy on her passion for writing.

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The main characters in Second-Class Citizen are Adah Ofili and her husband, Francis Obi.

Adah Ofili

Adah is born in Lagos in the 1940s and seeks a better life. She insists on becoming educated. In fact, she sneaks away from home, marries, and moves to the United Kingdom in order to do so. Even though her husband keeps insisting that they are second-class citizens in London, Adah focuses on fighting for her rights and the rights of her children. She eventually leaves her husband to become independent.

Francis Obi

The other main character is Francis Obi. He is a poor student in Lagos who Adah marries because she thinks the match will ensure her education. Francis Obi is originally an instrument in helping Adah achieve her dreams by moving the family to London, but it becomes apparent that Francis is not a good match for Adah when he insists on labeling the family as lower class and destroys Adah's manuscript.

There are minor characters in Second-Class Citizen as well.

Mrs. Ofili

At the beginning of the book, Mrs. Ofili is an important minor character in that she is accused of neglect when Adah sneaks off to go to school.

Mr. Ofili

Mr. Ofili is also a minor character until he "never returns" from the hospital. It is then that Adah's uncle becomes her guardian.


Yet another minor character is Adah Ofili's sickly son, Victor (who becomes the impetus for Adah to find better care for her children). Victor becomes sick because of the conditions in his day-care situation, so Adah fights to have him receive better care while she works. On Christmas, Victor becomes sick again and, when she cannot convince the Indian doctor to come, she convinces a Chinese doctor to tend to her child. Both doctors are also minor characters.

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