Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1292
Anowa opens with the entrance of the Old Man and Old Woman (collectively known as The-Mouth-That-Eats-Salt-and-Pepper). They set up the action of the play, focusing on the oddness of a girl called Anowa. Anowa has refused to marry any of the men who asked for her hand for several years. They say that many believe Badua has spoiled her daughter, which would account for her behavior. The Old Woman thinks that Anowa is a born priestess, and Badua has denied her daughter's destiny.
In the village of Yebi in Ghana, some time in the 1870s, Anowa is fetching water for her mother when she sees Kofi Ako. They smile at each other. Their moment together is witnessed by a woman and her husband. As the woman stares at them, she drops her tray. Anowa and Kofi laugh.
Inside the cottage of Anowa's parents, Badua is cooking, worrying aloud about her daughter's refusal to get married. Her husband, Osam, enters, and tells her she complains too much. He is not concerned about Anowa's situation, and reminds his wife that he wanted to apprentice her to a priestess. Badua is horrified at the suggestion. She will not let her only surviving child become a priestess because they are not people. Osam points out that Anowa is not a normal person, so that might not be such a bad thing.
Anowa returns and informs them that she has agreed to be married to Kofi Ako. Badua becomes angry. She believes that Kofi Ako is a good-for-nothing man, though admittedly handsome. Badua tries to draw Osam into the conversation, but he will not take sides.
Sometime later, Anowa is packing her belongings. She and her mother argue about her marriage. Anowa insists she likes him, while Badua insults the family he comes from. Osam contradicts his wife, insisting that they have made good husbands. Anowa pledges not to return to Yebi for a long time, and that she will help her husband make something of his life. Badua points out Kofi Ako's every failure, and she and her daughter almost come to blows.
At the end of the phase, the Old Man and Old Woman return. The Old Woman believes children have become more disobedient, while the Old Man says that Badua should be happy that Anowa has married at all.
A few years later, Kofi and Anowa are on the highway to the coast, carrying skins to sell. They seek shelter from the rain in a thicket. Kofi Ako worries that the work might be too harsh for her. She insists that she is strong. Anowa suggests that he marry another wife who could help them out. Kofi Ako is upset by this suggestion. As the conversation continues, it becomes clear that the two have not yet had a child, a distressing fact for both of them. They do not know why. Anowa nods off to sleep, and Kofi Ako reveals that his wife is often mistaken for his sister because she works so hard with him. He believes she will settle down and act more like a proper wife.
The next day, the pair dry their skins in the sun. Kofi Ako still does not understand why his wife likes to work, and suggests they buy slaves to make their life easier. Anowa is horrified by the idea, and will not allow him to consider it. Kofi Ako does not understand his wife's position. He insists that they will do it because everyone else does it, among other reasons.
Back at the cottage of Anowa's parents, Badua and Osam discuss their daughter. Osam admits he always feared Anowa and her strangeness. He is worried that she will never come back, and that they will never know her children. Badua tells him that Anowa has not had children. They speculate on the reasons why. Badua wants to go and find her, but Osam tells her Anowa is not lost. Badua and Osam reveal that Anowa and Kofi Ako are rich because their trade has increased due to their growing number of slaves. While Osam also knows that Anowa is unhappy about their owning slaves, Badua thinks her problems with it are foolish.
Back on the highway some time later, a better-dressed Kofi Ako leads several slaves carrying loads of skins. Anowa calls for him. She has no load to carry, yet is angry that she cannot keep up. He pays more attention to his slaves than her. Anowa tells him that she is unhappy not working and does not want to look after the house. She again suggests that Kofi Ako marry another wife, which upsets him. This leads to a discussion about their lack of children, which Anowa assumes is her fault. Her restlessness frightens him, and he wants to buy some female slaves to be her companions. Kofi Ako gets angry with her and wishes that she were different and had children. Anowa can only laugh.
The Old Man returns. He does not like the idea of slavery. The Old Woman enters. She believes Anowa is a witch, and has come from evil.
Several years later, Kofi Ako is a prosperous man with many slaves and a big house in Oguaa. Anowa enters, wearing old clothes without shoes. She looks old as she relates a disturbing incident from his childhood.
The scene changes slightly and two young slaves, a boy and a girl, talk about Anowa and Kofi Ako, whom they are to call Mother and Father. The girl says that others claim Anowa is a witch, but she is sympathetic to her mistress's growing unhappiness. Kofi Ako has told Anowa to leave, but will not tell her why. The girl envies the life Anowa could have, full of jewels and no work.
Anowa enters the room quietly and overhears part of their conversation. The girl says that Kofi Ako is afraid of women. The boy chases the girl out of the room. Wearing much gold, Kofi Ako enters and sits on his throne-like chair. He still wants Anowa to be like other women, while she does not like owning slaves and not working. Her habits of dressing in poor clothes and creeping around the house upset him. Because they are still without children, Anowa wants to find him another wife. Kofi Ako tells her that she has destroyed him and wants her to leave. Though Anowa presses, Kofi Ako will not tell her why. She refuses to leave because she has nowhere to go. She wants to live separately from him in the house as they have for years.
As Anowa speculates on the reasons, she has a revelation. She has the boy slave gather some elders. She asks them if they ever heard of a situation where a husband wants to divorce his wife without giving her a reason. None have, and Anowa sends them to consult with others on this question. Kofi Ako threatens to brand her a witch if she continues in this matter. He promises to give her half their wealth if she will leave. Kofi Ako calls the boy and tells him to help her pack.
Anowa will not allow him to send her away. She says she has not slept with him for years and that he has not shown interest in other women. Anowa accuses him of being like a woman, that is, impotent, in front of the boy and several other slaves. She decides to leave, as he exits. As Anowa pauses, Kofi Ako shoots himself offstage. At the end of the play, the Old Woman reports that Anowa killed herself by drowning as well. She blames Anowa for the deaths, while the Old Man believes Anowa was true to herself.