Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 694
Custom and Tradition
Much of the plot of Anowa turns on the power of custom and tradition, and the consequences of not following such tenets of society. Anowa does not subscribe to most customs. She has refused to marry after reaching puberty, as is tradition in her area. Further, she has turned down every man who has asked for her hand for six years. Her attitude befuddles her anxious mother as well as her father to a lesser degree. Anowa has always been different—described variously as wild and strange—but her nontraditional attitudes alienate those around her.
This character trait becomes more problematic after she is finally married to Kofi Ako. She helps him start a skin-trading business and does much work for it. Traditionally women keep the home and do not do work. While Kofi Ako appreciates her support at first, he longs for a more custom-following wife. To that end, he expresses a desire to buy slaves for their business. Anowa is appalled by the prospect of owning other people, though Kofi Ako points out that it is a common practice. Despite her feelings on the matter, he does buy them and grows rich with a big house and many slaves. Anowa refuses to take on her traditional role. She will not wear rich clothes or use people as slaves. Her defiance of tradition and custom leads to an empty marriage and to her own suicide and that of Kofi Ako. While Anowa has remained true to her beliefs, her attitude has harmed those around her.
The driving force behind Anowa's actions is pride. Though her attitudes and behavior might seem wild, strange, or just bizarre to those around her, she gives Anowa a moral, self-respecting center. Anowa does not care much what people think. She follows her beliefs, not sharing the others characters' overriding concern with custom and tradition. She does not want to marry anyone who has asked for her hand, so she does not. When she meets someone she does want to marry, Kofi Ako, she does, despite her parents' protests. Work is important to Anowa. She wants her husband to succeed and personally contributes to his business. Kofi Ako does not understand why she wants to work so hard, but it gives Anowa pride in herself.
Anowa's pride is not just in herself, but extends to her treatment of others. When Kofi Ako proposes that they buy slaves to make their lives easier and improve their business, Anowa is dismayed. Her pride is tempered by respect for other human beings. She tells him in phase two, "Kofi, no man made a slave of his friend and came to much himself. It is wrong. It is evil." Kofi Ako ignores her insights and buys the slaves anyway. The richer they become the more unhappy Anowa becomes and the more their marriage is strained. Anowa is left with less to do, and while she retains her pride, she is increasing alienated from the world. In some ways, her pride is her downfall. That she sticks to her beliefs shows her strength, but it also dooms her in the end as both she and her husband take their own lives.
Choices and Consequences
Many of the choices made in Anowa have extreme consequences. Badua's attitude towards Anowa leads directly to Anowa's declaration that she will not return to Yebi. Anowa never returns. More implicitly, choices Kofi Ako and Anowa make seem to lead to their lack of children. At first, Anowa chooses to blame this situation on herself. She tries to remedy it by encouraging him on more than one occasion to marry another wife or two. Kofi Ako will not make this choice. Instead, slaves are his answer to this problem, which will solve it by creating wealth. Kofi Ako's choice to buy slaves has the consequence of straining his marriage to the point of breaking. Anowa ends up interpreting his choices and concluding that he is impotent, less than a man. Her public declaration leads to their double (though separate) suicide. Anowa shows the consequences of making hard choices and how they deeply affect lives like Anowa's.