Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 813
Ihuoma (ee-hew-OH-mah), Emenike’s twenty-two-year-old wife, married to him for six years. Before her marriage and move to Omakachi, she lived in the nearby village of Omigwe, where her parents, Ogbuji and Okachi, still reside. She spends the majority of her time caring for her three children and her husband. Emenike dies suddenly of “lock-chest,” and Ihuoma is left a lonely widow with her husband’s land to tend and few future marriage prospects. Her beauty, strength, and kind nature endear her to everyone, especially a young man named Ekwueme. At first, she fights off his advances, knowing that he has been promised to someone else. The village medicine man, Anyika, tells Ekwueme that Ihuoma had inhabited the spirit world as the Sea King’s wife until she preferred to live with mortals; the Sea King becomes jealous when any man loves her, killing the man and leaving her forever alone on Earth. This fate proves to be true for Ihuoma when she finally gives in to Ekwueme after his promised wife, Aruhole, “poisons” him with a love potion. Ihuoma nurses him back to health with her presence, but her son accidentally shoots Ekwueme with an arrow, killing him and again leaving Ihuoma without a husband.
Ekwueme (ay-KWEW-ay-may), the son of Adaku and Wigwe. He is an accomplished trapper and is well-liked in Omakachi. After Emanike’s death, he realizes his fondness for Ihuoma and begins to visit her regularly. Although an arranged marriage with an Omigwe woman, Aruhole, looms in his future, Ekwueme pursues Ihuoma and eventually asks her to be his wife. Ihuoma’s refusal on the grounds of tradition crush him, but he still hopes to change her mind until his parents convince him otherwise; they remind him of his duty and obligation to uphold family honor. Ekwueme submits, marrying Aruhole, an overly emotional and often irrational mate. He languishes in this unhappy marriage until Aruhole administers a love potion that drives him to passivity and then to the brink of insanity. The connection he feels with Ihuoma and an antidote prepared by Anyika bring him back to his senses. His wife has long since fled, and Ekwueme is free to marry Ihuoma. Before the marriage, Anyika warns him of his lover’s past life as the Sea King’s wife, but Ekwueme resolves to continue with the ceremony after they perform protective ritual appeasements to the gods. Before completing the rituals, he is fatally wounded by Nwonna, Ihuoma’s son.
Emenike (ay-MAY-nee-kay), Ihuoma’s first husband, well respected in Omakachi as the “ideal young man” because of his striking appearance and intelligence. During a journey through the forest near the village, he encounters Madume, a man he had recently quarreled with over rights to a piece of land. They wrestle, and Madume’s sheer bulk overpowers Emenike, who is thrown against a tree stump and seriously injured. He survives only to die of “lock-chest” days later.
Aruhole (ah-REW-hoh-lay), a young Omigwe woman, the daughter of Wagbara and Wonuma, betrothed to Ekwueme at birth. She has a lovely appearance and a fair amount of intelligence, but she experiences unprovoked fits of crying and hysterics. Although her parents and peers consider Ekwueme a fine match for her, she has unexplainable doubts about him and about marriage in general. Trapped in the prearrangement, she follows through with the marriage, and her emotional outbursts become more frequent. Aruhole begins to feel insecure and fearful because of Ekwueme’s increasing disdain for her. She consults a medicine man in another village, who gives her a love potion to slip into Ekwueme’s food. When the potion fails to elicit the expected results, and instead endangers her husband’s mental state, she flees Omakachi, returning to her parents’ home.
Madume (mah-DEW-may), an Omakachi villager who wrestles with Emenike over a land dispute. He proposes to Ihuoma after Emenike’s death but receives a cold and bitter “no” from the widow. Soon after his confrontation with Ihuoma, on the land he wrongly considers his own, he is blinded by a spitting cobra and shamed in the eyes of the villagers. In response to loss of face, he hangs himself.
Wakiri (wah-KEE-ree), the Omakachi village gossip who provides comic relief for Ihuoma, Ekwueme, and other villagers. A gentle character accompanies his wit. He helps Ihuoma take care of affairs after Emenike’s death; he also provides Ekwueme with advice and support.
Anyika (ah-NYEE-kah), the Omakachi medicine man. He knows the ways of the village gods, and villagers consult him for rituals of healing or appeasement. He recognizes Ihuoma’s spiritual origins and predicts the fates of the young men who love her.
Nnadi (ihn-NAH-dee), Emenike’s brother and protector of Ihuoma after her husband’s death. He defends her honor and aids in maintenance of her home and lands.
Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 213
Banyiwa-Horne, Naana. “African Womanhood: The Contrast Perspectives of Flora Nwapa’s Efuru and Elechi Amadi’s The Concubine.” In Ngambika: Studies of Women in African Literature, edited by Carole Boyce Davies and Anne Adams Graves. Trenton, N.J.: Africa World Press, 1986. Gives a strictly feminist reading of the writers’ contrasting portrayal of their female protagonists. Concludes that Amadi’s perspective is male oriented and therefore limiting.
Gikandi, Simon. “Myth, Language and Culture in Chinua Achebe’s Arrow of God and Elechi Amadi’s The Concubine.” In Reading the African Novel. London: Heinemann, 1987. Suggests a reinterpretation of the narrowly held view that, in Achebe’s and Amadi’s novels, myth is simply an expression of a community’s fears, hopes, or expectations.
Obiechina, Emmanuel. Culture, Tradition and Society in the West African Novel. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1975. Discusses The Concubine as one of ten major West African novels. This classic study gives a comprehensive analysis of many aspects of the novel—characterization, setting, language, and aesthetics.
Osundare, Niyi. “As Grasshoppers to Wanton Boys: The Role of the Gods in the Novels of Elechi Amadi.” African Literature Today 11 (1980): 97-109. An insightful essay on Amadi’s preoccupation with fatalism. It examines how supernatural forces shape human action and control the plots of Amadi’s novels.