The Concubine

by Elechi Amadi

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Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on July 11, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 925


Ihuoma is a beautiful, kind, and competent woman, described as “right in everything, almost perfect.” She begins the novel happily married to Emenike, and they have three children together. After Emenike’s sudden death, Ihuoma is left a widow. She grieves her husband’s death, even questioning her faith in the gods as a result. “Ihuoma wondered whether Amadioha [the god of justice and thunder] was not blind at least part of the time. But she kept her irreverent thoughts to herself.”

Ihuoma is dutiful and practical, which has earned the respect of the villagers in Omokachi. She never “quarrels” with anyone, and Wigwe, Ekwueme’s father, describes her as “disciplined.” When Ekwueme begins courting her after Emenike’s death, she initially rebuffs him, citing her status as a widow and the fact that he is already engaged to Ahurole. However, her affection for him eventually outgrows these objections, and she agrees to marry him after his fallout with Ahurole.

According to Anyika’s divination, Ihuoma is actually the human incarnation of a sea goddess. Her jealous husband, the godly Sea King, lashes out at any man who tries to marry her, which explains why she is so unlucky in love and marriage.


Ekwueme is a charming and well-respected young man desperately in love with Ihuoma. After the death of her husband, Ekwueme steps in and helps support Ihuoma throughout the grieving process. Whereas Ihuoma is more practical by nature, Ekwueme is impulsive and romantic. He proposes to her despite his preexisting engagement and her status as a widow, only to be rejected.

He reluctantly marries Ahurole at the behest of both Ihuoma and his parents, but the marriage is unhappy. Ekwueme becomes frustrated with Ahurole’s immaturity and even resorts to physical violence against his wife. After Ahurole poisons him with a love potion, Ekwueme descends into madness, and Ihuoma helps nurse him back to health.

With Ahurole out of the picture, Ihuoma finally agrees to marry Ekwueme. However, their happiness is cut short by Anyika’s divination: Ihuoma is the favored wife of the Sea King, and he will not allow another man to marry her. In response, Ekwueme declares, 

One thing is clear: I shall marry Ihuoma. She is a human being, and if marrying a woman like her is a fatal mistake, I am prepared to make it. If I am her husband for a day before my death my soul will go singing happily to the spirit world. There also I shall be prepared to dare the wrath of four hundred Sea Kings for her sake.

While this declaration highlights Ekwueme’s devotion to Ihuoma, it also proves to be his downfall, as a stray arrow kills him before the marriage can be finalized.


Emenike is Ihuoma’s first husband. He is described as the “ideal young man” by the village elders, and Ihuoma loves him dearly. Following a brawl with his long-time rival, Madume, Emenike is injured. Although he initially appears to be recovering from his wounds, he dies suddenly as a result of “lock chest”—generally assumed to be a reference to a heart attack. Emenike’s spirit haunts the narrative as Ihuoma contends with her grief over his loss.


“Madume had one fault most villagers disliked. He was ‘big-eyed:’ that is to say he was never satisfied with his share in anything that was good.” Jealous and greedy by nature, Madume challenges Emenike to a fight over a disputed plot of land—even though the village elders had already ruled in Emenike’s favor. Though Emenike appears to recover from the injuries he sustains during the...

(This entire section contains 925 words.)

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fight, his sudden death from “lock chest” is widely blamed on Madume.

Madume uses Emenike’s death as an opportunity to claim both the disputed land and Ihuoma. However, neither rightfully belongs to him. During an altercation on the disputed land, Madume proposes to Ihuoma and attempts to cut down a plantain. A cobra suddenly appears and spits in his eye, blinding him. In his shame, he hangs himself—a disgraceful act in the eyes of the rest of the village.


Anyika is the village of Omokachi’s medicine man or “witch doctor.” He provides both medicinal remedies and spiritual guidance, and he tells Ahurole that he “can never raise [his] hand against anyone in this village . . . What affects it affects me too.” He delivers the initial divination regarding Ihuoma’s status as a sea goddess and advises Ekwueme not to marry her.


Ahurole is a young woman from the neighboring village of Omigwe, and she is widely regarded for her beauty and intelligence. However, she is also prone to bouts of uncontrollable crying. When she was only eight days old, her parents arranged an engagement between Ahurole and Ekwueme.

After marrying Ekwueme, their mutual incompatibility quickly becomes clear. She bemoans, “I am unfortunate in my marriage,” and cries often—which only further irritates her husband. Ekwueme negatively compares Ahurole to Ihuoma, and her insecurities lead her to seek out a love potion. The love potion initially seems to work, rendering Ekwueme complacent and docile. However, it eventually drives him mad, and Ahurole flees back to her parents, leaving Ekwueme in the care of his parents and Ihuoma.


Wigwe is Ekwueme’s father. He cares deeply about his family and does everything he can to support his son. Wigwe is also very superstitious. When contemplating Ekwueme’s love-potion-induced madness, he asserts: “Amadioha cannot forsake us at this hour. We have never missed a sacrifice.”


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