The Concubine

by Elechi Amadi

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Who is Ihuoma in The Concubine and how is she characterized?

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For much of Elechi Amadi's novel The Concubine, Ihuoma seems to be a grieving widow who is focused on caring for her three children. She is a kindhearted woman who is loved and respected by the other women of the village and desired by men. But there is more to Ihuoma then first appears, for she is actually a mermaid, a goddess, and the betrothed of the powerful Sea-King.

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In Elechi Amadi's novel The Concubine, Ihuoma is a young woman caught up in a series of events beyond her control, but she is also a woman with a secret. Ihuoma is the widow of Emenike, a man who dies under mysterious circumstances at the beginning of the novel. Many of the villagers blame Madume, the man with whom Emenike has been embroiled in a land conflict. After Emenike's death, Madume tries to claim Ihuoma, but he ends up being blinded by a cobra and hanging himself. Ihuoma, who is a gentle-hearted person, mourns both men and the village's loss through their deaths.

For a while, Ihuoma focuses on the task of raising her three small children. She receives help from the women of the village, who all respect and love her, for she is a kind, strong, beautiful person who attracts everyone. A problem arises, though, when she also attracts Ekwueme, who is already betrothed to another woman. Eventually, Ekwueme manages to become free to marry Ihuoma, whose care has cured him of a magical malady, but then a priest warns Ekwueme's parents that there is a major problem with the relationship.

At this point, readers discover that Ihuoma is not who she appears to be. She is actually a goddess in human form, a mermaid betrothed to the jealous Sea-King, who is out to destroy all men who desire Ihuoma. His influence lies behind the deaths of both Emenike and Madume, and by the end of the tale, Edwueme also dies, proving vividly that one does not mess with the Sea-King's bride.

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