Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Originally written as a collection of “observations” and published serially in The New Statesman, In the Ditch, Buchi Emecheta’s first novel, is discussed almost always only in relation to Second Class Citizen (1974), its rightful chronological predecessor. Like its companion piece, In the Ditch is heavily autobiographical, following Eme-cheta’s own descent into the “ditch” of welfare living and enforced dysfunctionality.

Adah, the protagonist of the novel, is an intelligent, hardworking woman who has to fight against considerable odds to keep from being driven insane by the degrading welfare system. The story chronicles her struggle to maintain her pride and dignity as a welfare recipient and her keen desire for independence for herself and her children. The novel begins at the point when Adah is newly separated from her husband. Alone and vulnerable, she battles the squalid conditions of the rat-and cockroach-infested room that she is forced to rent from an unethical landlord who uses his “juju” wiles to terrorize her and her children. Faced with a choice between one of two evils—enslavement and exploitation by the landlord on the one hand or a prisonlike existence of welfare living at the Pussy Cat Mansions—Adah opts for the latter, which she argues offers a qualified independence. The story concentrates on Adah’s indoctrination to the slum life of the welfare system and chronicles her struggle...

(The entire section is 539 words.)