by Akwaeke Emezi

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How do the ogbanje influence Ada's gender experience in Freshwater?

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In Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi, the ogbanje influence Ada's experience of gender in that Asughara pushes Ada to be sexually promiscuous with men and also in that Saint Vincent encourages her to explore her masculinity and attraction to women.

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In Akwaeke Emezi's novel Freshwater, Ada is born inhabited by the ogbanje, children of the gods, against whom Ada struggles for most of her life. These ogbanje often take over Ada's mind and body, and they push her to question and even fight against her own gender.

Of course, Ada's relationships with men have been failures. Soren, for instance, rapes her. The ogbanje Asughara, who appears after the rape, pushes Ada toward further promiscuity, leading her toward cruel men who hurt Ada deeply.

Around the same time Asughara arrives, another ogbanje, whom Ada calls Saint Vincent, also makes his presence known. It is this ogbanje who encourages Ada to explore her masculine side. Ada remembers that she has always liked be identified as a boy, and Saint Vincent encourages her to explore an attraction to females. Asughara fights against this.

Ada deepens her relationship with Ewan, and they marry. At this point, Ada asks Asughara to leave, but Asughara will not. Ewan eventually leaves Ada, and they divorce. After this, Ada dates both women and men, and she tries to commit suicide. Saint Vincent tries to "help" Ada by guiding her toward hiding her femininity, even through a breast reduction surgery.

It is not until Ada returns to Nigeria that she finally finds peace with herself.

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