No Sweetness Here

by Ama Ata Aidoo

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 502

The narrator of this story is a Westernized woman working as the schoolteacher in the Fanti village of Bamso. She is known only as Chicha, the Fanti pronunciation of "teacher." As the story opens, she
is visiting the hut of Maami Ama, whose ten-year-old son Kwesi is Chicha's favorite pupil. Chicha commends Maami Ama on Kwesi's physical beauty, teasing that she is going to kidnap Kwesi and take him away with her; Maami Ama appreciates the compliment, but also expresses her fear of losing her only child. Maami Ama explains that, although she is his first wife, she has been completely neglected by her husband of seven years, Kodjo Fi. She has been given his worst piece of land to farm, been personally ignored by him, and been shut out of the rest of his family; both his two sisters and his mother treat her badly. He has also taken no interest in their son Kwesi, who lives with Maami Ama. Maami Ama says to Chicha, "Our people say a bad marriage kills the soul. Mine is fit for burial.’’ When Kwesi arrives home, Chicha observes the joy his arrival brings to his mother: "All at once, for the care-worn village woman, the sun might well have been rising from the east instead of setting behind the coconut palms. Her eyes shone.’’

On the following day, which is a festival day of Ahobaada, the divorce proceedings between Maami Ama and Kodjo Fi are conducted in the center of the village. During her students' recess, Chicha goes to observe the divorce and learns that Kwesi has been awarded to his father's custody. The people of the village seem to feel this is a fair decision. In addition, Kodjo Fi has not been made to pay Maami Ama a fee he officially owes her. The two sides of the family, Ama's and Kodjo Fi's, argue among themselves regarding the details of the divorce decision. Yet Maami Ama accepts these decisions with complete passivity, not attempting to fight for her rights to her son and the money she is owed.

When Chicha returns to the schoolhouse, all of the children are gone. She then finds them crowded in a circle around Kwesi, who is lying on the ground, having been bitten by a snake. Although Kwesi is attended to by both a traditional medicine man and a Western doctor, he dies that night. The next day, Chicha learns that Kwesi's family members are arguing among themselves as to who is responsible for his death. Chicha sits down and thinks of the ambitions she had had in mind for Kwesi—that he would leave the village to become highly educated and a world traveler. Chicha brings the schoolchildren to Kwesi's funeral and to the cemetery where he is buried. Both sides of Kwesi's family have set aside their differences in mourning the loss of this child. After the funeral, Chicha goes to Maami Ama's hut to find her in agonized mourning, clutching Kwesi's schoolbooks and uniform.

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