Second-Class Citizen

by Buchi Emecheta

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Chapter 13 Summary

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Adah enjoys the summer, finally having the experience of being a true housewife. She cares for the children, and when they go down for their naps after lunch, she has time to work on her novel. While Adah is happy with this lifestyle, Francis is confused about why he would bother marrying an educated woman when she would decide to stay home and raise the children. He resents that Adah gets to stay home while he has to both work and study. Francis is temporarily the breadwinner of the family, but his pride in himself does not last very long. Even though Francis still gives Adah very little money, she has plans to work part-time as a seamstress.

As Adah works on her novel, she gains more confidence. She doesn’t feel like she has a “message with a capital ‘M’ to tell the world,” but she thinks that writing fills a void in her life caused by her failed marriage. Adah laments that her husband is old-fashioned and believes women are inferior to men; he thinks of her as his property, not as an intellectual equal. At first, she had believed that being in London could change his perspective, but it turns out that Francis cannot—or will not—evolve. She resolves to show Francis The Bride Price so he can understand that she has not been “doing nothing,” as he assumes.

Adah decides to show her friends at the library first, however. Bill and Peggy read her manuscript and are very encouraging. Bill thinks it should be published; he says Adah will need to have the work typed up and that he can help find her a contact at a publishing house. In producing her book, Adah muses, she experiences similar feelings as she has had when giving birth to a new baby. She shares this with Bill, who tells her that it makes perfect sense and that authors refer to their work as their “brainchild.”

As time goes on, Adah feels even more strongly that Francis should read the book. Her confidence has grown as a result of her friends’ positive reactions, and Adah decides to invent a course of study for herself to learn how to write well in the English language (she will read Shakespeare, for example). She wants to make her novels special, but she wonders how she can use her professional experience to write compelling novels.

When Adah tells Francis about The Bride Price, he mocks her, reminding her that she is not only a woman but also Black. He does not see the point in her writing and cannot understand why she is so deluded. He thinks the Nigerian woman writer Flora Nwapa is only successful because she is writing in Nigeria.

Adah is insulted by Francis’s reaction but determines to keep writing. She thinks about how she once dreamed of being a writer when she was forty years old, and she has begun to achieve her dream at only twenty-one. She remembers how Peggy praised the book’s humor and Bill celebrated its originality, and she resolves that she will continue to write despite Francis’s abuse.

The next weekend, Adah leaves early in the morning to do the shopping and returns to find Francis burning papers in the fireplace. It takes a while for her to realize that Francis is burning her novel. She remembers stories Francis has told her about killing or abusing animals and the wicked smile of pride on his face; he now has that same facial expression. Crushed, Adah feels that Francis’s actions are totally unforgivable. After burning the manuscript, Francis beats Adah to the point that Mrs. Noble, concerned that Francis will kill Adah without intervention, calls the police.

Soon after, Adah discovers that she is pregnant with her fifth child, and she can no longer suffer Francis’s treatment. Adah finally finds a place for her and the children to live without Francis, though she has to pretend she is not Ibo and that her husband is in Nigeria. Francis eventually finds her and proceeds to beat her again and break all the valuable items in her apartment.

At this point, Adah decides to begin legal proceedings against Francis. She has had to take two weeks off of work to recover from the beating, and she decides she wants custody of the children and financial support from Francis. In the courthouse, Adah learns that Francis has burned her and the children’s passports, as well as the children’s birth certificates. He claims to not be the father of the children, and there is no documentation to prove otherwise. Francis says he will approve the children being put up for adoption.

Adah replies that she will claim the children as only her own. Upon leaving the courthouse, Adah hears her childhood name—“Nne nna”—called and is startled to meet a friend from school in Nigeria. He is kind and asks her if she married Francis, which she confirms. He pays for her taxi, and Adah feels as though “Fate” has put this man in her path.

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Chapter 12 Summary