Second-Class Citizen

by Buchi Emecheta

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Chapter 3 Summary

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On the ship, Adah hears a “burst of excitement” while changing Vicky’s diaper, and she bundles up to go out and see what is causing all of the noise. She had not expected to arrive in England for about two more days, but the ship is nearing land. Adah and her children enter the UK through Liverpool, and Adah is greatly disappointed by her first sight of her dream country: the dark, cloudy, industrial city gives her pause. However, she remembers how important it is to her that her children have an English education. Adah and the children disembark and reunite with Francis, who sees his son for the first time.

Adah notices that Francis has changed significantly. He makes jokes about death, which he attributes to the English people’s odd sense of humor. Adah is skeptical of this, though, because she doesn’t think the people around her look like they have senses of humor. He says that she has become bolder and speaks to him in a way she would not have in Lagos. Adah interprets his remarks as evidence that men have more rights and privileges than women do, even in England. They board the train to London, and on the journey, Adah sees snow for the first time. She is beginning to feel more hopeful about England now that she has seen some of its beautiful landscapes.

Once in London, Francis takes them to their accommodations. Adah cannot believe how close the buildings are to one another, and Francis tells her that in Nigeria, there is more land to spread out. Their home country is not at the point yet where every available space is built up, as in London. Next, he takes her to their apartment, which is very small and sparse; there is only one room, no bath or kitchen, and no private toilet—the communal toilet is four floors downstairs. Adah has not been told ahead of time what the apartment will be like and is shocked to see the bareness of the room.

The other tenants stop by after work to greet Adah, and she cannot understand why she has to live with people who would have been considered inferiors in Lagos. Francis informs Adah that immigrants to London from Africa, India, and the Middle East are “grouped” together; all are treated like “second-class citizens.” Even though Adah considered herself an “elite” back in Nigeria, she would not be treated with the same respect or deference here. Adah is stunned to learn that she will be considered of equal or lower status to someone who would have been much lower than she was in Nigeria, based on her prestigious job.

Adah chastises Francis for not trying hard enough to find suitable accommodations. He is not pleased and almost hits her. Adah wonders if her husband hates her and regrets marrying so young. She begins to feel that she rushed into the relationship and has made a mistake. However, she thinks that it was necessary for her to marry Francis to get to England. After their fight, Francis insists that they have sex that night, even though Adah is confused because she knows they cannot have another child so soon. After they are finished, her husband complains that she needs to see a doctor about her “frigidity.”

Francis pressures Adah to find a job—any job—and encourages her to work at a factory. Adah feels the job is below her based on her qualifications and experience. Further, she does not want to work with the other Nigerians, who are Yorubas, because they insult those who are...

(This entire section contains 824 words.)

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Ibos, like Adah and her family. Soon, Adah gradually realizes that she must be pregnant again and panics. She feels that Francis will be upset, as he is studying and she is expected to get a job. She worries that she will not be able to gain employment if she needs to take maternity leave in six months.

Francis blames Adah for the pregnancy and starts having sexual affairs, which Adah somewhat approves of, since they give her a break from her husband. Francis warns her that she will not get the library job for which she has applied because of the new pregnancy. Francis himself refuses to work, claiming he needs to devote all of his time to his studies. Adah gets ready for her interview, feeling nervous about what Francis has said but confident because she has dressed nicely.

Fortunately, Adah successfully interviews for a job at the library, in part because she is able to charm the old doctor enough that he doesn't notice she is pregnant during the required medical exam. Adah realizes that she does care about Francis and wants to make him happy. She regrets having tricked the doctor but is proud to have gotten the job and to be able to tell her husband the good news when she returns home.

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