Second-Class Citizen

by Buchi Emecheta

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Chapter 6 Summary

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While Adah is getting ready for work one morning, Francis tells her there is bad news. He has an envelope but does not want to share the news with his wife immediately. Adah gets tired of his hesitancy and grabs the envelope to read a short note from a solicitor: they are being evicted from their apartment. The landlord, landlady, and other tenants are pleased that Francis and Adah must move out, because they think the couple is too proud and sees themselves as superior to the others. They also are tired of the children’s noise.

Francis and Adah know that there is no use fighting the edict, and Adah also knows why the landlord, landlady, and neighbors dislike them. She is used to her people, the Ibos, being treated as inferior in Nigeria. Francis, on the other hand, is shocked that the neighbors don't like him, partly because he has the luxury to stay home and study all day while his wife makes all of the money. The narrator notes that the neighbors understand what a struggle it will be for the family to find new accommodations, and that the fact of this struggle actually pleases them.

As the eviction date approaches, the neighbors, landlord, and landlady openly mock Adah and Francis in the halls and stairways. Adah reacts by laughing loudly in the hallways to prove that she is not affected by their hatred and intimidation. On the inside, though, she is eager to find new accommodations and be away from their abuse.

Adah thinks about the mistreatment she has faced at the hands of people who are like her, fellow Nigerians who have moved to England, and weighs her experiences against the discrimination Black people face from the white people of England. Adah and Francis take turns looking for new accommodations, but they struggle to find anything. They would have certainly moved sooner if they had any options, Adah thinks, since she was uncomfortable with their living arrangements from the start.

As they search for another home, Adah notes that many advertisements say “Sorry, no coloureds,” making her increasingly aware of the racism in London. In addition to the fact of their race, she worries that no one will want to rent to a family with two young children and another baby on the way, so she tries to conceal her pregnancy. Adah does not feel that she is inferior to white people, but the narrator argues that discrimination has a “psychological effect on her”: Adah tailors her behavior so that it seems like she sees the white population as superior, rather than equal to herself. This comes to fruition when she calls about a potential rental for her family.

Eventually, she finds what seems like a suitable accommodation of two rooms and calls the number. Even though the advertisement does not say “no coloureds,” Adah is careful to disguise her voice, worried that the landlady will know she is Black and will not consider her as a tenant. She makes sure to call the number when her coworkers are not around, because she is embarrassed and thinks they will view her as mad. When she makes the call, the woman thinks Adah might be American. She invites Adah over to view the rooms and is even happy to have a family with children as potential tenants, noting that she is a grandmother herself.

When Adah gets home that evening, she cannot wait to share this promising news with her husband. At first, the information does not register with Francis, and his wife must repeat it. Adah is triumphant and reflects that she still enjoys being able to please and impress her husband. She thinks this may be able to save her marriage. Francis feels there must be some kind of catch; this seems too good to be true. Adah assures him that this time, things will work out, but she is secretly panicked about how the woman will react when she learns that they are Black.

When Francis and Adah go to see the rooms, the woman puts her head out the window and shouts to them. They mention that they are here to see the rooms, and she says she will be right down. However, when the landlady opens the door, a look of fear crosses her face. She has trouble speaking but eventually tells them the rooms have just been rented, clearly because she now sees that they are Black. She apparently could not get a clear look at them from the window, and when she spoke to them from that vantage point, she seemed welcoming and ready to show the rooms. The couple infers that her sudden change of heart can only be a result of their race. While some part of Adah feared and maybe even expected it, she is still stunned to be the victim of such blatant discrimination.

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