Second-Class Citizen

by Buchi Emecheta

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Chapter 8 Summary

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The family has been living at Pa Noble’s house for several weeks; it is now early December, around the time Adah expects she will be due to have her third baby. She wakes up on the second of December extremely tired and uncomfortable. She does not want to go to work, which is very unusual for her. The baby seems to be stretched across her midsection and is causing her pain. Adah does not want to believe that she could be having the baby yet; she wants to work longer and earn more money before Christmas.

While Adah has the baby and recuperates, Francis will be working for the post office. In retrospect, Adah wonders why she took all the responsibility and concern for the family on herself, when it should be only natural for Francis to also shoulder some of the burden. She had grown accustomed to being the one who would work and support the family, and for a long time, she has not expected her husband to provide for them.

Despite her discomfort and worry, Adah goes to the train station to make her way to the library. However, there is evidently a railway worker strike, and her train never comes. The narrator notes that Francis thinks newspapers are a waste of money, and the family does not own any other source of media where Adah could have learned about the strike. Also, even though Francis goes downstairs to the Nobles’ space to watch television, Adah is not allowed to join him, because Francis thinks Mrs. Noble is a poor role model for his wife.

As Adah waits in vain for a train that never arrives, she feels her pain increase to the point that it is almost unbearable. Eventually, others waiting for the train decide to leave the station, so Adah leaves too, but she is anxious about going home and telling Francis, sure he will not believe her and will accuse her of laziness. She considers screaming from the pain so loudly that Francis will be convinced something is really wrong with her, but she decides against that. She has heard in the past that screaming takes away all of your energy, and she needs to conserve hers.

Adah arrives home and tells Francis about the strike. Francis challenges her by asking questions about how she knows the other people at the station went home and did not just find another way to work. The irony in the scene is that Francis is still in his pajamas and, of course, will not be going to a job of his own. Adah continues to feel the baby’s kicks, which makes her want to scream. Instead, she is quiet, and Francis starts one of his sermons, which have become more frequent since he became a Jehovah’s Witness.

Francis preaches to Adah about how women should be virtuous. Man is superior, he emphasizes; in the Bible, woman is made from man. Adah recalls that the etymology of the words for man and woman are different in Ibo, which would call into question this misogynistic logic. Francis senses that Adah does not believe him and starts to question her. Adah continues to listen to Francis’s speech, but her mind drifts. She thinks about how the Bible can be used to justify almost any viewpoint, even views that oppose one another. Adah does not like to feel like she is being indoctrinated and hates when people take portions of the Bible and try to make others believe their interpretation as the only one. When Francis goes out of the room to find another religious book, Adah leaves to see her doctor.

With great difficulty, Adah walks through the snow to get to her doctor’s office. She is convinced that she’s not in labor, but there is something wrong about the way the baby is situated and moving. Adah lets many other patients see the doctor before her; she is in pain and obviously needs medical attention, but she has told herself that her problem cannot be very serious. One woman whom Adah tells to go ahead of her instead alerts the doctor to Adah’s condition; the doctor says that Adah needs to be admitted to the hospital.

However, Adah and Francis have decided to have the baby at home with a midwife because they can make six pounds by doing so. Going to the hospital, on the other hand, means that they will not get the six pounds and will likely incur other costs. Adah tells the doctor she will stick with her original plan to use a midwife, and the doctor calls ahead to make sure the midwives meet Adah at the house. Adah goes home but has forgotten her key. As she approaches the house and knocks, Francis opens the door, and the midwives arrive—one a larger, older white woman, and the other a younger Asian woman.

The midwives are shocked that Adah has come home and not gone to the hospital, as she is bleeding. Adah begins to feel faint; the room is spinning, and she is losing her sense of reality. She imagines Francis with devil horns preaching at her and only hears selected words from the midwives. She has to take an ambulance to the hospital but first must descend the stairs of the Nobles’ house. Adah is only somewhat aware of a large man standing over her, saying they will get the baby out, before she feels an injection of some kind and loses consciousness.

Adah hallucinates about living a peaceful, bucolic life back in Nigeria. The baby is five years old, and the two older children are in London attending school. She and Francis seem happy, and he praises her virtue. This hallucination becomes more intense when she thinks of the word “virtuous,” and Adah begins to scream repeatedly as she returns to consciousness. The big man, a surgeon who has delivered her baby via cesarean section, is smiling. The hospital personnel bring Adah her baby, and she is surprised to see how big and hairy the little boy is. She thanks the doctors and falls asleep.

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