Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 335
The Slave Girl is a novel by Nigerian writer Buchi Emecheta. The book was published in 1977. The story centers on the life and tribulations of Ogbanje Ojebeta, a woman who was sold into slavery. The novel is a blatant criticism of colonialism and slavery in sub-Saharan Africa, but more than that, the novel is also a manifesto on self-determination, specifically from the perspective of an African female. It highlights the sudden change in her life in which, like a prized object, she was literally robbed by powerful men from her family and her land.
Since the book is primarily about the protagonist's time as a slave, the readers see recurring examples of how the human body is turned into a commodity and an object. The slaves were essentially tools in the way people today use AI robot devices to vacuum their floor or manufacture their cars. The slaves were reduced to materials whose existence is centered on doing laborious work in appalling conditions for slave owners.
The author portrays vivid characters—both Ogbanje's fellow slaves and the ill-tempered slave master—to illustrate the humanity of these figures. The readers get a chance to view not only the psychological trauma and emotional experiences of the slaves, but also the psyche of the slave owner who rules over his plantation with an iron fist. The novel also contains elements of feminism, particularly from the point-of-view of a strong black female trying to break away from her terrible conditions.
However, the struggle that the author depicts through the character of Ogbanje is one that is universal. Whether woman or man, the reader can find many of Ogbanje's desires relatable, such as one's longing for home and dreaming of seeing loved ones again. It is this burning desire mixed with anger that pushes the protagonist to liberate herself and find her own way in the world—not only as a woman or slave but as a person who once had an identity and is now determined to regain it.