The Joys of Motherhood
THE CHANGING PARADIGMS OF THE LOVE LAWS The Joys of Motherhood, by Buchi Emecheta, describes the hardships of life in West-Africa from the perspective of Nnu Ego. The novel reveals the byproducts of development and colonialism in West-Africa; byproducts that affect society’s hierarchy of gender and subservience. Through the Englishman’s intervention in West-Africa, the economic well-being of families is greatly restored. However, this supposed positive change also casts many negative circumstances, in which the gender roles of male and female become more fluid.
The shifting of gender roles within The Joys of Motherhood is a direct consequence of the colonialism and economic development of West-Africa. This traditional alteration as a direct result of economic enticement affects Arundhati Roy’s, Love Laws, when economics becomes the overriding factor in life itself. The Love Laws are governed by one’s economical standings. If a person brings no financial incentive to the table, then they become less loved. Cordelia said, when talking about her husband Ubani, (CH4) “Men here are too busy being white men’s servants to be men. We women mind the home.
Not our husbands. Their manhood has been taken away from them. The shame is that they don’t know it. ” When colonialism met traditional twentieth century West-African society, it completely altered the roles of men. Nnu Ego agreed with Cordelia, saying that it felt like she was wedded to a middle-aged woman during the first stage of her second marriage, when Nnu Ego’s husband Nniafe was working for the Meers. Nnu Ego also has little respect for Nniafe, as she criticizes not only Nniafe’s conscious subordination by the Meer family, but also the fact that he takes pride in his job.
This subservient role men play is not necessarily caused by Colonialism, but rather the capitalist based labor system they imposed upon West-African society. Men are only acting on behalf of the economic incentive working for colonialists gives them. Nniafe and Ubani take no regard towards the dignity and masculinity of their jobs. Since the colonization and development of West-Africa, the paradigm has adopted a new hierarchal prototype based on fiscal power. All other cultural aspects of life also take the second tier. This compromises their role as superiors, as they are now cast on the second tier.
It also consumes their once predetermined power and the vivid line between males and females. These sentiments resonate the constant theme in the novel, that Lagos corrupts and permanently alters tradition. This in turn robs one of his individual identity and manhood. However, the Love Laws stay intact. No matter how Cordelia and Nnu Ego react towards their husbands serfdom by the Meers, they are still in full dependence. Societal tradition and culture are rendered obsolete when facing the Love Laws, since the only weighing factor on who should be loved is one’s economic well-being. God, when will you create a woman who will be fulfilled in herself, a full human being, not anybody’s appendage? she prayed desperately. ” As an Ibo mother, Nnu Ego has the expectation of others to prepare her sons for the future. The ones who bear the brunt are Nnu Ego’s daughters. Women are not expected to live a full life. They are expected to birth children, preferably sons, and rightfully do their penance to provide their sons with the best future possible. Girls have little worth in the traditional West-African culture. Their only value is the bride price they manage to stamp on their forehead.
Women are expected to shadow their husbands’ identity, with no worth to themselves apart from the future generations they breed. However, the quote also brings up Nnu Ego’s extremely pivotal hypothesis: the idea of foregoing a collective society for a more individualistic and autonomous one. Colonialism delivered a new economic and social order to Lagos, in which the role of both men and women has changed. Has Nnu Ego found an outlet to the suppressed life that women currently live in Lagos? She watches her husband perform the daily chores of a supreme woman, one with divine power over men.
Nniafe is laundering clothes for Mrs. Meers, feeling no subservience or regret. Nnu Ego begins to anticipate the changes in the traditional culture, as a direct result from colonial influence. The economic shift, that was brought over by the colonists, had one very impacting side effect: with money, comes independence. She shift in gender roles began to dwell in Nnu Ego’s mind, as she anticipated a future where women will be of prime importance, rather than simply being used to serve their superiors and collective society at the expense of themselves.
By stimulating your own economic well-being, Nnu Ego can lived a self-fulfilled life, one without the influence of men. Nnu Ego is envisioning a world that will allow her to be more loved. If she manages to provide an adequate amount of money for herself and her family, they will love her more. If she can become more individualistic, they will love her more. In this scenario, in which Nnu Ego forecasts a world where individual finances dictate who should be loved, the gender line between male and female roles becomes almost outmoded by economic incentives.
However, there is one major factor that is standing in the way of her enlightened future. Ironically, it is also a womens only worth: children. “Her love and duty for her children were like her chain of slavery. ” This quote stands as the antithesis of the book’s title, and it proves to be true throughout the book. Instead of Nnu Ego and the many other women in the Ibo community living a self-fulfilling life, motherhood casts on them a sense of enslavement. This sense of enslavement is also Nnu Ego’s sense of identity.
Her foremost function is to bear children, seeing that it is the only way of achieving rank and respect in the eyes of society. Nnu Ego’s struggle between achieving independence and respect is a double-edge sword. When she cannot impregnate herself, she fears she will become a disrespected cast-away of society. However, her lack of reliance gives her a knack for self-sufficiency. On the other hand (or sword), once Nnu Ego is able to produce children, she becomes ill-equipped to provide for them, and loses her freedom of self.
The quote shows a very distinct paradox between a womans intent to bear children, and her overall goal for independence. It also shows the changing paradigms of the Love Laws. Ever since colonialism and development of Africa, the economic incentives have rewarded people financially for making certain choices and behaving in a certain way, that is, working for the Englishmen. This is a form of competitive employment and allows for socioeconomic polarization, as the incentively propelled workers are taking more initiative towards performing well, and less towards their social environment.
Social constituents may tend to lose the cultural-catalysis in men’s inter-personal relations amid their cut-and-dry lifestyle. This, in turn, culturally bounds their sense of responsibility and spirit. These husbands’ detachment to traditional living causes their wives to see their transformation and emancipation over time. Nnu Ego not only sees the subordination and cultural-loss of her husband, fueled by money, but also the independence that individual ambition gives him. She notices the changing dynamics of the Love Laws, as she starts to become less loved and Nniafe becomes more loved.
While Nnu Ego is trying to nurture her children out of poverty, enslaved to her kids, Nniafe is acting on individual initiative. The Love Laws have changed, because whether Nnu Ego likes it or not, she isn’t the provider for the family. “She had been trying to be traditional in a modern urban setting. It was because she wanted to be a woman of Ibuza in a town like Lagos that she lost her child. This time she was going to play according to the new rules. ” Nnu Ego cannot hold onto to her traditions when society is becoming culturally-bounded due to economic incentives. You can never step into the same river; for new waters are always flowing on to you. ” The fact that economics surpasses all other cultural, social, and traditional incentives represents the changing paradigms in the Love Laws. . In Nnu Ego’s traditional vision of the family, individual concerns are secondary to the livelihood of the group. Nniafe was acting on individual initiative. What dictates who should be loved is economical. This is a direct consequence of the colonization of West-Africa.
The colonialism of West-Africa positively charged the economy and negatively cast the traditional culture on the second-tier. In effect, the line discerning gender roles became more transparent. Adam Smith, father of modern economics, once said “individual ambition serves the common good”. In the economic sense, this statement is true. It transcends to Nniafe and Nnu Ego, and also their children Adim, Oshia, and Kehinde, who all retaliate against strict hierarchies implicit in the family structure and dethrone the mantle of tradition by having what is most taboo in their culture: individual ambition.