TopicNamInstitution WhileNervous Conditions vividly demonstrates the difficulties women face withinShona/Zimbabwean society, the novel is concerned with other issues too.Discuss.IntroductionNervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga (1988) isan age story set in Zimbabwe in late 1960 to early 1970s. The author looks atthe position of women in the colonial era through the life of her protagonistTambudzai. She describes the ways in which women reject the behavioral andcultural codes that are constituted by the patriarchal system.
In its entirety,the novel conflates two primary discourses, the national and the patriarchalsystem with unshakeable resistance to both. In nationalism, Dangarembga (1988)offers her feminist lenses through which the audience is given the opportunityto explore the relationship between women and the nation in terms ofnationalism and feminism (Dangarembga, p. 54). Additionally, it explores thepatriarchal oppression that every woman in the area is constrained by.
Forexample, the author introduced Lucia, Tambu, Maiguru, Tambu’s mother and Nyashaas some of the core victims of the patriarchal system. However, despite the evidenceof difficulties experienced by women within Zimbabwean society, the issue offeminism has been distracted and diverted by diverse social and politicalissues in the context of colonial pressure. Therefore, this paper will focus onexploring diverse issues explored in a story featured with a heavy burden offemaleness in an extreme male-centered culture. GenderOther than the difficulties faced by women in Shonasociety, Dangarembga (1988) is concerned with the issue of gender as a way ofshowing the root cause of women oppression through the socialization process.
Forexample, Ma’ Shingayi-Tambu’s mother explains to her “The business of womanhoodis heavy burden” (Dangarembga, p. 15). Nyasha and Tambuare two primary women who grapple with the societal gender roles andexpectations in Shona society. For example, as a child, Tambu reflects afeeling of resentment against his only brother named Nhamo. This is afterBabamukuru (Tambu’s uncle) and who is a highly educated headmaster at a missionschool offered himself to pay to school for Nhamo. When all this is happening, Tambuhas already discovered that the demands, the sensibilities, and needs of womenin her family and the society as a whole were not considered a priority. As aresult, she felt the pain of having a male controller in her life who enjoyedall the opportunities when she is being deprived of the same. Consequently, sheconfidently confessed “I was not sorry when my brother died”.
This isbecause she was sure that an opportunity to attend a colonial school will cropher way. Regardless of the fact that she gets a position to attend the missionschool, she still surveys from a frustration of her duties to Babamukuru who isan authoritarian and patriarchal figure and her rapidly increasingindependence. Similarly, Nyasha who also had an opportunity to study in Englanddoes not look back. In this case, Dangarembga (1988) tries to showcase the rebellionof female gender against the male patriarchy through educational achievement.Nevertheless, it appears that gender plays a greater role in determining theroles and responsibilities of people in the society. For example, Babamukuruaccepts to pay school fees for Nhamo not out of love but due to theresponsibility he has a male in the society. He actively takes the pain of thegrowing derision of Nyasha his daughter (Dangarembga, p. 119).
ColonizationBabamukuru’s children Nyasha and Chido have spent ahuge amount of their childhood in England-based schools giving them theopportunity to adopt many Western values and cultures. As a result, Tambu’smother believes that Nyasha’s mental breakdown is influenced by the Westernculture exposure. She fears that the “Englishness” in Chido and Nyasha’s lifewill eventually affect her only daughter. Critically thinking, the”Englishness” creates a gap between Nyasha, Chido, and Tambu. This is based onthe fact that Tambu cannot speak English while on the other hand Chido andNyasha are not conversant with Shona. Additionally, Nyasha has already adoptedthe revealing clothing worn in Western culture and which Tambu’s mother cannot condone.As a result, Tambu is seen as a more obedient student as opposed to Nyasha.
Through the life of Tambu and Nyasha, it becomes evident that Dangarembga(1988) wanted to show how colonialism made some Africans feels out of place. MostAfricans adopted a conservative mode of believing values and Christianitythereby shielding themselves from life experiments as seen in Chido’s andNyasha’s Englishness (Dangarembga, p. 150).Educationand RaceWhen the novel is beginning, Tambu reflectseducation as an opportunity for financial freedom based on the life lived byBabamukuru. In her statement, she expresses the action by Babamukuru to payschool fees for Nhamo as oceanic. She believes that his action was one goldenopportunity to live their family from the poverty and vulnerability they wereliving in. Similarly, Babamukuru portrays education as an avenue foralleviating dependency in the society.
Due to this fact, Tambu is determined toget the education so that she can successfully move out of poverty. However, atthe mission school, she learns that to African children, education is seen as aprivilege while white view it as a right. Despite these different, sheappreciated the opportunity to learn and shape her life out of poverty.
Therefore, Dangarembga (1988) tried to showcase education as a pillar towardswomen freedom and independence. Nevertheless, education has provided an open doorwhere the issue of race is well evident. For example, children in the Africansetup were given the opportunity to negotiate the colonial education whilestill maintaining their Shona identity. As highlighted above, Chido and Nyashahave adopted some Western values and Englishness that make them look more whitethan black.
As a result, Nyasha takes up a divided position as she does notknow whether she’s white or black. Children in her school scorn her in the sensethat she behaves more white than black. Similarly, Tambu observes the same whendealing with the white teachers. Schools are a social institution that advancesthe socialization process from the society units. Dangarembga (1988) show thatissues of race and skin color differences are created by the socialization process,hence, giving them an opportunity to note the difference between them.Therefore, without the features and values that shows the difference betweenpeople, the race would be seen as an issue in the society.PovertyOther than expressing the oppression anddifficulties experienced by women, Dangarembga (1988) is also concerned bypoverty and vulnerability of different families through the life of Nhamo.
Immediately after joining the mission school,Nhamo begins experiencing an embarrassment feeling due to the poverty incidentshitting his immediate family. Conversely, the entire society respects andappreciates Babamukuru due to the fact that he has not been a victim ofpoverty. Additionally, Nhamo and Tambu were desperate to join school so thatthey would get out of the impoverished home and settle comfortably in themission compound. To show the depths of poverty in this society, Nhamo disguisedhim as an individual who does not understand the Shona language. The corereason for doing this is due to the fact that the Shona language was associatedwith poverty. Therefore, he adopted the English language so that he can appeardifferent from her sister Tambu. For Dangarembga (1988), education is expressedas the pathway to affluence, however, the presence of Tambu and Nhamo in thiscontext proves that a good percentage of families in the Shona society areliving under poverty.
For that reason, children in these families are strivingto get an education so that they can successfully get out of the vulnerabilitytheir immediate families are expressing.MaleChauvinism and Patriarchal SystemDangarembga (1988) sets the floor in a manner thatall men explored in Nervous Conditions are nurtured in a patriarchal societywhere they do not take female challenges easily. For example, there is a scenewhere Nhamo tells Tambu “Why do you seem jealous anyway”, Have you ever heardof a girl being taken to school”. Traditionally, girls were not taken toschool. The society believed that their position is in the home. Their genderroles were ascribed to cooking, getting children and caring for the husband.Therefore, the statement by Nhamo did not come as a surprise as that how men inthe Shona society were raised (Dangarembga, 1988). Furthermore, men in the Shona society are thecontroller of everything, they determine whether an individual will bridge toaffluence or they will remain humble in poverty.
For example, Tambu’s successand bridge to school are achieved through the agreement of Babamukuru. In thiscase, she must adhere to his conservative Christian tied values so that she canaccess education in a free and fair manner. Basically, oppression anddifficulties of women in Shona society are powered by the patriarchal systemwhere men are placed at the forefront in controlling all happenings of thesociety. As a result, most women are suffering in silence. For example, due toBabamukuru’s presence and power in the education system, his wife Maiguru hassuccessfully pursued a degree.
However, she has no work as the most as thesociety believes that women should nurture their homes (Dangarembga, p. 103).NervousConditionsNervous conditions are events that Dangarembga’s(1988) novel considers due to the effects of colonization in the characters minds.For example, through Tambu’s life, it is evident that she is desperate ingetting an opportunity to exit her impoverished family. However, at the missionschool, she was tone between the new colonial schooling and her Shona culturewhere women take a subordinate position. In one unique scene, Tambu refuses toattend her parent’s wedding due to the frustration she has received from heruncle Babamukuru. Nevertheless, she does not have the power or authority toexpress her anger as Babamukuru is the bridge to open gates of education.
Similarly,Nyasha suffers from anorexia due to the frustration she has experienced aftergoing back to Shona society. After studying in England, Nyasha and her”Englishness” suffers a big thwarting as only a few people in Shona understandsEnglish. Finally, Tambu’s mother suffers from anxiety and depression as shebelieves that the “Englishness” taught in the colonial schools was the rootcause of what killed Nhamo her son and eventually took away her daughter (Dangarembga,p. 207). Therefore, many of the issues expressed in this novel touch on theissues of nationalism and patriarchal system and the influences they have on femalenessand their position in the society.ConclusionAs a non-fiction book, Nervous Conditions hassuccessfully cut across diverse themes of poverty, education, male-chauvinism,patriarchal system and difficulties faced by women as they try to achieve theirgoals in life.
Through the life of Tambu, the audience is made to understandthe struggles under a patriarchal system that every woman had to undergo to succeed.First and foremost, it is evident that women take a subordinate or secondposition in the Shona society. For example, Tambu is given the opportunity toaccess education only after his brother Nhamo died. Additionally, Babamukuru’swife has no job opportunity despite her degree level of education. Therefore, despite the opportunities given towomen, the presence of male-centered societies halts the pathways to the achievementsand goals that they yearn to achieve. Furthermore, it is important noting thatthe primary intention of Tambu wishing to join school was to offer her anopportunity to exit the impoverished family. Even though there was a conflictbetween her Shona culture and colonial school values, she was ready toundertake any step towards realizing her dreams.
However, her mother MaShingayi is actively afraid that the changes happening in her daughter’s lifecourtesy of the western culture would eventually kill her as they did to herson. In entirety, Dangarembga (1988) introduced diverse struggles and concernsin women life to help the audience view the society from a diverse perspectiveand have a belief that everything is achievable with determination, purposefulness,and perseverance. ReferencesDangarembga, T. (1988).
Nervous conditions. Banbury: AyebiaClarke.