A Nervous Solitude

A nervous condition in a broad definition is a tension between two things. Everyone faces a nervous condition at some point during their life, if not multiple times. In Tsitsi Dangarembga’s novel Nervous Conditions, each and every character faces a nervous condition throughout the story. It is not surprising that a recurring motif throughout the book is nervous conditions as Zimbabwe was facing a nervous condition with its own history of colonization; there is much conflict and tension between what the colonizers brought to create an urban life versus what the tribes thought was important about maintaining their rural life. One of the most prominent nervous conditions encountered in the story is Tambu’s conflict between education and leaving behind her family and native culture. Near the end of the story, her conflict really comes to head when Nyasha is in the clinic and Tambu reveals “I was upset. I felt Nyasha needed me but it was true: I had to go back to school” (206). Education is seen as pulling Tambu away from her family and pushing her into a realm of a whole new culture, sort of leaving her family behind; Tambu is not sure if it is worth it to leave her family behind. She does eventually decide to do so in order to create a better life for herself, while living up to the expectations of eventually lifting her family out of poverty.

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In Cheryl Strayed’s memoir Wild, she encounters nervous conditions within herself many times throughout the book and her life. She too, has a nervous condition about education, after her mother’s death. Cheryl and her mother had been attending college at the same time and before her mother passed away from cancer, not able to finish her own degree, she begs her daughter to return to school and finish the degree she started. It seems to me that Cheryl almost feels like she is leaving her mother behind if she continues on with her education while her mother was unable to do so. After her mother’s death, Cheryl really strays away from her family and becomes sort of isolated. Somewhat similar to Tambu, she begins feeling very alone in her journey and realizes that “maybe I was more alone than anyone in the whole wide world. Maybe that was okay.” Both Cheryl and Tambu realize that for their lives to be the best they can be, they might have to be alone in their journey, but it is not wrong to do so.

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