Maiguru's Nervous Condition

A nervous condition, as defined in class, is a tension between two things. One of the characters who truly exemplifies a nervous condition is Maiguru. We talked in class about how Babamukuru was torn between the more traditional Shona values and the English values he’s been exposed to in his education, but this same tension can also be seen in Maiguru. She is a wife and mother in every sense of the Shona tradition, but she is also an educated woman. This makes her, like the rest of her family, a hybrid. Her education has given her to the ability to see the alternatives to the life she leads, but the traditional aspects of her life keep her from those alternatives. While debating whether Tambu should be allowed to attend Sacred Heart, she shows, perhaps for the first time, the burden she knows and feels as an educated woman. Babamukuru argues that the convent could corrupt Tambu, and Maiguru disagrees, saying:

It wasn’t a question of associating with this race or that race at that time. People were prejudiced against educated women. Prejudiced. That’s why they said we weren’t indecent… I don’t know what people mean by a loose woman—sometimes she is someone who walks the streets, sometimes she is an educated woman… All I know is that if our daughter Tambudzai is not a decent person now, she never will be, no matter where she goes to school. And if she is decent, then this convent should not change her. (184)

Here, readers see some of the turmoil Maiguru has sat with for years. There is a bitter, fed-up tone with regards to the way people label women, whether educated or not. Her words hint at the nervous condition she has been placed with after being educated. She is labeled loose and corrupt despite her following most, if not all, of the traditional expectations of women in her society.

 

malala

I chose this image, because I love the quote, and because a major aspect of this book is women’s education. Maiguru, by the end of the novel, comes to represent what Tambu’s life could someday be. She could go through all of her education to marry and not use any of it. She could become the same sort of hybrid woman with the same nervous condition. Education, though an incredible tool and power for girls, ends up being a double-edged sword for many of them. Maiguru uses the small power she has with her husband to convince him that Tambu will do well at the convent, leading her possibly down a very different road, one potentially without marriage. There, her education can still be gained without putting her on the same path as Maiguru.

 

Acacia Protsman

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