Nervous Conditions By Tsitsi Dangarembga Research Paper
Nervous condition is a story set in the Rhodesia, which is known as Zimbabwe today. Nervous conditions starts with the sad news of the death of Tambu’s brother, Nhamo. Tambu is the lead character of the book (Dangarembga 1). Interestingly, Tambu is not saddened by the news because her brother studied away from home, and he stayed with the family of his rich uncle, Babamukuru. Nhamo likewise did not support her quest to get an education and instead made fun of her. Tambu longed to get an education; however, her parents could not afford to take her to school. Similarly, her father, was against her getting an education, he was of the opinion that women should be confined to the home to cook and clean. Her uncle paid her family a visit one day and offered to take her to school in replacement of her brother (Dangarembga 35).She then enrolls at the missionary school near her uncle’s home, and because this is what she had always wanted, she works very hard in her studies. Her uncle, Babamukuru is the headmaster of the school. Tambu gets so comfortable at her new home to the point that she refuses to go back to her parent’s home when school closes. Tambu successfully gets a scholarship to a high performing missionary school, Sacred Heart, but she experiences a difficult time adjusting to the different culture. She, however, does not let this bother her and instead she directs all her attention and energy on her studies. Tambu becomes close to Nyash when she came to live with them, but they grew apart when she joined Sacred Heart (Dangarembga 190). Nyash is her cousin, the daughter of her uncle (Dangarembga 58).
They’ve done it to me,’ she accused, whispering still. ‘Really, they have.’ And then she became stern. ‘It’s not their fault. They did it to them too. You know they did,’ she whispered. ‘To both of them, but especially to him. They put him through it all. But it’s not his fault, he’s good.’ Her voice took on a Rhodesian accent. ‘He’s a good boy, a good munt. A blood good kaffir,’ she informed in sneering sarcastic tones. Then she was whispering again. ‘Why do they do it, Tambu,’ she hissed bitterly, her face contorting in rage, ‘to me and to you and to him? Do you see what they’ve done? They’ve taken us away. Lucia. Takesure. All of us. They’ve deprived you of you, him of him, ourselves of each other (Dangarembga 204-05).
The above passage is from chapter ten of the book, Nervous Conditions. The speaker is Nyash, Tambu’s cousin. Prior to the conversation, Tambu had just joined a new missionary school, the Sacred Heart (Dangarembga 58).While there she exchanged letters with her cousin Nyash but lost touch after a while (Dangarembga 196).She returns home one day and finds Nyash has become bulimic. Tambu notices that she has grown excessively thin. Tambu was only to stay for a day, but she changes her mind so that she can take care of her cousin. The above passage was uttered by Nyash when she experienced a psychotic breakdown, and it was a monologue. Babamukuru is then forced to take her to a psychiatrist for specialized treatment (Dangarembga 119).
ThemesThe Colonial male as the ‘historical artefact.' In the passage, Nyash says ‘they’ referring to the British, who are the oppressors. She feels that the British have denied her and her family freedom to live a normal life. Nyash had a complicated relationship with her father, Babamukuru because she did not want to eat and also of the way she dressed (Dangarembga 190). At one time, Babamukuru called her a whore because she came home late from a school dance. He said, “How can you go about disgracing me? Me! Like that! No, you cannot do it. I am respected in this mission,” (Dangarembga 100). In the passage, she imagines how the British refer to her father, “He’s a good boy, a good munt. A blood good kaffir,” (Dangarembga 203). She says that her parents have become slaves to the British, but the most affected is her father, Babamukuru, “It’s not their fault (her parents). They (The British) did it to them too (her parents). You know they did,’ she whispered. ‘To both of them, but especially to him. They put him through it all” (Dangarembga 200). The author thought that her uncle, Babamukuru would be different from other men who were controlled by the British, but she was wrong. Tambu says, “My uncle’s identity was elusive. I had thought that it would be like the good old days with Babamukuru throwing us up in the air and giving us sweets,” (Dangarembga 102). From Nyash’s monologue, we see how the British have made the men in Nervous Conditions to mistreat the women in their lives. They have become the British’s puppet, in that the British control Babamukuru and he controls his family.Nervouscondition Nyash attended a missionary school in Britain and, therefore, she was not accustomed to the Shona culture (Dangarembga 120).She was conversant in English only which made it difficult for her to communicate with other people who only spoke Shona. Her lifestyle and mode of dressing are also different making Tambu uncomfortable because they are too revealing. All this factors contribute to her depression and anorexia, which become worse when her cousin Tambu goes off to school because she has nobody to talk to (Dangarembga 190).Gender Nervous conditions depicts that according to Shona culture, men were favored more than women. In the book women were discriminated against because of their gender and sexualism and they were not allowed to give their opinions (Dangarembga 138). The author says, “the needs and sensibilities of the women in my family were not considered a priority, or even legitimate" (Dangarembga 200). Nyash got her education in England which opened her mind and at times she would stand up against her father, Babamukuru, just like she did in the passage. Her father had tried to dictate her life to the point where he was the one who said what she would eat which made Nyash very unhappy (Dangarembga 83).This pressure from her father is what makes Nyash become bulimic which then resulted in her psychiatric breakdown. Babamukuru tried to control Nyash life because she was a female.Forms and stylesMonologue The passage is a monologue of Nyash where she expresses her thoughts in front of her parents and her cousin, Tambu (Dangarembga 203). Nyash was addressing Tambu about how she was disappointed that she and her parents were colonized by the British. She likewise did not like that her father accepted anything given to him by the British.AnorexiaThe author chose anorexia as the disease for Nyash because she was more British than African. Anorexia is not a common disease in Africa, and that was the main reason the author used it.WeightAfrican women are famous for their curves and big bodies; however, Nyash made sure she did not gain any weight by vomiting all the food she eat (Dangarembga 83). She strived to have a small body just like the British women. She went to study in Britain when she was still young and hence the British culture is all she is conversant with. The author tried to show how the British culture (colonizers) was destroying the Zimbabweans (colonized).
Point of view The third person is used to reveal to the reader how unwell, and disturbed Nyash is. The author uses first person point of view in most parts of the book since it entails her experiences.Imagery In the passage, Nyash imagines how the British view her father, Babamukuru. She says, “He’s a good boy, a good munt. A blood good kaffir,” (Dangarembga 203).Diction The author choice of words is casual because she uses words like they’ve, it’s and he’s.The author points out that her accent changes to Rhodesia Accent, “ But it’s not his fault, he’s good.’ Her voice took on a Rhodesian accent. ‘He’s a good boy,..” (Dangarembga 203).Tone The tone of the passage is emotional, “she hissed bitterly, her face contorting in rage” (Dangarembga 203). The passage likewise had an objective and serious tone as they revealed personal feelings of Nyash in a devastating state.SelfhoodNyash is an intelligent girl with the quest to learn more about her culture. She studied in Britain and is well conversant with the British culture. However, when she returns home, she experiences a hard time because she knows nothing about her culture. She battles the two worlds in her, Africa and England. Nyash faces a backlash from her family members and school mates who think that she too British. She then becomes lonely and isolated which lead to her depression and eventually the psychiatric breakdown. The author depicts Nyash as an individual who struggles to find her identity in the society.Thomas More, Utopia (excerpts) “To tell you the truth, though, I still haven't made up my mind whether I shall publish at all. Tastes differ so widely, and some people are so humourless, so uncharitable, and so absurdly wrong-headed, that one would probably do far better to relax and enjoy life than worry oneself to death trying to instruct or entertain a public which will only despise one's efforts, or at least feel no gratitude for them.” Thomas More, Utopia (Goodreads 18). The quote above talks about an individual’s battle to please others and to please himself. More says that one would be more at peace if one did not worry about what others think of him. He says that there are people who try hard to make other people happy but in the end they are not grateful.James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man The lead character battles with the notion that he has a bright future ahead of him, however, he does not know what it is (Joyce 1). This search for identity makes him different from the rest, and hence he isolates himself because he sees himself as someone destined for greatness unlike the rest of the society.
Dangarembga, Tsitsi. Nervous Conditions. New York: Seal Press, 1989. Print.
Joyce, James. A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man. New York: Viking Press, 1964. Print
Utopia Quotes by Thomas More Web. 1 Apr. 2015. Retrieved from http://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/2798280-libellus-vere-aureus-nec-minus-salutaris-quam-festivus-de-optimo-rei-p
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