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SECTION I AFRICAN PROSE
The eight-year-old Adah, who was born in Lagos during World War 2, only dreams of going to school since she is not allowed to attend school because she is not a boy. One day, when her mother is distracted, Adah goes to the Methodist School where her neighbour teaches, and he allows her to learn with them for the day. She returns home meeting a group of policemen in their compound. Her mother is being punished for child neglect, yet Adah is allowed to continue attending school.
Months later, Adah father goes to the hospital but does not return. His demise makes his nuclear family to separate. His wife, Adah’s mother, is inherited by his brother. His son, Adah’s brother, goes to live with one of his (Adah father’s) cousins whereas Adah is sent to live with one of her mother’s brothers.
Adah is allowed to remain in school only because she could bring a higher bride price if educated. Suitors come; however, she is not interested in any of them. Instead, fascinated with the possibility of winning a scholarship to secondary school, Adah steals the money for the sitting fee, passes the examination, and wins the scholarship. She attends the Methodist Girls’ School and completes the four-year course.
Knowing full well that she will not be allowed to live on her own in the university, Adah marries a student named Francis Obi (who is too poor to pay the bride price) with the hope of being able to attend school and study at her own pace. She births a daughter and begins working for the American Consulate Library. Having had the dream of going to the United Kingdom, she shares it with her husband. They decide to go, but his family, who depends upon her income, approves of his leaving but insists that Adah remain at home and continue to support the family. Her husband’s father does not approve of women going to England. At first, Adah is filled with rage, but she controls her anger and comes up with a plan – “Be as cunning as a serpent but as harmless as a dove,” she quoted to herself. Once again, she uses her cleverness to get what she wants. She sends Francis (her husband) off to England to study while she works and sends him money in the meantime.
Adah is known for her perseverance; she does not give up. When her husband writes to her a few months later that he is going to be in England for at least four or five years, she decides it is time to make her move. She convinces her in-laws that it is necessary for her to be in England with her husband, stating that her husband wants her there, which he did say to her in the letter. She soon books herself and her two children first class tickets on a ship to England. As a foreshadowing of all that is to come for her, Adah arrives England, welcomed by cold, rainy and cloudy skies. She is shocked by the greyness but will not give up on her dreams. Adah has arrived in the United Kingdom where she becomes a second class citizen. She is only a first class citizen in Nigeria.
Some of the main points of struggle for Adah are being a black woman in a predominantly white society, learning of the women’s right movement during the seventies, the fact that there is birth control available to her, and the struggle to pursue her goal in becoming a writer between four children and a lazy abusive husband.
Adah and her children enter the UK through Liverpool, and she is greatly disappointed by her first sight of her dream country: the dark, cloudy, industrial city gives her pause. However, she remembers how important it is to her that her children have an English education. Adah and the children disembark and reunite with Francis, who sees his son for the first time.
Adah notices that Francis has changed significantly. He makes jokes about death, which he attributes to the English people’s odd sense of humour. Adah is skeptical of this, though, because she doesn’t think the people around her look like they have senses of humour. He says that she has become bolder and speaks to him in a way she would not have in Lagos. Adah interprets his remarks as evidence that men have more rights and privileges than women do, even in England. They board the train to London, and on the journey, Adah sees snow for the first time. She is beginning to feel more hopeful about England now that she has seen some of its beautiful landscapes.
Once in London, Francis takes them to their accommodations. Adah cannot believe how close the buildings are to one another, and Francis tells her that in Nigeria, there is more land to spread out. Their home country is not at the point yet where every available space is built up, as in London. Next, he takes her to their apartment, which is very small and sparse; there is only one room, no bath or kitchen, and no private toilet, the communal toilet is four floors downstairs. Adah has not been told ahead of time what the apartment will be like and is shocked to see the bareness of the room.
SECTION II NON-AFRICAN PROSE
Isabella is Edgar’s younger sister. She is known to be a weak and spoilt child. In the novel, she becomes infatuated by Heathcliff, seeing him as a romantic hero who in turn despises her and uses her purely as a tool in his revenge. She is a contrast both physically and spiritually to Catherine.
When we first see her, she is fighting over a puppy with Edgar, and she never really grows beyond this adolescent stage. She seems to suffer from a combination of boredom and envy of Catherine.
Her infatuation with Heathcliff comes across as both risky and silly (messing with Catherine’s man?). When she marries Heathcliff, she pays dearly by being disowned by Edgar and imprisoned at the Heights by her violent husband. Though we never know for sure, she seems interested in Heathcliff partly because he’s a dark and brooding hunk, and partly as a way of competing with Catherine. Then again, there are not many other options for her.
That she utterly fails to recognize the degree to which Heathcliff is using her speaks to her love of melodrama. Like a fool, she yearns to be with Heathcliff and confesses to Catherine that she loves Heathcliff more than Catherine loved Edgar.
Isabella finally wises up and leaves for London, but not before getting pregnant with Linton Heathcliff, who winds up with both of his parents’ worst qualities.
Emily Bronte’s repeated injection of death into Wuthering Heights is striking and plays with several messages relating to relationships, both familial and romantic. Even though death has a negative connotation, Bronte uses it to promote a message.
Almost all the chapters in Wuthering Heights focus on someone dying, someone who has recently died, or someone who is about to die. None of these deaths happen as a result of old age, and they are often foreshadowed long before they happen. Mrs. Earnshaw dies first, followed by Mr. Earnshaw, Frances, the elder Mr. and Mrs. Linton, Catherine, Hindley, Isabella, Edgar, the young Linton, and Heathcliff. Those who survive the story are Nelly, Joseph, Cathy, and Hearton. A kind of depressing irony comes at the end of the novel when Mr. Lockwood and Nelly are discussing the arrangements for the Wuthering Heights estate and he comments that perhaps ghosts (which there should be plenty of now) might come and inhabit it. Nelly does not agree with him on this saying, she believes the dead are at peace, and it is not right to speak of them with levity. Though Nelly has spent the last two-hundred pages gossiping to Lockwood at his request about all the tragedies that happened before he arrived.
There are about eleven deaths. Some are introduced early on, for instance, Frances who arrives at Wuthering Heights during Mr. Earnshaw’s funeral and has a breakdown saying she was so afraid of dying, only to die a year or so later. There is the young Linton’s arrival to the Grange when Cathy and her father are discussing how well he will do if they can keep him, which has a double meaning relating to keeping Linton with them and keeping him alive in general; needless to say he dies. Edgar’s living long in the story is as surprised as anything. But when his wife died and Nelly described him as a man who execrated God and man, and gave himself up to reckless dissipation, we get the gist he (Edgar) wasn’t really going to be “living” for the rest of the novel.
Then there are the deaths of Catherine and Heathcliff, the first of which happens relatively early on and we are aware of for the entirety of the novel and the later which ends the novel. These are the deaths the novel is powered by and then waits for. Catherine and Heathcliff’s unhealthy relationship when they were alive carries over into eternity when she dies and he says, “Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest, as long as I am living!… I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!” In a way, Heathcliff experiences a living death similar to Edgar, where he is still very much alive but all the good parts of him have died and he is being driven by the sorrow of another’s death. All of the trouble they caused when she was alive is foiled by the madness Heathcliff endures and inflicts after her death, and peace only comes when they are reunited in death.
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