The theme of Representations of the Girl Child in the Joys of Motherhood and Purple Hibiscus

The theme of Representations of the Girl Child in the Joys of Motherhood and Purple Hibiscus
The theme of Representations of the Girl Child in the Joys of Motherhood and Purple Hibiscus

The theme of Representations of the Girl Child in the Joys of Motherhood and Purple Hibiscus



1.1 Background to the Study

Inevitably, throughout the history of women, generally women have had fewer legal right and career opportunities than the men. Womanhood and wife-hood were considered as women most significant profession and they were considered naturally weaker than the men. Their rights were been taken for granted, silence became the virtue of women, but with education, their silence was broken. “Culture is the art, custom, and habit that characterize a particular society or nation. It also state that the beliefs, values, behaviors, materials and objects that constitute a people way of life”. English 21st Century Computerized Dictionary.

Notably, Tthe place of a girl-child in Nigerian society has influenced literary interest. This is why, some scholars and writers like Buchi Emecheta, Chimamanda Adichie, Adimora-Ezeigbo, Segun Mabel, and Ameh Teresa Oyibo, among others, have continued to express interest in themes that border on the representation of the girl-child in the Nigerian literature. In line with the mimetic demands on literature, Nigerian literature often depicts the social limitations that the children are confronted with especially on the basis of gender roles prescribed by society. Being a product of a patriarchal structure, most often, the girl-child is often imbued with varying experience(s) of discrimination.

The theme of Representations of the Girl Child in the Joys of Motherhood and Purple Hibiscus

However, in recent times, there appears to be a gradual shift in the way and manner a girl-child is being treated. As a result of this, some Nigerian literature writers, being a product of the society, reflect the girl-child shifting roles in their literary texts. As a current process, some writers of Nigerian literature have adjusted their literary lenses to focus on alternative reading and presentation of the girl-child. This is brought into limelight through a creative rejection of under-representation and marginalization of the girl-child’s character and capabilities.

Issues that surround the maltreatment of the girl-child in Nigerian literature have become prevalent fields that need to be taken into consideration. These motifs indirectly have an impact on the development of „new‟ Nigerian literature. In line with this discovery, there is an on-going quest by some writers of Nigerian literature to portray the girl-child in a new light. This research taps into this ongoing quest to examine the projection of girl-child in Nigerian literature, by drawing inferences from selected works of Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo and Mabel Segun.

The interest of this research stems from the understanding that children are intelligent, thoughtful, and tactical human beings who often have insight into the world around them. Hunt (2005:1-2) posits that just as children‟s books do not exist in a vacuum (they have real, argumentative readers and visible, practical, consequential uses)…childhood is an important phase in our lives (as is almost universally acknowledged), and that children are vulnerable, susceptible, and must be protected from manipulation.


The words of Hunt buttress the fact that, literature is not left out of the several endeavours that shape the life of a child. It regularly reflects culture, norms and traditions of any particular society it seeks to project to the child-reader. This could be easily carried out through the use of simple languages, illustrations and pictures. These afore-stated tools can easily make a child identify with the girl-child in literary texts. In addition, literature is a genre that is instrumental in challenging the hegemonic views of the girl-child. It embroils projecting the girl-child in divergent ways. This is made visible through what children read and see in the course of reading their literature(s).

Nigerian literature consistently shapes the thinking or view of Nigerian children towards the girl gender. It develops them into a strong and competent member(s) of the Nigerian society. As such, there is the need for an early exposure of a child-reader to new trends in showcasing the potentials of the girl-child. This will aid the child-reader to find suitable role model(s) and change thinking pattern. All aforesaid indicate that, it is important to consider how literature writers have tried to carve out emerging roles for the girl-child. Hence, the place and importance of the girl-child within the context of Nigerian literature is a matter that requires a critical look.

 The Beijing‟s Declaration and Platform for Action (1995:166) attests to the discriminatory and marginalised roles of the girl-child that:

In many countries, available indicators show that the girl child is discriminated against from the earliest stages of life, through her childhood and into adulthood… girls are often treated as inferior and are socialised to put themselves last, thus undermining their self-esteem. Discrimination and neglect in childhood can initiate a lifelong downward spiral of deprivation and exclusion from the social mainstream…(166)

The above quotation buttresses the fact that from time immemorial the girl-child is faced with discrimination and treated as inferior at different stages in life. This is also applicable and traceable to Nigerian society and its children‟s literature. The Nigerian girl-child is being treated as inferior and regarded as a second-class citizen in various phases of life. This ranges from private to the public sphere. These discrimination and image of inferiority tend to undermine her self-esteem and worth, thereby having an adverse effect on her personality. Some of these adverse effects include deprivation and marginalization.

The theme of Representations of the Girl Child in the Joys of Motherhood and Purple Hibiscus

Sometimes, these mannerisms could create an exclusion from social, political, economic, cultural and religious activities of the Nigerian society. These traits are incorporated into Nigeria’s literature. Consequently, these negative attributes and maltreatment of the girl-child might have an adverse effect on the child-reader. Thereby promoting a variety of conflicting or confusing messages and illustrations about the role of a girl-child.


Despite the negative picture of the girl-child in traditional Nigerian literature, earlier writers of Nigerian children’s literature try to maintain the societal balance in the statuesque of the girl-child. This presupposes that the early depiction of the girl-child in Nigerian children’s literature is not categorically bad, but little is said to protect the girl-child in novel ways.

These ideologies are further intensified and made visible through the marginal and stereotypical portrayal of the character and experiences of the girl-child in children‟s literature. This could be part of the reasons why some early forms of children‟s literature discourage female (girl-child) heroism.

Donelson and Nilsen (1980:285) trace the place of the girl-child in children‟s literature from the earliest tradition of storytelling tuough Female heroism has been devalued ever since the emergence of hunting oral narratives…. Whenever men returned from hunting they would narrate their adventures of killing dangerous animals to their wives and children. Consequently, these hunting stories ended up as heroic tales.

Such tales were exclusively about masculine encounters because women‟s roles are to give birth, stay at home with their children, and provide an audience for men‟s stories. Donelson and Nilsen contribute to the perception that girl-children and women’s activities are marginalised and insignificant. Early forms of children‟s literature tend to glorify males/boys while girl-child roles(s) are directly or indirectly captured as docile, passive, unintelligent, and dependent amongst others.

These less heroic nature and roles of the girl-child are imported from oral traditions into written Nigerian children‟s literature. Patriarchy system as a way of life, repeatedly nurtures and develops various roles for the girl-child in the society and the literary space. In the patriarchal system, the girl-child is faced with discrimination, forceful marriage, marginalisation in education, minimal empowerment and employment opportunities. Ezenwa-Ohaeto (2015:60) acknowledges that:

The different ways of socializing the two genders are in accordance with Nigerian culture which prepares them quite in time for the various roles they are expected to play as adults. Part of the result has been that the male child is equipped with skills that enable him to grapple with and be properly equipped for the socio-economic, political and religious matters which will put him on a stronger footing for challenges ahead.

On the contrary, the girl child is knitted with housekeeping skills which prepare her to cope with the rearing of children and taking care of her future husband. She is trained to understand that her “glory” lies in marriage, without which she will become a societal mis-fit… (The woman‟s prestige, glory, and beauty are dependent upon her husband/marriage).

Culture is the custom, ideas, values of a particular civilization, society or social group, especially at a particular time, and the appreciation of art, music, literature, improvement and development through care and training. (P.327) Reuters .T. reports that; “Discrimination is to distinguish, single out, or make a distinction in everyday life, when faced with more than one option.” For the purpose of this research, the definition of women in chambers 21st-century dictionary is used “women generally: the female sex.” (1631) Wikipedia assert that, “discrimination against women is the attitude and beliefs in relation to the female gender that they are less important, such beliefs and attitudes are of social nature and do not normally carry any legal consequences.”

With these definitions, we can therefore define culture and discrimination against women as the cultural practices against the female folks that support men. Discrimination against women has become customs passed from generations to generations. In African, many cultural practices are against women. Women are beaten by husbands and are always blamed for not being able to produce children. Even when it is not confirmed that they are responsible for the marital problems, they suffer for those problems.

A married woman could be replaced at any time by their husband because culture supports that men could marry many women. Female children are not always given the best upbringing; they are trained in the kitchen, instead of school. Male children are brought up well because they are known to be the people who will take their family from generation to generation. Therefore, with the use of Buchi Emecheta’s work, The Joys of Motherhood, many discriminatory acts against girl-child will be analyzed; to signify the cultural practices discriminating against girl-child. Also, through the works of Chimamanda Adichie; Purple Hibiscus, discrimination against the girl-child will be identified. Cultural practices discriminating against girl-child have been on for long and needs to stop.

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