Significance Of The Title Through Argument

The significance of the title, Nervous Conditions, can be seen throughout the novel, including the very first paragraph. One recurring event that displays this significance is the arguments between Nyasha and her father, Babamukuru. Each and every time Nyasha begins to disobey her father, not only do the characters in the story begin to feel nervous but we, the readers, do as well. Tsitsi Dangarembga is able to achieve this through the way Tambu describes Babamukuru through out the book. Because of Tambu’s detailed descriptions of Babamukuru, the reader knows that anyone who does something against his strong values, or what he says in general, will anger Babamukuru. This knowledge allows the reader to know that the second Nyasha acts in a way that is against what Babamukuru values in a decent girl or woman, his anger will take over.

The main argument between Nyasha and Babamukuru, which sets the tone for all of the following arguments, begins on page 114, when Babamukuru asks Nyasha why she came home so late from the dance. As Nyasha talks back to her father more and more, the anxiety begins to build. When she exclaims, “I wasn’t doing anything wrong!” (115), Babamukuru becomes furious and the situation becomes nerve racking for everyone involved. After this exclamation, Tambu describes the conditions:

The atmosphere in that room was growing hostile, the communication tangential. Voices were rising and threatening to break. Scrambling out of bed I knew I had to do something, because you could see that they were out for each other’s blood. I woke up Maiguru, did not have to explain much because we could hear them accusing each other and retaliating, condemning bitterly and stubbornly resisting, all the way down the passage. Maiguru climbed out of bed, and put on her dressing-gown and slippers, muttering all the while about her nerves and how the inmates of her house would be the death of her…(115)

This last passage exhibits the nervous conditions of this argument and situation, bringing in the significance of the title. The first sentence directly reveals the anxiety of the moment, but the language that is used, such as scrambling out of bed and muttering all the while about her nerves, gives even further insight into the mood from Tambu and Maiguru, who are not actually apart of the conflict. Dangarembga even has Tambu include that Maiguru was complaining about her nerves.

Though there are many arguments that follow this one, the language that Tambu uses to describe this particular situation, and the dialogue between Babamukuru and Nyasha, reveal the significance of the title, Nervous Conditions.


Posted on September 11, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I’m glad you brought up the major row between Babamukuru and Nyasha in the first half of the book. The scene was definitely representative of the title “Nervous Conditions” with Nyasha fearlessly rebelling and Babamukuru almost beating her to death in return. In fact, I think that most of us who read the book were a little shaken after that event. But why did Dangaremba choose to write that scene? Why did she decide to portray a tense, clashing relationship between Babamukuru and Nyasha?

    One of the easier, more apparent reasons was probably the concept of the feminine struggle in Africa. Nyasha, a confident girl growing into a young woman, wanted to flaunt her beauty in a short dress and talk to a boy late at night. Babamukuru, a quite heavy-handed man, decided to beat her because this behavior went against his conservative male-centered African activities.

    But I think Dangaremba wrote that scene to portray more than that. I saw in it a hidden metaphor for the fight between the historic Chimurenga, rebels against the white minority leaders. Nyasha, ironically, plays the part of the freedom fighting rebel, except she is the one with Anglicized views and behavior. Babamukuru, a more conservative Rhodesian male, plays the part of the white minority leaders, oppressing Nyasha, refusing to let her have her say (i.e. in what she wears, what she reads). In all, I think that the scene was definitely important as a sort of historical foreshadowing with an ironic twist.

  2. I completely agree with your thoughts on Dangarembga’s writing, I found myself tensed up quite often while I was reading these dramatic scenes! But to feed off your observations, I thought it was interesting that Tambu very seldom made the reader nervous about her own conditions, but mostly those that were occurring to her loved ones. For example, the beating case with Nyasha was described in detail, but when Tambu received 14 lashes herself for not attending her parent’s wedding, the punishment was almost mentioned as an aside.

    The author does a beautiful job of putting us in Tambu’s shoes, and making us nervous for those moments in her life that she was nervous for, but downplaying the moments that may have been just as dramatic. When the nuns from Sacred Heart come to her school for the placement exam, Tambu describes it to her readers, but with much less nail-biting language than we see in the play-by-play of Nyasha’s life.

    In a way, to me, this parallels life itself; when sudden, life changing moments occur, many times we don’t realize how significant they were until afterward. But when they happen to our loved ones, like Tambu with Nyasha, we are more observant.

    I am glad you included a quote from Maiguru in this post, she fits perfectly–as the epitome of nervousness!

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