Women seen as inferior to men

Nervous Conditions follows Tambu and her transition to understanding the broader world around her. Gender inequality shows to be a common theme in this novel. The traditional conception that women are less than limits Tambu as an individual. As a girl, she faces significant disadvantages. Although this novel is a bildungsroman as Tambu’s coming of age story, I believe that all the women in the novel grow significantly.
Tambu isn’t given the option to go to school until her brother Nhamo dies. At mission school, Tambu learns about the western world and its cultural differences. She sees how Chido and Nyasha interact with their white friends and becomes more socially aware. She understands that the school she attends is for the privileged in the sense that most can’t afford it. She is able to look back at her life and see how her way of thinking has progressed. Another person who changes their train of thought.
Although Maiguru is educated and well capable of providing for herself, she has to fulfill the wants and needs for her husband and children and take on the traditional domestic role of a woman. Maiguru gains the courage as she watches her children and Tambu grow, to confront Babamukuru. She talks to him about about her role in the household. She wants to be more respected, recognized, and admired. She steps out of her expected role and challenges Babamukuru by leaving the house. Although she returns she is able to relay the message of her worth.
The novel shows the growth of women in the novel but doesn’t really show the same for men. After Nyasha comes home late, Babamukuru resorts to violence to teach her a lesson.
When confronting her he says:
“What’s the matter with you, girl? Why cant you behave like a young woman from a decent home? What will people say when they see Sigauke’s daughter carrying on like that?”
By simply staying out late, Babamukuru believes that Nyasha has disrespected herself but more importantly him and the family. Because of his strict traditional beliefs he does condone her staying out late. More than anything, he is worried about status and what others have to say.
After he hits Nyasha, Tambu realizes that Babamukuru has condemned Nyasha to whoredom making her a victim of her femaleness. She understood that “the victimization she saw was universal.” “It didn’t depend on poverty, on lack of education, or on tradition… Men took it everywhere with them.” She saw that females were traditionally seen as inferior to males and knew she had to continue education in order to escape for these narrow ideals.


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

  1. The way you describe Tambu and her aunt’s development is on point. As these women interact with one another and with the men, setting and receiving examples of not following tradition, they begin to discover their self worth. We feel it alongside them as they gain confidence. Tambu’s mother is the outlier in this however, since she is distant and succumbs to her assumed destiny as wife. Secondly, the power of accusation can negatively transform the accused, just as with Nyasha. Once her father called her a whore, before she truly did any whoring, rocked her off balance and set her on a spiral of questioning and self doubt.

  2. Jennifer Bohlman

    I think it’s interesting to look at the character of Tambu’s mother in relation to gender in Nervous Conditions. If you take women as a representation of tradition, such as Babamaguru only wanting Nyasha to change from tradition other that in education, then Tambu’s mother’s “nervous condition” – her depression – comes into a new light. She becomes depressed once her children leave, particularly after Tambu leaves to become more westernized. This could be a symbol of how Zimbabwe is growing “nervous,” growing depressed because tradition is growing irrelevant and there’s the fear that nobody will be there to continue tradition.

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