Efuru

Dialogues
Efuru, the title character in Flora Nwapa's 1966 novel, is a beautiful young woman who unfortunately, always seems to have bad luck with men. Efuru is a strong and successful woman in her West African village. The whole village knows Efuru, "she was a remarkable woman. It was not only that she came from a distinguished family. She was distinguished herself" (Nwapa 1). When Efuru elopes with the unknown Adizua, her family and friends are upset, but Efuru manages to keep the bond she has with her father as well as create a special relationship with her inlaws.

After a few years, Efuru has a child, but at about the same time, her husband begins disappearing for days at a time. When the child takes ill and dies, Adizua cannot be found for the funeral and is said to have married another woman. Efuru, rather than face what she sees as shame, leaves Adizua's home and returns to her father.

Not long after she has returned to her father, a suitor, Eneberi, appears. They marry and have a blissful marriage, until he disappears in the same upsetting way and does not attend the funeral of Efuru's father.

Efuru is left alone, childless, husbandless, and without family. She puts faith into the goddess of the lake, Utuoso, who she feels she was chosen to worship. Yet, she questions this worship when she remembers that Utuoso had no children, and cannot return the people she has lost in her life.

 

About the Author

Flora Nwapa was born in 1931, and raised in Eastern Nigeria. She attended school at Ibadan and Edinburgh, later to return and teach in Nigeria.

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  Dialogues

Marriage in Efuru's Village

Efuru's village is a polygamous village. However, Efuru, as a woman, has more rights than that of other women in such novels as Xala, by Ousmane Sembène, and Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. When Efuru's husbands are unfaithful to her, she also, unlike in other polygamous villages, is able to leave her husbands. Efuru is independent and thinks of herself as well as her husbands.

Importance of Children

Like in novels such as Agatha Moudio's Son, Joys of Motherhood, and Things Fall Apart, children are central to the lives of villagers. When Efuru is unable to bear children, she is devastated. However, she shows that unlike many woman in her community, she can survive with children and still find strength in her businees and her religious faith.

Efuru's Ablities in Business

Efuru, like Nnu Ego in Buuchi Emecheta's Joys of Motherhood, is a business woman. She is able to bring in the highest prices, and pay the lowest. At the same time she remains a respectable woman in her village's society. She aids the sick and poor. Altough she is successful, she still gives back to those who give her so much. She is unlike El Hadji, in Sembene's Xala, who lives by the hands of those he swindles.

Efuru and Her Husbands

Though she loves both men she marries, Efuru does not forget about her own rights. Efuru thinks of her husbands and although she is not able to bear more than one child, she is willing to bring a second wife into her home in order to give her husbands more children, much like Fanny in Agatha Moudio's Son. However, she keeps her dignity and leaves her husbands when they abandon her illustrating her strength to care for herself.

  Notes

Efuru, not able to depend on her husbands, turns her faithfulness to the goddess of the lake, Uhamiri. Efuru begins by dreaming about this "elegant woman, very beautiful, combing her long black hair with a golden comb" (Nwapa 183). This dream signifies the beginning of her worship of Uhamiri. Efuru is chosen to be one of Uhamiri's worshipers, and the goddess "assumes the role in Efuru's life that is equivalent…of the Igbo chi" (Phillips 91) as described in Achebe's Things Fall Apart.

Sadly, the lake goddess in unable to grant Efuru her one desire, children, causing her to wonder, "why then did women worship her" (Nwapa 281)? Rather than give women children, Uhamiri instead grants what she has: "Her beauty, her long hair and her riches…she was happy, she was wealthy. She was beautiful. She gave women beauty and wealth but she had no child" (Nwapa 281). Uhamiri is rather, "a symbol of hope for all women so that her devotees such as Efuru can taste of her kind of freedom and happiness with or without children. Efuru has the ability to be happy without a child because she is so similar to Uhamiri. Her independence becomes desirable and blessed.

Efuru sets not only a feminist example through her independence, but she is also a symbol of survival and independence from a Colonial empire. Efuru is successful, happy, and free from her oppressive and abusive first husband, Adizua, and from her equally disappointing second husband Gilbert. Both men symbolize Colonial power, Adizua by his abuse after having profited by marrying Efuru without having paid a dowry, and Gilbert, by his Christian name and ideals after having attended a Colonial school.

In addition to Efuru's independence, she clearly accepts her culture's "traditional practices such as circumcision and polygamy, traditional beliefs and traditional attitudes towards wifehood and infertility" (Nnaemeka 141). Within this culture she finds strength in her kitchen, and the "symbols of empowerment" and "weapon in the truest sense of the word" (Nnaemeka 142) harbored there.

  Links

** Kabalarian Philosophy

This site offers a description of the name Efuru and its meaning.

**Flora Nwapa

This site provides biographical information on Flora Nwapa as well as a number of links to other pages. It is available in both French and English.

*** Flora Flora Nwapa

This site is part of a larger site concerning Postcolonial Studies. It is published by Emory University and contains biographical information on Flora Nwapa as well as notes on Nwapa, and a list of major publications.

 

  Teaching

Have students examine their own personal beliefs concerning religion. Then have them write an essay comparing their religion to the goddess worship of Uhamiri in the novel.

Have a class discussion on the male/female relationships in the novel. Discuss whether or not Efuru is a feminist novel.

Read Efuru in addition to other African women's literature. Consider using Buchi Emecheta's The Joys of Motherhood,

Many African authors have turned their novels into screenplays. Have students work in groups to create a screenplay for Efuru. Ask them to pay attention not only to the script, but to setting, costumes, customs, and culture that will create the background of their story. Use this exercise to note any Colonial images in the text.

 

  Citations

Nnaemeka, Obioma. "From Orality to Writing: African Women Writers and the (Re)Inscription of Womanhood." Research in African Literatures 25 (Winter 1994): 137-157.

Nwapa, Flora. Efuru. London: Cox & Wyman Ltd., 1966

Philips, Maggi. "Engaging Dreams: Alternative Perspectives on Flora Nwapa, Buchi Emecheta, Ama Ata Aidoo, Bessie Head and Tsitsi Dangarebga's Writing." Research in African Literatures 25 (Winter 1994): 89-103.

Colonial & Postcolonial Literary Dialogues

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