Plot Analysis Of Nervous Conditions By Tsitsi Dangarembga

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During class we discussed how in every good plot, irrespective of genre, or subject matter, it should make us ask the question, “What will happen next?”. Chapter one in Nervous Conditions does just that with the opening line, “I was not sorry when my brother died”. The typical plot structure begins with an exposition, involving harmony, but chapter one began with the inciting incident of mentioning Tambu’s brother Nhamo’s death. Nhamo is described as an incredibly conceited character, who thinks he is superior because he attends boarding school. It was his uncle Babamukuru’s idea to send him to boarding school so that they would have a better income. Before Nhamo’s return, it was expected of his sibling Netsai to leave to fetch his bags because he hated carrying them. This chapter shows an evident theme of strong patriarchy, that is shown throughout the entire story.

Chapter two had a clear theme of poverty and patriarchy. Babamukuru accepted a position at a mission school in England and was prepared to move his family, but people were worried that his children would lose their cutlure. Any money made goes directly to the head man of the family, and in Tambu’s family they raised money selling eggs so that they could send Nhamo to school. Tambu’s family did not have the funds to send her to school and she was heartbroken. Tambu’s mother says to her, “When there are sacrifices to be made, we have to make them”, referring to women. Tambus father is tired of her asking about school but Tambu continues to defy him by growing and selling maize and suceeding. Nhamo says to her, “Why bother you are a girl”, and then steals her maize causing Tambu to attack him. The teacher Mr. Matimba breaks it up and takes her to sell to white tourists by telling them she is an orpahn who needs money for school. Tambu’s father tells her to give him the money but Mr. Matimba explains that it is Tambus money.

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The end of chapter two and beginning of chapter three describe the coming home of Babamukuru, his wife Maiguru, their children, Chido and Nyasha, and Nhamo. The entire community welcomes him and talk about how great of an educated man he is while aunt Gladys falls to her knees in awe. Tambu quickly realizes that her cousins do not remember their language and is very frustrated so she helps cook and the men are served the meat first. Tambu craves education and continues to be bullied by Nhamo so she decides to just never talk to him. Lucia, Tambu’s aunt, cursed her so that her father will have to get another child-bearing spouse. Tambu expected Nhamo to pretend he couldn’t speak their home language and to act like he was better than everyone else. When Baba arrives in November, 1968 he does not have Nhamo with him because he died of mumps. His mother is distraught and Baba decides it is Tambu’s turn so she will attend the mission school.

Chapter four has a theme of “rags to riches” because, Tambu gets in the car in raggedy clothes and is introduced to luxury. Tambu is filled with excitement and thinks of Baba’s home as a mansion and even mistook Baba’s garage for his home. This chapter makes it very clear that Tambu has grown up surrounded by poverty and England is a huge change. Tambu is suprised when Nyahsa welcomes her to their home. Tambu imagines a better life for her sisters and mother after she receives an education. Maiguru brings Tambu into the dining room where the maid, Anna, has laid out tons of sweets that Maiguru offers her. She only selects one because she does not want to seem rude like her late brother. Maiguru shows her to her room that she will share with Nyasha and sees her reading a book that her mother disapproves of.

In chapter five Tambu and Nyasha’s relationship grows closer because they discuss their families and the weird tension between them. They have a bit of a hard time talking because Tambu cannot speak English very well and she criticizes her for being so disrespectful towards her mom. Tambu explains that her mother does not want to be respected and keeps on reading the book. Baba gets mad when he realizes that his family started dinner without him and takes Nyasha’s book away. Tambu is unable to eat the new food so Anna makes her some food that her family often eats back home and has her first bath. She is doing realy well at school and is really close with Nyasha. When she gets her period her mom send her rags to wear but Nyasha laughs and introduces her to tampons. Maiguru informs Tambu that she has her Master’s degree and goes on to say that people always assume she just came to England to support her husband, but she works and has to give all of her money to Baba.

Chapter six indicates a theme of racism and sexism. Tambu talks about the white individuals who are in charge of the mission school and refers to them as “holy”, and “deities”. She has trouble praising them the way others do but respects and likes the Baker family who befriended her cousins Nyasha and Chido. The family sends their daughter to the mission school while their son attends the boarding school. Nyasha decided to hang out a little while longer which infuriates her father. He is mad that Chido left Nyasha alone with a boy, tells Nyasha that she is a whore and then starts beating her. Maiguru tries to stop him by telling him to just kill her and then Nyasha punches him in the face which causes him to chase her, beat her some more and then spit on her. Tambu takes care of Nyasha and she lets Tambu know that her sweet, gentleness has saved her. In chapter seven the theme of poverty is what is most focused on. They are all focused on coming back home but Chido decided to vacation with the Baker’s family. Nyasha prefers to stay home but her parents make her come along and bring a bunch of food. Tambu arrives home and remembers just how poor they were because the toilet hasn’t been cleaned, and the walls of the home are falling apart.

Lucia has moved in to help take care of Tambu’s mother who is constantly pregnant and getsaccused of being a witch for being so pretty yet not married while sleeping with Takesure. He was Baba’s cousin and Baba told Lucia that she must leave when he realized that she was pregnant. Baba makes rude comments about Nyasha to mother who is clearly not doing well. Maiguru helps cook all of the meat and saves the ruined meat along with other women who work so hard, harder than the men, that they literally fall into bed. Lucia argues with mother about when someone should speak out because the men are discussing what should be done with her and Takesure. Lucia even says that Jeremiah just uses Baba for his money but Baba lets her stay at the house as long as the parents marry in a proper way.

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