Nervous Conditions

by arielyoung

Nervous Conditions

Nervous Conditions is the story of a young black girl, Tambu, who grows up in poverty in the white dominated Rhodesia. Despite her poverty and the domination of her male relatives, through hard work such as growing her own maize, selling it, and studying hard she is able to get an education and go to school. Once in school she has to fight to keep a balance between her past and her western learning.

The essence of Nervous Conditions is a coming of age story. It maps out the important transition Tambu takes into womanhood and the lessons she learns. How to stay true to herself, but to also understand the world she has come to live in. On many occasions her family and friends ask her not to “forget them.” She wonders how she ever could, but she does slip away into a more and more western style of living and learning

There are also strong themes of feminism. Since Tambu is a girl her father doesn’t want to bother with paying for her school learning, because she is a girl she has to be shaped into a lady, seen and not heard. However, with the death of her brother she also must take on the role of the eldest male. Despite her higher education she is seen as a tool and not a person to her father and her uncle.

At the beginning of the book Tambu claims that she and her aunt escape. This escape refers to male domination. However, she has not escaped “Englishness,” the effect that colonisation has on her. It has a tight hold over her and her culture. In the end her mother blames Englishness for killing her son and ruining children who learn at the schools. There is also an obvious gap in wealth between the black people of Rhodesia and the white. Ten dollars enables Tambu to go to school; and because of the dominating use of English in their schools children forget or dislike talking in their native language. 

Nervous Conditions has many universe themes of feminism and coming to age. However it shows a perspective western audiences usually do not receive. The effect of colonisation on other cultures.


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