JOYS OF MOTHERHOOD AND EFURU…STRONG VOICES FOR GENDER BALANCING
In a patriarchal society like ours, having male children is much prized. With the modernity and education, such fantasy should be seen to be giving way to a more robust view of life and companionship. This is the proposition of the first two foremost female Nigerian authors, who viewed with alarm the unwarranted pains women go through in self-immolation just to fit a society that accords them little worth
FEMINISM is basically concerned with women and the sad experiences they go through in a gender-biased world. It seeks to address the many injustices perpetuated against women.
Feminism as a literary theory is applied in the analysis of literary texts and seeks to address the misrepresentation of women in literary works.
Feminist writers create women characters that are central to the plot of their works and address the false depiction of women as subservient, servile and docile entities who are incapable of thought and decision and who exist solely for the erotic pleasures of men. In deed, feminist writers and critics draw attention to the marginalization, objectification and commercialization of women.
Helen Chukwuma affirms that in marriage, women attain status worthy of womanhood and come to be respected by the society, but childlessness in that marriage becomes the bane of their happiness. Often women are blamed and despised for 'their not giving children to their husbands'.
Nnuego in Buchi Emecheta's Joys of Motherhood and Efuru in Flora Nwapa's Efuru go through pains because they are unable to bear children. The two writers present a society that places child-bearing above companionship and happiness. With the least love, Amatokwu (Nnuego's first husband) speaks to her when she is unable to conceive, 'I am a busy man. I've no time to waste my precious male seed on a woman who is infertile. If you really want to know, you don't appeal to me any more…' (p38).
In Efuru, after one year of marriage Efuru and her husband Enebiri have no child, so Omirimma advises Enebiri's mother, 'It's a year since your son married; one year is enough for any woman who would have a baby to begin making one. Find out quickly if she's barren; start to look for a black goat because at night a black goat will be difficult to find…' (p139)
Married to Nnaife, Nnuego, to her dismay starts having girls, but is joyful when she starts having boys. She bears children—and males are among them—but she lives in pains, anguish and regrets, and in longing for her sons whose education she has strived for and who, while they are abroad, fail to write to her. Eventually she dies a heart-broken woman.
Clearly Emecheta shows that having children does not necessarily bring joy when she speaks through Nnuego, 'A woman with many children could also face a lonely old age and maybe a miserable death, all alone, just like a barren woman'.
Efuru has a boy for Enebiri who still abandons her, and the child dies. She finds joy in positively touching the lives of people. Without a child and unlike Nnuego, she does not burden herself with self-pity and dejection. Ogea at ten comes to live with Efuru, and her father who has lost his yam to flood benefits from Efuru's benevolence. Efuru attains motherhood through industry and charity.
Nnuego and Efuru share the same sad experience—the pain, the heartbreak, and the misfortunes. They are both industrious women willing to love their husbands; but while Nnuego allows herself to wallow in self-pity, Efuru becomes a mother through helping the world around her in spite of her failed marriages and childlessness.
Thus a woman's happiness is not guaranteed by her having children, even males ones, but by her seeking fulfillment and self-actualization through service and charity that enhance her dignity and make her a woman and mother indeed.