Essay on Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga

Essay by nhartUniversity, Bachelor'sA-, April 2004

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Write an essay in which you consider what it is that Tambu is so excited to be leaving and, likewise, whether she does in fact succeed in escaping from it. In her desire to create a new identity, can she escape the context of her family and their beliefs?

Tambudzai's search for her identity is the central theme of Nervous Conditions. Her identity and self-worth is challenged on a number of levels, each of which contributes to the overall excitement she feels on her journey to the mission for the first time.

Tambu is fourteen when she goes to live with Babamukuru at the mission and is feeling the changes brought on by puberty, leaving childhood behind. Added to that confusion, she is female in a strongly patriarchal society. She is black in a colonial nation where role is primarily determined by race. She is a Shona speaker in a land where fluency in English is valued.

She is largely illiterate in a society that reveres education. Through Babamukuru's relative affluence, she is aware of the difference between a life of subsistence farming and the promise of living on the mission. Tambu faces a metaphoric journey on all of these planes. The combination influences her beliefs and value system.

The nature of a journey is twofold; it enables one to leave a particular state, but also to arrive at another. Excitement is due to relief in leaving, but also anticipation of arriving somewhere new. Most obviously, Tambu is leaving poverty: the burden of long hours of hard physical labour and poor living conditions. She has seen the difference between her father and her uncle. She and her family perceive the difference to be due to schooling. However, she is also escaping the prospect of being trapped in the subservient...