Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga

Essay by AKAaronCollege, UndergraduateA+, April 2004

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Written in 1988 by South African writer Tsitsi Dangarembga, Nervous Conditions is a coming of age story for the narrator, Tambudzai. The oldest daughter of a native Shona family living in the British colony of Rhodesia during the 1960s, Tambudzai has her heart set on getting an education as a means of developing her independence. To achieve her goals Tambudzai, or Tambu, goes through the trials and tribulations associated with the autocratic authority exercised by the men of her culture and the racism and patriarchy exhibited by the colonial power. Much of her growth and confidence is bolstered through her relationship with four women - her mother, her two aunts, and her cousin Nyasha. Each of these women have lived through hardships and their current life experiences teach Tambu much about what will happen if she does not achieve her own goals in life providing her with visual incentives to excel.

A large part of the novel's conflicts and interactions occur due to the tumultuous time period and the setting's uneasy colonial aura.

Although the novel was written in the 1980s it takes place during the 1960s when many of Africa's colonial powers were losing their claimed land due to large, often underground, independence movements. Following the Gold Coast's, now Ghana's, move for freedom from British colonialism in 1957 many other African countries began to move in similar directions. Sometimes peaceful as in Ghana's case, sometimes violent such as Kenyan rebels did, but always aiming for the same goal. With the novel being set in the 60s the air of the story is thick with this uneasy and often racist attitude stemming from the British. Although Rhodesia was eventually successful in gaining its independence it wasn't until 1980 when it was renamed Zimbabwe - beyond the scope of time presented...