Richard’s narrative is introduced, perhaps to bring in a neutral white voice (at least initially) into the story. A fascinatingly complex character, Richard is riddled with several physical and emotional insecurities. Presented originally as a humble, likeable character, his infidelity to Susan unreasonably seems justified as the reader has been given no significant reason to connect or deem Susan relevant to the narrative. His lust toward Kainene is eventually rewarded, but his inexplicable sexual deficiencies (opposed to those with Susan) imply that he is overwhelmed by the concept of experiencing “the other”, rather than the woman herself. Disregard for faithfulness and coveting a type of woman instead of the actual person has turned the neutral, white male into the standard lustful chauvinist, objectifying women. His silent yearning for Olanna speaks toward his uncontrollable desire to want more regardless of circumstances and social restrictions. Is this a passive voice speaking of their former colonizers ideology, that is, blatant disregard for embedded boundaries and social norms in a culture in favor of the oppressive, parasitic implementation of their own culture? Or, is it merely an extension of objectifying of sex, and women in general?
Richard is clearly uncomfortable with having a “house boy” (pg 88), but is also threatened by powerful Nigerian men (Chief Obezi on pg. 90 and Madu on pg. 98). It would be too simple to infer that he just prefers equality, but why does he struggle with these polarizing identities between those from the same culture?
Major Udodi’s one brief scene is a powerful one, challenging Kainene’s motives in her love affair with Richard. He claims that “our women who follow white men are a certain type, a poor family and the kind of bodies that white men like…The women will continue to disgraces themselves and struggle for the men so they will get chicken feed money and nonsense tea in a fancy tin. It’s a new slavery.” (pg 101). Further emasculating Richard in his already insecure state, Udodi reveals a tension, reversing stereotypes, and exposing his displeasure with the lingering Englishmen. Richard unable to speak up for himself represents the voice and control the British now lack in Nigeria. This confrontation however, ends up yielding the notion that a jealous Richard for the first time in his life, “felt as if he could belong somewhere”. Why?
Ugwu seems to have a momentary identity crisis upon reaching his mother (pgs 113-114). He is proud and boastful to be entering his former dwelling in a white man’s car, driven by the white man. As Master keeps refusing Ugwu’s father’s offerings with subtle condescension, Ugwu is embarrassed by his father, wishing he would shut up. He then “wished that Master would not touch his mother because her clothes smelled of age and must” but then his tone quickly changes, “and because Master did not know that her back ached…What did Master know about anything anyway, since all he did was shout with his friends and drink brandy at night” ( pg 114). This sudden change of direction in Ugwu’s thoughts reveal the internal struggle he is battling, and his indecisiveness when choosing with whom to identify himself with. Even as a “house boy”, taken out of his original environment, he unknowingly experiences a gradual evolution of his mind and allegiances.
Other Interesting Occurances:
-Constant reminder that the Master is a ‘freedom fighter’
-Kainene’s habitual lighting of a cigarette after Richard’s poor sexual performances
-Richard and Odenigbo’s connection through the Churchill joke
-Debate of Socialism and its effectiveness in Nigeria on page 87
-The battle of Inside versus Outside between Harrison and Jomo
Restating Discussion questions:
Is this a passive voice speaking of their former colonizers ideology, that is, blatant disregard for embedded boundaries and social norms in a culture in favor of the oppressive, parasitic implementation of their own culture? Or, is it merely an extension of the objectifying of sex, and women in general?
Why does Richard struggle with these polarizing identities? Is his feeble attempt at promoting equality fooling anyone, or is it possible he is genuine?
Why, after such an awkward and emasculating confrontation, why does Richard suddenly feel like he may belong?
What purpose does the excerpt from Richard’s writing on page 103? What is its significance toward what the reader knows to be inevitable later in the story?