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Oldest Male as the Future Head of the Family

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Tambu was born a girl and because of this she faces many disadvantages. Traditionally, Africans viewed the oldest male as the future head of the family. Since this is how African families typically functioned, all of the family's resources are spent developing his abilities and preparing him to lead and provide. When Tambu's brother dies, the tragedy is even the greater since no boy exists to take his place. Tambu decides to take on the role of future provider, but she is struggles with the prejudices and limitations that hold back most African girls of her generation. Her fight for education and a quality life is even harder because of her gender.

Gender inequality and sexual discrimination are evident in all of the female characters' lives. In the novel, inequality takes a major toll on the women. Gender discrimination affects their attitudes, kills their ambition, and crushes the women's spirits. The discrimination also discourages them from supporting and encouraging the future generations and other female relatives.

The main action of the novel is Tambu's experiences in a Western-style educational setting. The mission school both provides and represents privileged opportunity and enlightenment. However, the mission school poses threats, as well. The women, especially Nyasha, believe that colonialism may force assimilation. She does not want to lose her native culture. The characters' struggle to confront and integrate the various social and political influences that shape their lives forms the main conflict of Nervous Conditions.

Emancipation is a term that appears again and again in Nervous Conditions. Usually, the term means being released from slavery or with a country finally freeing itself from the colonial power that once controlled it. These concepts figure into the broader scope of the novel, as Rhodesia's citizens struggle to assert their identity as a people while still under British control. When the term emancipation is applied to Tambu and the women in her extended family, it takes on newer and richer associations for the characters. Tambu sees her life as a gradual process of being freed of the limitations and discriminations that have previously held her back. When she first leaves for the mission school, she sees the move as a temporary emancipation. Her growing knowledge and evolving perceptions are a form of freedom from her old ways of thinking. By the end of the novel, emancipation becomes more than simply an end from poverty or restriction. Emancipation is associated with freedom and an assertion of personal liberty.

Dual perspectives and multiple interpretations appear throughout Nervous Conditions. When Babamukuru finds Lucia a job cooking at the mission, Tambu is in awe of her uncle's power and generosity, viewing it as a selfless act of kindness. Nyasha, however, believes there is nothing noble about her father's gesture. She feels that by



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