Summary and Analysis of Second Class Citizen by Buchi Emecheta

by Kev


The novelist tells the story of a young girl Ada Ofili who was born when the family needed a male child. Ada dreams of going to school like other children, she was not allowed to school because she is not a boy, whenever Adah takes her brother to school, she wish to be like him, one day she sneaked to the Methodist school where her neighbour teaches, the neighbour called police to intervene in Adah’s problem, the mother was arrested for not allowing her go to school, Adah was allowed to start school but few months later the father felt ill and died, Adah’s mother was disinherited by the fathers brother and Adah was sent to live with one of her mother’s brothers. Only to receive a high bride price Adah was allowed to stay in school. Adah steals money to sit for her exam and she passed, she also gained scholarship and attends the Methodist Girls’ school and completes the four years course. Wanting to continue her education at the university, Adah knows that she will not be allowed to live on her own. She marries a student, Francis Obi, who is too poor to pay the bride price, with the hope of being able to attend school and study at her own pace. She gives birth to a daughter and begins working for the American Consulate Library.   


This is the story of a typical Nigerian woman who was born during times, female were of less value. When her father was alive, she and her brother went to a superior school named Ladi-lak institute but after his death, she and her brother went to an inferior school. But all these while, she had nursed a dream to go to the United Kingdom, a dream which she felt would be the pinnacle of her ambition.

At a point, everything, about her education stopped because income was hemming low and it was considered time. Adah started making financial contribution in her family; she was even pushed by her people to many old and bald men which she rejected.  One day she was given two shillings to buy a pound of meat and two shillings was the amount required for the entrance exams into Methodist Girls’ High School. She had decided to hide the money and go home without the meat.

She took the entrance exams and got a full scholarship to study in Methodist Girls’ high School. After that, she got married to Francis and gave birth to Titi, Francis was reading to be an accountant. Adah started working as a Librarian and also gave birth to Vicky. Using her salary, she started saving for how Francis will to the United Kingdom. She had also planned to follow her husband later, but his people refused, Francis later went to UK later she was able to convince her mother-in-law who let her go and that was after Francis passed his Part 1 examination.  England looked gray, smoky and inhabited by humans. She also started living in a slum and to make matters worse, the Nigerians were dominated. So when things were going well for Adah and her family, she was ejected out of the house with a pregnancy. Unfortunately, to get another house was not easy so they ended up in Noble’s house where she gave birth to Buba. After giving birth, during winter, could not go to work, so Francis had to go her behalf, he became a post man in England. Adah later got to know about birth control and she got a diaphragm without her husband’s knowledge and it erupted into a problem. He made pregnant her again. She later gave birth to Dada without Francis’s case before then; the marriage problem had reached a great level that it had to be settled by a court in England. But Adah in determined to be strong for the sake of her children and dream.


This is said with a 3rd person point of view, with an omniscient narrative


Her writing style is so interesting. The way, she creates imagery through the description of the important aspects of scenes to portray the protagonist emotions.


Francis Obi: He is Adah’s husband. He is a replica of a lazy Igbo man who forgot his duties as the head of the family was to provide. He was only good at making his wife pregnant. Anything he fail his exams, he put the balm on the wife and refuses to accept correction. He is also foolish, when he burnt the marriage certificate Adah’s international passport and children’s birth certificate.

Adah: Francis wife, she is known to be ambitious. she uses the rule of being harmless as a love but clever as a serpent in disclosing her ambitions’. This is seen where she hid the two shillings meant for buying steak to pay for her examinations. She is also courageous and determine to make at when she accepts to take care of her children alone.

TRUDY:  Was the lazy woman who supposed to take care of Adah”s children but was so uncaring that Vicky, Adah 1st son developed meningities.


Ibuza in the place Adah and her parent were form. It is a society where values were placed on the male gender.

Lagos was where she was born and brought, where everyone mended his/her business because the law ruled supreme.

Methodist school and Ladi lak are the school she went to for her basic education Methodist Girl’s school in the name of the college Adah went to.

American consulate library at Campbell Street in Lagos was where she worked

England was the place she, her husband and two children traveled to. It is a post colonial settings with social and historical background.



Adah was born when no one expected her. She was unimportant because everyone expected a boy. This is because boy child was of much value than the girl child that is why she was disappointed with herself. When her dad died, it was further shown, when she was asked to stop schooling, so that her brother, boy would continue. The husband she later marries shows that the women are seen as slaves when he said that the woman’s job is to eat, bear children, be forced to sleep with her husband even if she don’t want and after that she is chased out of the bed if not she will start getting ideas.

In the novels, Francis subjugated his wife to work very hard for him and the family. He is very brutal and lazy, so therefore, dominated his wife. When Adah decided to take care of her children alone, it showed her willingness to overcome of his domination over her life.


The blacks that were in England lived in horror-like houses, they were lower than the European. They didn’t live in good houses, didn’t eat good food and didn’t get good jobs. They were discriminated against.

The white were seen to be infallible and superior, they were seen as next to God but this was cut short when Adah realized that the whites lie, using the character of Trudy. The blacks were seen as inferior. During the search for a house by Adah and Francis after they were chased out of their former house, they realized that the blacks were seen as inferior as second class citizen and so they were not able to get a house with the whites as a landlord or landlady.

Even when she goes to buy clothes, she left the best and went for the soiled and discarded items.


Trudy was Adah’s children daily minder but she didn’t take care of them well and as a result, Adah’s child Vicky started suffering from Meningitis. She was very offended with Trudy and wanted to kill her but could not because Trudy is a white woman, unlike in Lagos where other mothers would have supported her.

In England, she couldn’t go to her neighbor and babble out her troubles as she would have done in she had learned not to talk about her unhappiness to others, for it was a society where nobody was interested in your problems i.e. individualism. But in Lagos, an old woman next door hearing an argument going on between a husband and wife will step in and slap the husband telling him off and all that knowing that her words were respected because she was old and experienced i.e. individualism.

In England, the cap or diaphragm is seen as a major birth control means for families interested in family planning. But in Lagos, they see it as a means for a married woman to sleep outside her matrimonial home and avoiding pregnancy. When Adah brought the cap and her husband found out about, he said it is for harlots and singles and it caused problems.


Adah was not wanted by the Nigerians who lived with them in Ash down street this was because of the jealousy and envy created in their mind. This made them not wanted. Every Nigerian child was fostered by the whites and that was why they had two types of mother; the natural mother and the social mother. The neighbours were jealous most especially the landlady who said that she always showed her children off. They were not wanted any longer even by their own people. “She had not actually had an open confrontation with any of the tenants, neither had she had any disagreement with the landlady, because she did everything to avoid such dashes, but there was many factors working against her. In fact, to most of her Nigerian neighbours, she was eating her cake and having it. She was in a white man job, despite the fact that everybody had warned her against it. She would not send her children to be fostered like everybody else; instead they were living with them, just as if she and Francis were first class citizens in their own country”. To cap it all, they were Ibos; the hated people believed in their ideologies but Adah felt maybe, if Blacks could learn to live harmoniously with one another, there will be fewer inferiority feelings among the blacks.

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