Nervous Conditions - Passage (Dorris) Essay

Comment closely on the following passage, paying particular attention to the presentation of the European people and Tambu’s thoughts about them. The given passage extracted from bildungsroman novel “Nervous Conditions” by Tsitsi Dangarembga must be placed in context to the remainder of the novel in order for a complete analysis to take place. Tambu’s father is refusing to send Tambu to the local Mission School, as he believes he has inadequate finances.

In knowledge of this, Tambu’s determination drives her into cultivating an area of earth of which she proceeds to grow vegetables to sell in the town in order to acquire the necessary funds to attend the Mission School. Tambu in this passage is attempting to sell the maize of which she has grown to passing Europeans. Tambu presents to the reader her negative thoughts surrounding the appearance of the European people and her thoughts towards them as people in the community. The presentation of the European people focuses around the idea of unappealing physical features.

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Due to the fact that Tambu had lived in a small village for the vast majority of her childhood she little exposure to differing races, ideas and traditions. As a result of the limited knowledge Tambu was able to gain she had little choice but to take the Europeans in the town as a representative of the entire white community. Tambu is shown to be of concern as to the physical appearance of the Europeans as she states “I did not like the way they looked, with their skin hanging in papery folds from their bones, malignant-looking brown spots on their hands, a musty, dusty, sweetish odour clinging around the woman like a haze. In conjunction with this description another member of the white community was described as “beefy”. These are evident to be physical appearances of which Tambu had yet not been accustom to or were not shown to be accepted in remote ‘shona’ areas such ash her remote village and perhaps trademarks of the ‘white’ civilization. As a result of Tambu’s isolation and unfamiliarity with the white community she had already internalized the acceptance of gender inequality and the differences in status.

Tambu’s experience with Doris, an elderly white woman, came as a shock to her as she was not used to females taking control of a situation or instructing a male as to what to do. Tambu was brought up in an environment where the male was the sole member in charge of the family and that no female should disobey or disrespect a male in any way, despite the fact that more often than the males were not the main providers.

The passage gives evidence of Doris disregarding her husbands wish to not approach Tambu and Mr Matimba, who was simply minding Tambu, as the passage states “ I’d be shocking myself if I walked by and didn’t say anything, George! ” This was a scenario of which Tambu had never had experienced before, in turn, educating her about the vast differences in culture and the advantages of other cultures in her quest to break away from inequality into a more educated and free civilization. The passage represents Doris as a symbol of hope as well as wealth.

Tambu, hoping to receive an education, was able to use the Europeans to her advantage, as she knew that in order for her to achieve an education she would have to interact with the European community. Tambu knew that the ‘whites’ were able to make a difference in her life through being able to return to school, as she was sure her education was to break her and others free of poverty. Her ambition of receiving an education was proving difficult due to her father’s disrespect and disregard for all females, however Tambu’s determination was to be the deciding factor.

Tambu interacted with the European community to the best of her ability producing such phrases as “Nice maize, good maize. Nice, good” while, due to the odour produced by the Europeans, “making sure not to wrinkle her nose, because these were the people who had the money that she needed to go back to school. ” Tambu’s destiny lay with the European people who had the ability to transform her dream of breaking free into an equal society into a reality of which would benefit those in similar situations.

Despite Tambu’s dissatisfaction with the European’s physical appearances she knew that they were the only people who were able to assist her in receiving an education, escaping poverty and eventually altering her mindset of gender inequality. Tambu, through her experience with the ‘white’ community was able to see how the whites can and should make a difference as well as the fact that it is possible for females to stand up, take control and give directions as equal individuals, rather than objects to be taken for granted.


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