Nervous Conditions


Tsitsi Dangarembga

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Nervous Conditions Characters


Tambu is the teenage protagonist of the novel. She's born and raised on a homestead in Rhodesia where her family lives in poverty. Because her uncle Babamukuru is wealthy and educated, he insists that Tambu… read analysis of Tambu


Babamukuru is Tambu's uncle. He and his wife, Maiguru, received scholarships to study in South Africa in the 1950s, and in 1960, they went to England to pursue master's degrees with their children… read analysis of Babamukuru


Nyasha is Tambu's cousin, who is about her same age. When the two are little, they are great friends, but their relationship is interrupted when Nyasha goes with Babamukuru and Maiguru to Englandread analysis of Nyasha


Mainini is Tambu's mother. She's been married to Jeremiah for nineteen years, since she was fifteen, and Tambu believes that this is one of the reasons—alongside crushing poverty and Jeremiah's overbearing nature—that Mainini is… read analysis of Mainini


Maiguru is Tambu's aunt and Babamukuru's wife. She studied with Babamukuru in South Africa in the 1950s and accompanied him to England in 1960. Tambu thinks of Maiguru as being caring and concerned… read analysis of Maiguru
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Lucia is Mainini's younger sister. Unlike Mainini, Lucia is unmarried, and, until Tambu goes to the mission, lived with her parents in relative freedom. This means that Lucia is very independent, able to think… read analysis of Lucia


Tambu and Nhamo's father. Jeremiah is lazy, self-indulgent, and likes to drink, all of which makes him a disgrace in the eyes of Babamukuru. Worst of all, Jeremiah isn't Christian; he suggests several… read analysis of Jeremiah


Nhamo is Tambu's older brother. He dies in 1968 of mumps, and his death is the reason Tambu gets to go to the mission school at all. Though Nhamo was always a superior and… read analysis of Nhamo

Mr. Matimba

A teacher at the village school and at Sunday school. He breaks up the fight when Tambu tackles Nhamo for stealing her corn, and, after listening to her tale, he offers to help her sell… read analysis of Mr. Matimba


Maiguru's house girl. Tambu meets her for the first time during events surrounding Nhamo's funeral, and though she generally likes Anna, she also finds her unserious and too talkative. Tambu initially thinks that she'd… read analysis of Anna


A distant cousin of Babamukuru. He has two wives and is struggling to pay their bride prices, so Babamukuru sends him to Jeremiah's homestead to help out and earn money. Tambu believes that… read analysis of Takesure


Tambu's cousin. He's several years older, very handsome, and kind. However, like Nyasha, Chido is also a "hybrid," given that he spent five years as a child in England while Babamukuru studied. This… read analysis of Chido

Tete Gladys

Babamukuru's only sister. She's a very large woman and is very traditional. Though she respects Babamukuru when she's around him, it's implied that she doesn't always take him seriously when she laughs about his… read analysis of Tete Gladys


Tambu's paternal grandmother. She and Tambu were very close; Tambu spent a great deal of time with her, during which Grandmother taught Tambu how to cultivate corn and told her about their family's history… read analysis of Grandmother


A white woman who buys corn from Tambu in Umtali. She's initially disgusted to see Tambu selling corn, as she believes Mr. Matimba is using the girl for child labor. However, Mr. Matimba is able… read analysis of Doris


Netsai is Tambu's younger sister. Tambu notes that Netsai will one day make a sad and yielding wife: she's very kind and likes to do nice things for other people, even Nhamo. She… read analysis of Netsai
Minor Characters
Mainini's baby. He's born when Tambu is about fourteen, not long before Mainini and Jeremiah's wedding. Babamukuru immediately begins saving for his education.
Tambu's baby sister. She's a toddler when Tambu first begins her schooling. Rambanai seems to genuinely adore her sisters.
Patience’s husband and one of Babamukuru's three siblings. Like his siblings, he idolizes Babamukuru and takes everything he says very seriously.
Thomas's wife. She still has personality and spark because she's only been married eight years.
The daughter of a white missionary. She is one of Nyasha and Tambu's friends.
A servant in Babamukuru's house. He steps in to help when Tambu performs Anna's chores for two weeks.
Lucia's baby boy, who is big for his age.
One of Tambu's little cousins.
Tambu's friend at her local village school.