Nervous Conditions

by

Tsitsi Dangarembga

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Babamukuru Character Analysis

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, Chido and Nyasha. As the eldest brother, Babamukuru is the family patriarch. He uses his power and influence as the headmaster of a mission school to educate Nhamo and then Tambu. Babamukuru is also a staunch Christian; he doesn't drink alcohol and is aghast when Jeremiah mentions hiring a medium. Tambu idolizes Babamukuru and continues to do so throughout the novel, especially when she sees how rich and powerful he is. Though Tambu struggles to recognize it, Babamukuru isn't entirely good. He's upset that his children are so anglicized. Nyasha is especially difficult for him as she's headstrong, opinionated, and doesn't care to observe traditional manners or customs—all things that make her a lesser woman in Babamukuru's eyes. He beats her for her perceived promiscuity and takes books from her that he deems inappropriate. Beating Nyasha shows Tambu that Babamukuru is willing to vilify and punish women simply for being women, but this doesn't diminish her idolization of him. Tambu also struggles to see that Babamukuru is, in Nyasha's words, an "artifact"; he's a "good African" who was nurtured by the mission system and fully believes in their project of colonizing Rhodesia. He's the only member of his family who is highly educated and believes that education is the way to pull the family out of poverty and, in some cases, out of sin. After the extended family suffers a number of tragedies, he decides that the issue is that Jeremiah and Mainini aren't married under God and decides to throw a wedding. Tambu believes that the wedding will make a joke of her parents and is a way for Babamukuru to display his wealth, so she refuses to go. He punishes her for this in a number of ways, including by refusing to let her attend Sacred Heart. After Maiguru stands up to him, he allows Tambu to go.

Babamukuru Quotes in Nervous Conditions

The Nervous Conditions quotes below are all either spoken by Babamukuru or refer to Babamukuru. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Lynne Rienner Publishers edition of Nervous Conditions published in 2004.
Chapter Three Quotes

Whereas before I had believed with childish confidence that burdens were only burdens in so far as you chose to bear them, now I began to see that the disappointing events surrounding Babamukuru's return were serious consequences of the same general laws that had almost brought my education to an abrupt, predictable end.

Related Characters: Tambu (speaker), Babamukuru, Nyasha, Nhamo, Chido
Related Symbols: England
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter Four Quotes

Its phrases told me something I did not want to know, that my Babamukuru was not the person I had thought he was. He was wealthier than I had thought possible. He was educated beyond books. And he had done it alone. He had pushed up from under the weight of the white man with no strong relative to help him. How had he done it? Having done it, what had he become? […] I felt forever separated from my uncle.

Related Characters: Tambu (speaker), Babamukuru
Page Number: 64
Explanation and Analysis:

This lack of brilliance was due, I discovered years later when television came to the mission, to the use of scouring powders which, though they sterilized 99 percent of a household, were harsh and scratched fine surfaces. When I found this out, I realized that Maiguru […] must have known about the dulling effects of these scourers […] By that time I knew something about budgets as well, notably their inelasticity. It dawned on me then that Maiguru's dull sink was not a consequence of slovenliness, as the advertisers would have had us believe, but a necessity.

Related Characters: Tambu (speaker), Babamukuru, Maiguru
Page Number: 68
Explanation and Analysis:

[…] the real situation was this: Babamukuru was God, therefore I had arrived in Heaven. I was in danger of becoming an angel […] and forgetting how ordinary humans existed—from minute to minute and from hand to mouth. The absence of dirt was proof of the other-worldly nature of my new home.

Related Characters: Tambu (speaker), Babamukuru, Maiguru
Page Number: 70
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter Five Quotes

"Maybe that would have been best. For them at least, because now they're stuck with hybrids for children. And they don't like it. They don't like it at all. It offends them. They think we do it on purpose, so it offends them."

Related Characters: Nyasha (speaker), Tambu, Babamukuru, Maiguru, Chido
Related Symbols: England
Page Number: 79
Explanation and Analysis:

"I thought you went to look after Babamukuru," I said. "That's all people ever say."

Maiguru snorted. "And what do you expect? Why should a woman go all that way and put up with all those problems if not to look after her husband?"

Related Characters: Nyasha (speaker), Maiguru (speaker), Babamukuru
Related Symbols: England
Page Number: 102
Explanation and Analysis:

I felt sorry for Maiguru because she could not use the money she earned for her own purposes and had been prevented by marriage from doing the things she wanted to do. But it was not so simple, because she had been married by my Babamukuru, which defined her situation as good.

Related Characters: Nyasha (speaker), Babamukuru, Maiguru
Page Number: 103-104
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter Six Quotes

The victimization, I saw, was universal. It didn't depend on poverty, on lack of education or on tradition […] Men took it everywhere with them. Even heroes like Babamukuru did it.

Related Characters: Tambu (speaker), Babamukuru, Nyasha, Nhamo
Page Number: 118
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter Eight Quotes

Naturally I was angry with him for having devised this plot which made such a joke of my parents, my home and myself. And just as naturally I could not be angry with him since surely it was sinful to be angry with Babamukuru.

Related Characters: Tambu (speaker), Babamukuru, Mainini, Jeremiah
Page Number: 151
Explanation and Analysis:

I simply was not ready to accept that Babamukuru was a historical artifact; or that advantage and disadvantage were predetermined, so that Lucia could not really hope to achieve much as a result of Babamukru's generosity; and that the benefit would only really be a long-term one if people like Babamukuru kept on fulfilling their social obligation; and people like Lucia would pull themselves together.

Related Characters: Tambu (speaker), Babamukuru, Nyasha, Lucia
Page Number: 162
Explanation and Analysis:

My vagueness and my reverence for my uncle, what he was, what he had achieved, what he represented and therefore what he wanted, had stunted the growth of my faculty of criticism, sapped the energy that in childhood I had used to define my own position. It had happened insidiously, the many favorable comparisons with Nyasha doing a lot of the damage.

Related Characters: Tambu (speaker), Babamukuru, Nyasha
Page Number: 167
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter Nine Quotes

"I don't know what people mean by a loose woman—sometimes she is someone who walks the streets, sometimes she is an educated woman, sometimes she is a successful man's daughter or she is simply beautiful. Loose or decent, I don't know."

Related Characters: Maiguru (speaker), Tambu, Babamukuru
Page Number: 184
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter Ten Quotes

"Look what they've done to us," she said softly. "I'm not one of them but I'm not one of you."

Related Characters: Nyasha (speaker), Tambu, Babamukuru, Maiguru
Page Number: 205
Explanation and Analysis:
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Nervous Conditions PDF

Babamukuru Character Timeline in Nervous Conditions

The timeline below shows where the character Babamukuru appears in Nervous Conditions. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter One
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
...it is. He prefers it when their uncle and the headmaster of the mission school, Babamukuru, drives Nhamo home. Nhamo also suggests often that the school hire a special bus for... (full context)
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
Obedience vs. Independence Theme Icon
Tambu explains that it was Babamukuru's idea to enroll Nhamo at the mission in 1965, as it would allow Nhamo to... (full context)
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
Colonialism Theme Icon
Obedience vs. Independence Theme Icon
On this day in 1968, Babamukuru has a meeting and therefore can't drive Nhamo, though Tambu suspects that Babamukuru secretly wants... (full context)
Chapter Two
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
Colonialism Theme Icon
...school at age seven, while many other kids didn't begin for another year or two. Babamukuru, however, forces Jeremiah to send Nhamo early. Tambu starts the next year. Unfortunately, despite fair... (full context)
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
Colonialism Theme Icon
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Tambu asks her family members about the events surrounding Babamukuru's departure for England, as she doesn't remember it. Babamukuru purportedly didn't want to leave the... (full context)
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
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...that time, Nhamo knew lots of things: he knew he was going to study like Babamukuru, and that it was his responsibility to educate or care for his sisters. When Jeremiah... (full context)
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Tambu thought that this was silly, as Maiguru was educated and didn't serve Babamukuru books for dinner. She went to Mainini and spat that Maiguru was a better wife... (full context)
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
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Colonialism Theme Icon
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...walked with her children to the home of the "holy wizards," who took in nine-year-old Babamukuru and educated him. He worked hard and eventually earned a scholarship to South Africa. The... (full context)
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...all when Tambu marries, but Tambu went to school for the next two years, and Babamukuru returned from England during her second year. (full context)
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In the lead-up to Babamukuru's return, Jeremiah manages to come up with a significant sum of money through begging to... (full context)
Chapter Three
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Babamukuru arrives in a cavalcade of cars. Netsai, Tambu, and their cousin Shupikai watch the cars... (full context)
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When Babamukuru steps out of the car, aunts and uncles drown him in hugs and pats. He... (full context)
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...She flounces to the kitchen to think. She wonders if she likes either cousin or Babamukuru, and wonders if they changed or if she did. Deciding that these thoughts are dangerous... (full context)
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...ten gallons of sadza and a small pot of rice on Maiguru's Dover stove for Babamukuru. The women dish up dinner for the patriarchal relatives. (full context)
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...anyway, they don't complain. At the house, everyone is extremely happy even without alcohol, as Babamukuru doesn't drink. Tete Gladys begins dancing in the yard and soon, other family members follow.... (full context)
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Babamukuru stays up most of the night talking about his concerns regarding the family's development—he's come... (full context)
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Babamukuru says the real problem is with Jeremiah's branch, as Tete Gladys and Thomas's families are... (full context)
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
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...shoes and use silverware. Tambu is extremely jealous and finally shouts that during their visit, Babamukuru and Maiguru ate with their hands. Nhamo insists that they eat with silverware and individual... (full context)
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
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...of people felt the same way Nhamo did, at the time, she simply thought that Babamukuru was a god who had defied the wizards of her grandmother's stories, while the wizards... (full context)
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...more children. Her mother's plight almost makes Tambu stop ignoring Nhamo, but she's saved when Babamukuru comes to fetch him. (full context)
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Nhamo's absence also means that when Babamukuru comes to visit on the weekends with Nyasha, Tambu is able to try to be... (full context)
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
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...the matter. This alarms Mainini, who believes he's possessed. Jeremiah insists he's just educated like Babamukuru. Mainini confesses that she wants Nhamo to be educated, but she also wants to talk... (full context)
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...he didn't have to. The family eats dinner, and then they hear a car. It's Babamukuru, looking old and tired. Maiguru is with him, but Nhamo isn't. Mainini starts to shriek... (full context)
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Once they get Mainini into the kitchen, Babamukuru tells them what happened. Nhamo complained of a pain in his neck a few days... (full context)
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Babamukuru comforts Jeremiah with Christian platitudes, but Jeremiah insists that they must be overwhelmed with jealous... (full context)
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They bury Nhamo the next day. After a while, Babamukuru brings up the plight of Jeremiah's branch of the family. He suggests that Tambu come... (full context)
Chapter Four
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Tambu can barely describe her feelings as she gets into Babamukuru's car. She feels as though she has everything laid out before her and needs only... (full context)
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
Colonialism Theme Icon
Despite having heard stories about the grandness of Babamukuru's house, Tambu is still shocked when they turn up the drive. She thinks of her... (full context)
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
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..."house" is a garage for the cars. This is disturbing for Tambu, who fears that Babamukuru is wealthier and more educated than she thought was possible. She begins to feel depressed.... (full context)
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...and then worries about it, but nothing can lift her spirits. Then, as she follows Babamukuru to the house, two huge dogs appear out of nowhere and bark. Tambu yelps as... (full context)
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
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...time that the kitchen is grand, Tambu the narrator explains that the kitchen betrayed that Babamukuru and Maiguru were on a budget. The linoleum was old, the stove had only three... (full context)
Colonialism Theme Icon
...far more dangerous than the reader might imagine; the true issue was that she viewed Babamukuru as a god. Because Babamukuru was a god to her, his house was heaven, and... (full context)
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...choice in sugary treats. Before this, she'd only had cake at Christmas and Easter when Babamukuru brought cake. Maiguru invites Tambu to eat as much as she likes. (full context)
Chapter Five
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Morosely, Nyasha says that she and Chido shouldn't have gone to England, as Babamukuru and Maiguru are now "stuck with hybrids for children" and don't like them. Tambu tells... (full context)
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...puts her book away when Maiguru comes in. Seated, the women say grace, and then Babamukuru arrives, annoyed that they started without him. He grunts in response to their queries about... (full context)
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Maiguru shows Babamukuru Nyasha's copy of Lady Chatterley's Lover. Babamukuru insists that his daughter won't read such an... (full context)
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...mother of taking her book and then immediately apologizes. However, she becomes increasingly distraught until Babamukuru steps in and scolds her. Nyasha talks back and leaves the table, ignoring his angry... (full context)
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...and she insists she wants to stay inside and read. In reality, she's terrified that Babamukuru would die of shock or kill Nyasha if he saw the cigarette. Nyasha waves at... (full context)
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
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Tambu nervously walks into the living room. When Babamukuru asks her to sit, she initially sits respectfully on the floor in the corner. When... (full context)
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Babamukuru talks about how he often spends evenings in his office instead of at home. Tambu... (full context)
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As Tambu returns to the bedroom, she vows to be like Babamukuru: hardworking, straight, and true. Nyasha is already in bed and asks Tambu to turn off... (full context)
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...cigarette. The dream turns to a nightmare when Nhamo accuses Tambu of deserting her husband. Babamukuru and his vicious dogs come to take Tambu back to her husband. (full context)
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
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...Tambu. The only normal thing is that she continues to do well in school, as Babamukuru and Maiguru give her the time and the space to study. (full context)
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
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...says that she and other students find Nyasha superior; adults think she's a genius; and Babamukuru and Maiguru worry about her. Tambu privately agrees with her aunt and uncle and reasons... (full context)
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
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...Nyasha pointedly ignores her parents, as she still struggles to greet people properly and embarrasses Babamukuru. However, Tambu and Nyasha stand with Babamukuru and Maiguru on days that he drives to... (full context)
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One morning, Tambu listens to her headmaster compliment Babamukuru on Nyasha, who he says will bring home a master's degree just like Maiguru. He... (full context)
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
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...when Tambu notes that people only say that she went to England to look after Babamukuru. Tambu, still awed, comments that Maiguru must earn lots of money and is aghast when... (full context)
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...she's married. This is all complicated in Tambu's mind, however, because Maiguru is married to Babamukuru, which means that the marriage can't be bad. Tambu also can't quite figure out who... (full context)
Chapter Six
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
Colonialism Theme Icon
...Nyasha remains firm in her belief that "life" would come with consequences. Fortunately for her, Babamukuru can barely afford to send Chido, so sending her is out of the question. Tambu... (full context)
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
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...screen her out of the school system, though she doesn't have to worry much since Babamukuru is the headmaster. Nyasha maliciously threatens to fail her exams to make Babamukuru look bad,... (full context)
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Tambu is very excited for Christmas, as Babamukuru is allowing her to stay at the mission for a few days and then accompany... (full context)
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...while before slowly walking down the drive. Chido insists that they can't go inside because Babamukuru is still awake, so they peek in the window. They come face to face with... (full context)
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Babamukuru comes in a few minutes later and wants to know why Nyasha was out so... (full context)
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Inside the room, Babamukuru accuses Nyasha of being indecent, but she refuses to cave. She says that whatever Babamukuru... (full context)
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Nyasha backs away, begging Babamukuru to not hit her. Babamukuru hits her again and Nyasha punches back. With this, Babamukuru... (full context)
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Tambu thinks that Babamukuru's behavior is shockingly similar to Nhamo's treatment of her: both she and Nyasha are victimized... (full context)
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Nyasha spends the next week alone and withdrawn, while Babamukuru spends the week out of the house. He lectures Nyasha and gives her fourteen lashes.... (full context)
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...to do. One day, as she and Tambu eat lunch alone, she tells Tambu that Babamukuru was waiting up to let the dogs out on the night of the dance. She... (full context)
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...and tells Tambu that she wishes she'd had sex. The girls giggle. Tambu worries for Babamukuru now that Nyasha is better, though she admires Nyasha's resilience: Tambu believes that if she'd... (full context)
Chapter Seven
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On December 23, Babamukuru, Maiguru, Nyasha, and Tambu go to the homestead for Christmas. Chido gets out of going.... (full context)
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Babamukuru insists that Nyasha has to go and everyone prepares for a fight. Surprisingly, Nyasha agrees... (full context)
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When Babamukuru's car rolls up outside the house, only Rambanai and Netsai greet their visitors. Netsai explains... (full context)
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...miscarriage, Mainini asked that Lucia come to the homestead to help. At the same time, Babamukuru sent Takesure to the homestead. He has two wives already and isn't finished paying off... (full context)
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...her, given that he already broke Mainini's spirit. He attempted to make this case to Babamukuru and cited that if Lucia's baby is a boy, it'd be very good. Babamukuru, however,... (full context)
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Lucia greets Maiguru warmly and then leads her to the house, while Babamukuru unlocks the trunk. He imperiously asks Lucia to help carry things and to be respectful,... (full context)
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Babamukuru and Maiguru enter the room. The adults greet each other, and Mainini makes rude comments... (full context)
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Just after the new year, Babamukuru calls a family meeting to discuss the issue of Takesure and Lucia. It includes only... (full context)
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Maiguru passes through the meeting and Babamukuru gives her permission to continue through to the bedroom. The rest of the women gather... (full context)
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With Takesure's head held at waist height, Lucia addresses Babamukuru. She asks if Takesure is truly a man when he spews this nonsense, and makes... (full context)
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...back to the homestead. Lucia laughs and assures her this will pass. In the house, Babamukuru reprimands Jeremiah for making such a mess. Tete Gladys suggests that this would all be... (full context)
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Babamukuru is incredulous and disappointed that Jeremiah would make such a sinful suggestion. Calling the room... (full context)
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...ends. Tambu carries breakfast into the living room, where Gladys and Maiguru are giggling about Babamukuru's reaction to Lucia inserting herself. Gladys asks whether a wedding or a cleansing is a... (full context)
Chapter Eight
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...thinks of Mainini as a bride, and she also experiences attacks when she thinks of Babamukuru. She's angry with him since she sees the wedding as a plan to make a... (full context)
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After waving goodbye to Babamukuru, Maiguru, and Nyasha, Takesure invites Lucia to sleep with him that night. She refuses, reminding... (full context)
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Life at the mission proceeds as usual. Nyasha and Babamukuru continue to fight constantly. Next to Nyasha, Tambu looks like the perfect woman because she... (full context)
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...few hours after he's born, and soon the entire family arrives to celebrate. That night, Babamukuru drives everyone but Lucia home. Lucia takes the opportunity of being in the house to... (full context)
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The next day, Lucia reminds Babamukuru that she only came to the homestead to help Mainini and then suggests that if... (full context)
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Lucia celebrates and sinks to her knees to thank Babamukuru for his generosity. Mainini joins and then Maiguru does, and Tambu wants to as well.... (full context)
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Eventually, Nyasha and Tambu take their argument to Lucia. Lucia says that Babamukuru wanted to be asked, so she did, and now everyone is happy. She's especially proud... (full context)
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Babamukuru schedules the wedding for the end of September. He extends the house to accommodate guests... (full context)
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Tambu knows she can't just tell Babamukuru her feelings, so she tries to tell herself that the wedding is wonderful and her... (full context)
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The Thursday before the wedding, Babamukuru tells Tambu that he'll take her home so she can help with preparations. She politely... (full context)
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...watching Nyasha talk to her own lifeless form. Tambu watches Maiguru walk in and then Babamukuru, who looks annoyed. Tambu feels that Babamukuru can't reach her where she is and is... (full context)
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Babamukuru rages for a while and threatens to throw Tambu out of his house if she... (full context)
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...there was a lot of food, and some people even managed to sneak in beer. Babamukuru gifted the couple their house and promised to build a second house for himself for... (full context)
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The day after the wedding, Babamukuru calls Tambu to the sitting room. He calmly tells Tambu how disappointed he is. He... (full context)
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...punished for refusing to attend the wedding. She marches into the house, demands to see Babamukuru, and bluntly tells him that Tambu shouldn't be punished, especially when he never asked Tambu... (full context)
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Babamukuru finds this funny and laughs after Lucia leaves. Maiguru, however, explodes. She tells Babamukuru that... (full context)
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...be in awe of her mother. Surprisingly, Maiguru does leave early the next morning, and Babamukuru doesn't try to stop her. Tambu thinks Babamukuru is still hurt, but Nyasha believes he... (full context)
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Babamukuru does his best to pretend that nothing is wrong. On Thursday, Chido calls with news... (full context)
Chapter Nine
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Babamukuru agrees with Nyasha: he cites the fact that he needs to provide for Dambudzo, the... (full context)
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Babamukuru takes Tambu to the homestead for Christmas vacation the next day. He doesn't stay to... (full context)
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On New Year's Eve, Babamukuru and Jeremiah discuss Tambu's future. Babamukuru weighs the pros and cons but finally says that... (full context)
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...the Dover stove. Tambu shares the good news, but Mainini sighs bitterly. She asks if Babamukuru is trying to separate her from her children and send them to slaughter. She also... (full context)
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In the third week of January, Babamukuru refuses to fetch Tambu, so she takes the bus to the mission. Tambu has only... (full context)
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Babamukuru isn't in a good mood. He takes offense to Nyasha's late arrival, accuses her of... (full context)
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...She laments that Tambu is leaving, as now, she won't have anyone to laugh about Babamukuru with. She says that she tries to see things from his point of view, but... (full context)
Chapter Ten
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Tambu feels the same kind of excitement on the day that Babamukuru drives her to Sacred Heart as she did on her first day at the mission.... (full context)
Colonialism Theme Icon
...is a lot for Tambu, so she delicately asks if this is the right place. Babamukuru snaps at Nyasha. (full context)
Colonialism Theme Icon
Tambu, Babamukuru, Maiguru, and Nyasha join the throng of students and parents. Tambu is disappointed to see... (full context)
Obedience vs. Independence Theme Icon
Babamukuru and Maiguru make Tambu's bed while Tambu unpacks. Then, they say goodbye. Babamukuru is brisk,... (full context)
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
Obedience vs. Independence Theme Icon
...and too smart. To cope she's dedicating herself to her studies, which seems to please Babamukuru. Nyasha also writes she's trying not to anger Babamukuru, and he regularly refuses to let... (full context)
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
Obedience vs. Independence Theme Icon
...during the second half of term but it doesn't worry her. Before she knows it, Babamukuru picks Tambu up at the end of term. He refuses to talk at all on... (full context)
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
Obedience vs. Independence Theme Icon
...she drinks two glasses of water and devours her food as fast as she can. Babamukuru and Maiguru look relieved, but Tambu hears Nyasha vomiting later. Afterwards, Nyasha returns to her... (full context)
Obedience vs. Independence Theme Icon
Babamukuru wants to take Tambu to the homestead the next day, but Tambu feels she can't... (full context)
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Obedience vs. Independence Theme Icon
...homework. One evening, Nyasha passes out onto her dinner plate. Believing she's making a scene, Babamukuru sends her to her room. (full context)
Colonialism Theme Icon
...and make them grovel. Tambu touches Nyasha, which sends her into a fit of rage. Babamukuru and Maiguru come running as Nyasha shreds her books, breaks things, and then suddenly calms... (full context)
Colonialism Theme Icon
Babamukuru drives Nyasha into Salisbury the next morning on the advice of Maiguru's brother. Maiguru's brother... (full context)