Nervous Conditions

by

Tsitsi Dangarembga

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Jeremiah Character Analysis

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 times that the family hire a medium to drive out evil spirits and he also expresses interest in taking a second wife. When Tambu is a child, Jeremiah is a major villain in her life. He doesn't want to work for the money to send Tambu to school and doesn't want to let Tambu work for it either. Though he supports Nhamo in his schooling, he doesn't believe that educating Tambu will be a good investment for him, given that her career will only benefit him until she marries. He's often angry about Tambu's headstrong nature and her desire to be treated like an equal, though he can never find the energy to punish or beat her for being so forward. When it comes to larger family matters, Jeremiah defers to Babamukuru, whom he idolizes and fears. He agrees with whatever Babamukuru says, which is why Tambu is allowed to go to the mission school and then to Sacred Heart. Because he and Mainini never married in the Christian sense when they first began living together, Babamukuru decides to throw them a big Christian wedding so that God will stop punishing the family. Jeremiah is a difficult and domineering husband both before and after the wedding; Tambu notes that he broke Mainini's spirit early and continues to keep her down by refusing to work and bullying her.

Jeremiah Quotes in Nervous Conditions

The Nervous Conditions quotes below are all either spoken by Jeremiah or refer to Jeremiah. 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 One Quotes

Perhaps I am making it seem as though Nhamo simply decided to be obnoxious and turned out to be good at it, when in reality that was not the case; when in reality he was doing no more than behave, perhaps extremely, in the expected manner. The needs and sensibilities of the women in my family were not considered a priority, or even legitimate.

Related Characters: Tambu (speaker), Mainini, Jeremiah, Nhamo
Page Number: 12
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter Two Quotes

My father thought I should not mind. "Is that anything to worry about? Ha-a-a, it's nothing," he reassured me, with his usual ability to jump whichever way was easiest. "Can you cook books and feed them to your husband? Stay at home with your mother. Learn to cook and clean. Grow vegetables."

Related Characters: Jeremiah (speaker), Tambu, Nhamo
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

"When there are sacrifices to be made, you are the one who has to make them. And these things are not easy […] As if it is ever easy. And these days it is worse, with the poverty of blackness on one side and the weight of womanhood on the other."

Related Characters: Mainini (speaker), Tambu, Jeremiah, Nhamo
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

He thought I was emulating my brother, that the things I read would fill my mind with impractical ideas, making me quite useless for the real tasks of feminine living. It was a difficult time for him because Mr. Matimba had shown him that in terms of cash my education was an investment, but then in terms of cattle so was my conformity.

Related Characters: Tambu (speaker), Jeremiah, Nhamo, Mr. Matimba
Page Number: 34
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:
Get the entire Nervous Conditions LitChart as a printable PDF.
Nervous Conditions PDF

Jeremiah Character Timeline in Nervous Conditions

The timeline below shows where the character Jeremiah 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
Obedience vs. Independence Theme Icon
...that time, Nhamo was already doing well at the local school. Tambu and Nhamo’s father, Jeremiah, quickly saw the sense in this plan. Jeremiah would often tell Nhamo that if he... (full context)
Chapter Two
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
Colonialism Theme Icon
...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 rains, the crop... (full context)
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
Colonialism Theme Icon
Obedience vs. Independence Theme Icon
...Eventually, they decided to go and take Chido and Nyasha with them for five years. Jeremiah worried about having to provide for himself, while Mainini hoped that it would make Jeremiah... (full context)
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
Obedience vs. Independence Theme Icon
...Babamukuru, and that it was his responsibility to educate or care for his sisters. When Jeremiah and Mainini told him there was no money for school fees, he cried. Mainini began... (full context)
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
Jeremiah refused to work and earn the school fees himself, but Tambu had a plan: if... (full context)
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
Obedience vs. Independence Theme Icon
...her corn to Whites in town and offered to take her with him on Tuesday. Jeremiah was incensed and tried to forbid Tambu, but Mainini refused to stand with him: she... (full context)
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
Colonialism Theme Icon
Obedience vs. Independence Theme Icon
...school fees out of it yearly. Nobody at home believed Tambu earned ten pounds, so Jeremiah went to see the headmaster. When Jeremiah learned Tambu was telling the truth, he insisted... (full context)
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
Obedience vs. Independence Theme Icon
...Tambu will be able to earn more than ten pounds per month if she's educated. Jeremiah spat that he'll lose it all when Tambu marries, but Tambu went to school for... (full context)
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
In the lead-up to Babamukuru's return, Jeremiah manages to come up with a significant sum of money through begging to throw a... (full context)
Obedience vs. Independence Theme Icon
Tambu desperately wants to be a part of the travel preparations, and Jeremiah eventually tells her to stop wanting so much, as it's natural for her to stay... (full context)
Chapter Three
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
...Thomas and his wife, Patience. When the cars reach the yard filled with celebrating relatives, Jeremiah jumps out of the car and announces Babamukuru's return, and after getting out of her... (full context)
Obedience vs. Independence Theme Icon
...obedience. He suggests that at least one member of each branch be educated and tells Jeremiah not to be silly when Jeremiah suggests that all the children receive an education. (full context)
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
Obedience vs. Independence Theme Icon
Babamukuru says the real problem is with Jeremiah's branch, as Tete Gladys and Thomas's families are well provided for. He recalls receiving a... (full context)
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
Colonialism Theme Icon
Jeremiah tells Nhamo the plan the next day. Nhamo feels extremely important and tells Tambu about... (full context)
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
Obedience vs. Independence Theme Icon
...who had defied the wizards of her grandmother's stories, while the wizards crushed Nhamo and Jeremiah. She can't imagine Babamukuru bullying anyone the way that Nhamo and Jeremiah bully Tambu and... (full context)
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
...is her sister Lucia's fault, as she's unmarried, almost past her prime, and could give Jeremiah more children. Her mother's plight almost makes Tambu stop ignoring Nhamo, but she's saved when... (full context)
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
Colonialism Theme Icon
...her. One day, Nyasha behaves especially horribly: she refuses sour milk after asking for it. Jeremiah and Mainini are vocal about how horrible she is when Babamukuru isn't around. (full context)
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
Obedience vs. Independence Theme Icon
...the Shona language. He speaks to Mainini in incorrect Shona and in broken English to Jeremiah. However, when something important comes up, Nhamo inexplicably remembers Shona long enough to resolve the... (full context)
Colonialism Theme Icon
...suspecting mumps, the doctor kept Nhamo overnight for observation. Babamukuru interrupts his story to ask Jeremiah if he received the messages he left at the Council offices. Jeremiah didn't get them.... (full context)
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
Colonialism Theme Icon
Babamukuru comforts Jeremiah with Christian platitudes, but Jeremiah insists that they must be overwhelmed with jealous spirits. He... (full context)
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
Obedience vs. Independence Theme Icon
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 to the mission to be educated... (full context)
Chapter Six
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
...That night, Tambu talks at Nyasha in the dark and tells her about her cornfield, Jeremiah and Nhamo, and what Maiguru said. Nyasha insists that she's not a plaything for Babamukuru... (full context)
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
...that Nyasha is better, though she admires Nyasha's resilience: Tambu believes that if she'd hit Jeremiah, she would've killed herself. (full context)
Chapter Seven
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
Obedience vs. Independence Theme Icon
...only Rambanai and Netsai greet their visitors. Netsai explains that Mainini is lying down, while Jeremiah and Takesure are out. Babamukuru is shocked; he apparently asked that Takesure and "that girl,"... (full context)
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
Obedience vs. Independence Theme Icon
...very poor, and it didn't help matters when Mainini got pregnant and went home with Jeremiah. This meant that Mainini's parents couldn't claim a high bride price for her, and Lucia... (full context)
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
Colonialism Theme Icon
Lucia insisted that the baby is Jeremiah's, which Jeremiah says isn't true: he waited to have sex with Lucia until after she... (full context)
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
...insists that Lucia doesn't know how to restrain herself, since she slept with Takesure and Jeremiah. Then, Mainini insists that the women only listened politely to Maiguru because she's educated and... (full context)
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
Obedience vs. Independence Theme Icon
...Lucia tries not to laugh. Babamukuru takes Takesure seriously until Takesure accuses Lucia of bewitching Jeremiah's children. Lucia stomps into the room, calls Takesure a fool, and grabs him by both... (full context)
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
...her practicing witchcraft. Throwing Takesure back on the sofa, Lucia says she didn't leave because Jeremiah is a terrible husband to Mainini. She says he wants everything but doesn't want to... (full context)
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
...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 fixed if... (full context)
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
Obedience vs. Independence Theme Icon
Babamukuru is incredulous and disappointed that Jeremiah would make such a sinful suggestion. Calling the room to attention, Babamukuru says that he... (full context)
Colonialism Theme Icon
...is pleased for Lucia and amused about the wedding. She asks about the ceremonies that Jeremiah proposed, but Tambu can barely describe them since they don't perform them anymore. Tambu tells... (full context)
Chapter Eight
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
Obedience vs. Independence Theme Icon
...that night. She refuses, reminding the men of her plan to take Mainini away, but Jeremiah and Takesure only laugh at her. Tambu feels bad for Lucia, whom she recognizes is... (full context)
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
Colonialism Theme Icon
Obedience vs. Independence Theme Icon
...roof of the kitchen. Lucia helps instead. When Babamukuru arrives to fetch Tambu, he compliments Jeremiah on his good hard work fixing the roof, and Jeremiah accepts the praise. (full context)
Obedience vs. Independence Theme Icon
Later, they tell Tambu that the wedding was wonderful. Jeremiah and Mainini were beautifully dressed, there was a lot of food, and some people even... (full context)
Chapter Nine
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
Colonialism Theme Icon
On New Year's Eve, Babamukuru and Jeremiah discuss Tambu's future. Babamukuru weighs the pros and cons but finally says that Tambu should... (full context)
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
Colonialism Theme Icon
...deteriorates. She barely eats and doesn't wash, and Dambudzo develops diarrhea. Worried about his son, Jeremiah takes the bus to the mission and comes home believing that Mainini is bottle feeding... (full context)