Nervous Conditions

by

Tsitsi Dangarembga

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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 self-important person, education makes him more so: when Jeremiah and Mainini run out of money to send Tambu to school but work extra to send Nhamo, Nhamo makes sure to tell Tambu that girls don't get to go to school very long. This turns Nhamo into a villain in Tambu's eyes. Later, when Tambu grows corn to sell to raise money for her school fees, she discovers that Nhamo is the one responsible for stealing her corn out of the field and thwarting her efforts. After Babamukuru returns from England, he decides to take Nhamo to the mission. This makes Nhamo even more conceited. He "forgets" Shona, though he can remember it if there's something especially important to discuss, and he does whatever he can to get out of visiting the homestead or working when he does visit. While Jeremiah sees this as all part of Nhamo's education, Mainini worries about his development and wishes he'd talk to her. During his years at the mission, when he does come home, he antagonizes all three of his sisters for the fun of it and demands special treatment. All of this means that when Nhamo dies, Tambu isn't particularly upset. She's mostly upset for Nhamo because his educated, Westernized life was, according to him, entirely worth living.

Nhamo Quotes in Nervous Conditions

The Nervous Conditions quotes below are all either spoken by Nhamo or refer to Nhamo. 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

All this poverty began to offend him, or at the very least to embarrass him after he went to the mission, in a way that it had not done before.

Related Characters: Tambu (speaker), Nhamo
Page Number: 7
Explanation and Analysis:

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 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:

I was not sorry that he had died, but I was sorry for him because, according to his standards, his life had been thoroughly worth living.

Related Characters: Tambu (speaker), Nhamo
Page Number: 56
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 Nine Quotes

How could I possibly forget my brother and the mealies, my mother and the latrine and the wedding? These were all evidence of the burdens my mother had succumbed to. Going to the convent was a chance to lighten those burdens by entering a world where the burdens were light.

Related Characters: Tambu (speaker), Nyasha, Mainini, Nhamo
Page Number: 182
Explanation and Analysis:
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Nervous Conditions PDF

Nhamo Character Timeline in Nervous Conditions

The timeline below shows where the character Nhamo appears in Nervous Conditions. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Introduction
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
Colonialism Theme Icon
Obedience vs. Independence Theme Icon
...the expected reader is. Appiah gives a brief overview of the novel's events: Tambu's brother, Nhamo, learns to despise his sisters as a result of his education, and Tambu wonders why... (full context)
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
Colonialism Theme Icon
Appiah says that this all shifts when Nhamo dies and, because there are no other brothers, Tambu finally has access to Western education.... (full context)
Chapter One
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
...callous. Instead, she'd like to tell the reader about the events that led up to Nhamo's death and that allowed her to write this story. She insists that the story isn't... (full context)
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
Nhamo dies when Tambu is thirteen. She and her family expect Nhamo to arrive from the... (full context)
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
Colonialism Theme Icon
Tambu doesn't understand why Nhamo feels this way. The walk home winds through fields where friends work, through fruit trees,... (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 enter a profession and... (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 Nhamo to take the bus. She explains that... (full context)
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
Obedience vs. Independence Theme Icon
...goes to her vegetable garden and Tambu returns to the homestead. She expects to find Nhamo, but he's not there. Her younger sisters, Netsai and Rambanai, are playing a game. Tambu... (full context)
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
Obedience vs. Independence Theme Icon
Tambu knows that Nhamo is just exerting his power when he makes Netsai fetch his luggage. She hates it,... (full context)
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
...wrong. Tambu doesn't want to say that she was thinking of how much she dislikes Nhamo, so she says that it'll be good when he arrives. She gathers the items she... (full context)
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
Obedience vs. Independence Theme Icon
Naïvely, Tambu thinks that when Nhamo gets home, she'll make him catch the chicken, and she'll pluck and cook it. She... (full context)
Chapter Two
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
Colonialism Theme Icon
Stepping back in time, Tambu explains how they got to the point where she hated Nhamo. He begins school at age seven, while many other kids didn't begin for another year... (full context)
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
Obedience vs. Independence Theme Icon
At that time, Nhamo knew lots of things: he knew he was going to study like Babamukuru, and that... (full context)
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
...all her other chores. Mainini began to discourage Tambu to prepare her for failure, and Nhamo didn't help either. He told her that she couldn't go to school because she's a... (full context)
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
Obedience vs. Independence Theme Icon
Late in February, as Tambu's crop ripened, the cobs began to disappear. Nhamo asked her what she expected. Tambu decided to go to church on Sunday, craving the... (full context)
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
...to come up with a significant sum of money through begging to throw a party. Nhamo gets to accompany Jeremiah to the airport and makes a big deal of this honor.... (full context)
Obedience vs. Independence Theme Icon
...be pleased anyway. This makes Jeremiah even angrier, as he feels she's trying to emulate Nhamo and is becoming a useless woman. Eventually, he leaves her alone. (full context)
Chapter Three
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
Obedience vs. Independence Theme Icon
...by Nyasha's inappropriate dress. She can't pinpoint why she also dislikes Chido, but she dislikes Nhamo when he takes the cousins for himself to speak to in English. Neither cousin will... (full context)
Obedience vs. Independence Theme Icon
...in solidarity. Tambu finds it insulting and ignores her. She's even more upset when Chido, Nhamo, and Nyasha wash—she believes they should be eating in the kitchen with the women. (full context)
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
Obedience vs. Independence Theme Icon
...enough money for school fees, but says he was pleased that Jeremiah sent Tambu and Nhamo back to school. He struggles to remember Tambu's name. The family praises Babamukuru's kindness, and... (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 it as... (full context)
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
Obedience vs. Independence Theme Icon
Tambu throws a rock towards Nhamo but misses. She begins to charge him, but he runs away, laughing and taunting her.... (full context)
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
Tambu ignores Nhamo for a while after that. Mainini is very upset about it, especially since she's pregnant... (full context)
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
Colonialism Theme Icon
Nhamo's absence also means that when Babamukuru comes to visit on the weekends with Nyasha, Tambu... (full context)
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
Obedience vs. Independence Theme Icon
When Nhamo returns home after the first year of school, he's different: he no longer remembers the... (full context)
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
Colonialism Theme Icon
This distant and superior Nhamo is the Nhamo they expect home in 1968. When he doesn't arrive, Mainini is upset... (full context)
Colonialism Theme Icon
Once they get Mainini into the kitchen, Babamukuru tells them what happened. Nhamo complained of a pain in his neck a few days ago; suspecting mumps, the doctor... (full context)
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
Colonialism Theme Icon
...the neighbors and let them spread the news. Tambu finds that she's not sad about Nhamo; she's mostly sad for him because his life had been so worth living. (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... (full context)
Chapter Four
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
Colonialism Theme Icon
...thought was possible. She begins to feel depressed. She reasons that she's only here because Nhamo died and because Babamukuru is a kindhearted relative, and decides that she's too provincial to... (full context)
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
Obedience vs. Independence Theme Icon
Overwhelmed, Tambu tries to keep herself from getting distracted like Nhamo did. She tries to ignore the glamour and instead, thinks of Mainini and her sisters.... (full context)
Chapter Five
Obedience vs. Independence Theme Icon
...speaking in Shona, says she was just disappointed that Nyasha and Chido only spoke to Nhamo. Shyly, Nyasha admits that she was frightened, as she'd forgotten what home was like. Tambu... (full context)
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
Colonialism Theme Icon
Obedience vs. Independence Theme Icon
...smugness disappear, and she suddenly feels inadequate. Tambu falls asleep quickly and then dreams of Nhamo. He dribbles a ball through a cornfield and eats cobs. Tambu, watching from a desk... (full context)
Chapter Six
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
Tambu thinks that Babamukuru's behavior is shockingly similar to Nhamo's treatment of her: both she and Nyasha are victimized only because they're female. Tambu thinks... (full context)
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
...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 to control.... (full context)
Chapter Seven
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
Obedience vs. Independence Theme Icon
...her, and Lucia was deemed a witch for not also marrying. Nineteen years later, after Nhamo's death and yet another miscarriage, Mainini asked that Lucia come to the homestead to help.... (full context)
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
...Maiguru leaves, Mainini sneers that Maiguru is proud, unfeeling, doesn't care for Tambu and killed Nhamo. (full context)
Chapter Nine
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
...European schools have better teachers and equipment. Tambu believes that she won't forget the wedding, Nhamo, and the latrine, as those things are evidence of the burden of womanhood that crushes... (full context)
Chapter Ten
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
Colonialism Theme Icon
...succumb to whiteness and prosperity. Her fear turns into guilt and she has nightmares about Nhamo and her cousins. Tambu is finally able to push the thoughts away and return to... (full context)