Nervous Conditions


Tsitsi Dangarembga

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Themes and Colors
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
Colonialism Theme Icon
Obedience vs. Independence Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Nervous Conditions, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

The Limits of Education

Nervous Conditions follows Tambu, a young Rhodesian girl, from the age of ten to sixteen. During this time, Tambu chafes as she watches her older brother, Nhamo, receive an education at their uncle Babamukuru's mission school while the equally bright Tambu is, save for a few years of education at the local school, denied the opportunity to learn. This changes when Nhamo dies suddenly of mumps in 1968, and the family makes…

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Men vs. Women

When Tambu is first pulled out of school, something that shakes her to the core, the reasons both of her parents give her for why this is acceptable have to do with the fact that Tambu is female. By paying close attention to Tambu's thoughts and observations as she goes on to fight for her education and specifically, as she observes the lives of other women around her, the novel presents a wide range of…

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Though Tambu sees education as an undeniably good thing, given that she believes she'll be able to use it to lift herself and her family out of poverty, the Rhodesian education system's roots in colonialism and racism present a number of challenges for Tambu and even more for Tambu's cousin Nyasha, who spent five years of her childhood in England. Though Tambu mostly refuses to consider any deeper questions about colonialism, through Nyasha…

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Obedience vs. Independence

Nervous Conditions is, in many ways, a coming of age story for Tambu: over the course of the novel, she transforms from a headstrong child into an obedient and, by many measures, successful teen. Despite the outward appearance of academic success, however, much of Tambu's process of coming of age happens as she grapples with the intersection of obedience and independence, specifically regarding her growing suspicions that her uncle Babamukuru isn't the kind and…

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