Essay: Post-Colonialism in Literature (Presentation Paragraph)

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[. . .] Jean Paul Sartre was quoted as saying, "The status of 'native' is a nervous condition introduced and maintained by the settler among colonized people with their consent" (McMahon 2). The people who did not stand up to the invading countries were in essence allowing themselves to be marginalized and mistreated. Some of Tambu's earliest memories are of the consolidation of empirical power in her home. She says, "While I was still quite young, to enable administration of our area, the Government built its District Council Houses less than a mile away from the places where we washed" (Dangarembga 3). Because of the construction of the empirical government, the native population was forced to find a new way to get to where they washed, a symbol of all the things that they would have to change in order to appease the oppressors.

When Tambu is allowed to go live with her uncle Babamukuru and his daughter Nyasha, the girl is witness to a completely new social structure. Instead of subservience to her father, Nyasha is willful and even acts violently towards her father, a man who should be obeyed in all things according to their traditions and customs. Nyasha is the epitome of someone who has become completely assimilated into the oppressor culture. In describing her, Tambu says, "My cousin Nyasha, pretty bright Nyasha, on the other hand, obviously had. There was no other explanation for the tiny little dress she wore, hardly enough of it to cover her thighs" (Dangarembga 37). Nyasha has bought in completely to the beliefs of the western world which have influenced the Zimbabwean people. From Tambu's description, it is obvious that the native culture did not support the wearing of miniskirts, but they were very popular in the western world of the early 1960s. Nyasha is completely absorbed into the western culture and will not relinquish it, even to the point of her death. At the end of the novel, Nyasha has developed an eating disorder because she has tried so hard to fit into the white culture and to be the version of beauty which is accepted in that community.

At the end of the novel, Tambu passes a difficult examination and is offered a scholarship to a well-known school which will both improve her knowledge and further distance her from the culture in which she was born and raised. Author Ngugi wa Thiong'o stated that from the European perspective, there were two types of Africans: the good and the bad. "The good African was the one who co-operated with the European colonizer; particularly the African who helped the European colonizer in the occupation and subjugation of his own people and country" (wa Thiong'o 92). From this same perspective, a bad African was one who stood up to their oppressors. Anyone who resisted the foreign occupation was considered a bad example of an African and was likely to receive harsher treatment. Tambu feels an inner conflict between a need to agree with the colonizer's demands and attend school, to be successful in the western idea of that word. At the same time she feels the need to be her own person and hold on to her culture which leaves her feeling unhappy and uncertain in the world in which she lives. She says, "The books, the games, the films, the debates -- all these things were things that I wanted. I told myself I was a much more sensible person than Nyasha, because I knew what could or couldn't be done" (Dangarembga 203). She convinces herself that even though she wants the material possessions that are promised by the western world that she can still maintain her Zimbabwean identity. The reader realizes that she is in denial, just as many oppressed people are that they can intentionally blend the cultures without relinquishing any of their inherent culture or tradition.

In the novel Nervous Conditions, a young Zimbabwean girl struggles with the pressures of cultural assimilation in her country. She is pressured by the people in power to reevaluate what is important in life and what it is that she wants out of her life. Once the colonizers have left, the people are still influenced by the western culture that has left them. The mission school which was set up by white Christians still stands and for Tambu, the school represents any hope she has of self-improvement. She becomes convinced that if she does not go to the school, then she will never be able to improve her station and thus never able to be happy, despite the fact that the school only became an option because of the colonial rule. Once she enters the school, Tambu has become forever altered although she vehemently denies this as much as she can. In her cousin Nyasha she sees someone who has been completely absorbed in the western culture. Nyasha smokes, wears miniskirts, and believes wholeheartedly in the western idea of beauty. Everything that Nyasha wants from life is influenced by what she has seen because of western influence. She has no affection for customs or traditions as is indicated in her treatment of her father. Despite her insistence that she is more logical than Nyasha and that she still prefers her native culture, Tambu herself is likewise influenced by the western culture. By the end of the story she is as westernized as her cousin although she has not developed an eating disorder. Everything she wants out of life can be offered to her only through the west and thus she has chosen the colonizers over her native countrymen.

Works Cited:

Dangarembga, Tsitsi. Nervous Conditions: And Related Readings. Evanston, IL: McDougal

Littell, 2009. Print.

McMahon. "Notes on Tsitsi Dangarembga: Nervous Conditions: Post-Colonial Literature II,"

2012. Print.

Thiong'o, Ngugi wa. "The Quest for Revalence." Decolonizing the Mind: The… [END OF PREVIEW]

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