Socioeconomic Condition and History of Class Struggle in Buchi Emecheta’s Second Class Citizen

1. Introduction

On this paper, author tries to examine the analysis of socioeconomic and history of class struggle which were revealed by Buchi Emecheta in her novel, Second Class Citizen. Since the story of the novel took place in two countries, Nigeria and England, then the analysis also based on the condition in both countries in 1940-1970s, according to the time when the characters of the story live.

2. Analysis

Second Class Citizen is a novel which showed us the true story of Buchi Emecheta, the author. It is about the struggle of Adah (the main character) and her survival, not only of herself but also her dreams, while growing into a woman, moving from a high class position in her native Nigeria to a very poor class in a predominantly white European society. She struggles with motherhood and with being a wife and supporting her entire family along with being her own independent person. Part of her struggle also deals with the issues of race and being black in the face of English racism. By telling us the real life of 1940-1970s in Nigeria and England, Buchi Emecheta directly shows us the socioeconomic condition in both countries at the time. In Nigeria, the condition was so bad that many children, especially girls, could not get education. Adah was not allowed to continue her study while her brother was asked for it. It was not only about the discrimination where sons always be the priority, but also about the socioeconomic there.

The economic condition of a family determines what a daughter should do; continuing her study, working to support her own life and her family, or getting married with a (rich) man chosen by her parents. In this case, Adah struggle hard to get her rights to continue her education. She tried a lot to change her class from the low one into the middle and she succeed in doing that, even she reached the high class, lived with a good wealth as a 1st class citizen in Nigeria. However, her struggle was not end yet. She was still having a dream to go to a country which she thought that it would be like “heaven”. She desired to live in United Kingdom and started to do another struggle to make her dream comes true. She asked her husband to study in England (she paid for it) and after a year she and her children move there too. Adah has arrived in the United Kingdom and this was where she went from a first class citizen in her native Nigeria to a Second Class Citizen in England. She had a hunch that England was like a “heaven” since she heard much that there are many successful people there. She found that the socioeconomic there was good but she never expected that she would face a very great racism which didn’t let her, as a black woman, to get a good life there. Even she had to have a very big effort to find a place for living. Then, the other big—even bigger than before—class struggles began in UK.


First of all, as a black woman who lived in a predominantly white society, she had to struggle against the racism. At the time, black class people there couldn’t get good facilities such as housing, job, hospital, etc. She could get them if she had much money, but still it would be very hard for her to get good job to gain much money. However, the struggle she did gave a good result in the end and it showed us about how hard for a black person to live well in a white society at the time and how big is the effect of the skin color for one’s life. Another tough struggle which she had to do in UK was facing her lazy and bad husband. She lived in a foreign country and she couldn’t get any support from her husband. Even he made her in trouble even more by behaving as a bad student, worker, husband, and father for their children. Adah stood up to her husband and when he putted her down she used her intelligence to find ways around her husband’s behavior. He was very stubborn and at times mentally abusive and this was Adah’s only defense in fulfilling herself as a person and her dreams. That case is another class struggle which Adah did as a woman who was facing the patriarchalism. The result was that she decided to leave Francis, her husband, and started living and growing her six children by herself. This is another condition which shows us about class struggle which many women should do at the time.

3. Conclusion

The socioeconomic condition and the history of class struggle in the novel Second Class Citizen were revealed directly by the author, Buchi Emecheta, by describing her own real life from her childhood until the end of her marriage. By reading this novel, we can get the information that the condition of socioeconomic in Nigeria in 1940-1960s was not good enough. The struggle which Adah did to improve her quality of life was very hard but resulted in her wealth as a successful woman. However, she had to start it over again when she lived in United Kingdom.  As a “dream” country, UK did have a good socioeconomic, but it could be got mostly by the native people there. Immigrant, especially black people, couldn’t get a good life since the racism still existed there. Then, Adah started to struggle again against the racism and against the gender discrimination which her bad husband emerged.

Some of the main points of struggle for Adah are being a black woman in a predominantly white society, learning of the women’s rights movement during the seventies and the fact that there is birth control available to her, and her struggle to pursue her goal in becoming a writer and ultimately between four children and a lazy abusive husband the time to write.

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