Second Class Citizen by Buchi Emecheta Summary & Analysis for JAMB 2024/2025

Second Class Citizen by Buchi Emecheta Summary


Second Class Citizen by Buchi Emecheta Summary & Analysis, Comprehensive by Chapter Summary, Background, Plot, Major Events, Settings, Theme, Major Characters Summary and Analysis for JAMB UTME, NECO and WAEC Literature Students.

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Buchi Emecheta, also known as Florence Onyebuchi Emecheta, (born July 21, 1944 Lagos, Nigeria-died January 25, 2017, London, England), lgbo writer whose novels deal largely with the difficult and unequal role of women in both immigrant and Africansocieties and explore the tension between tradition and modernity.

She married at age 16, and she emigrated with her husband from Nigeria to London in 1962. She began writing stories based on her life, including the problems she initially encountered in England.

These works were first published in New Statesman magazine and were later collected in the novel In the Ditch (1972).

That work was followed by Second-Class Citizen (1974), and both were later included in the single volume Adah’s Story (1983). Those books introduce Emecheta’s three major themes: the quests for equal treatment, self-confidence, and dignity as a woman.

Somewhat different in style is Emecheta’s novel Gwendolen (1989; also published as The Family), which addresses the issues of immigrant life in Great Britain, as do Kehinde (1994) and The New Tribe (2000).



‘Second Class Citizen’ is a 1974 novel by Nigerian writer Buchi Emecheta, first published in London by Allison and Busby. It was subsequently published in the US by George Braziller in 1975. The novel is a poignant story of a resourceful Nigerian woman who overcomes strict tribal domination of women and countless setbacks to achieve an independent life for herself and her children, the novel is often described as semi-autobiographical, with the journey from Nigeria to London following closely Emecheta’s trajectory as an author.


Adah Ofili the protagonist, is a child of an Ibo from Ibuza, Nigeria, living in Lagos. She was born during the second world war. As a girl, the parents thought she did not need western education while her younger brother Boy is sent to school. Adah forced herselfinto Methodist School where Mr. Cole, their neighbor was a teacher. Her decision got Ma arrested by the police who taught it is absurd for a parent to deliberately refuse to encourage her child to go to school. Adah dreams as a young girl of moving to the United Kingdom. After her father dies, Ma remarries and Adah is sent to live with her
uncle’s family. She is subjected to different challenges, from being treated like a slave by her uncle’s children to doing a lot of rigorous house chores before going to school and when she was out of school, she is being pressured to get married.

Against all odds, She stays in school in Nigeria and attains employment working for the British embassy as a library clerk The compensation from this job is enough to make her a desirable bride to Francis and in-Iaws. Francis being conservative believes in the lgbo culture of denigrating women, he believes he is his wife’s boss and doesn’t believe that man’s primary duty is to cater to his immediate family.

Francis travels to the United Kingdom for several years to the study of law. Adah became the breadwinner, mother, wife, and her children’s minder but never gets love from her husband. Adah convinces her husband’s family that she and the children also belong in the UK.

When she arrives in the UK, the place she had thought they would have a good envrronment to live, read and bring up their children In love and peace turned to a misplaced hope. Francis believes they are second-class citizens in the United Kingdom as they are not citizens of the country. Adah finds employment working for another library and pays for their expenses, while also providing primary care for their children.

As all these were ongoing, Francis degenerated into becoming increasingly abusive to his wife Adah and the children. Francis resents Mr. Okpara, a fellow lgbo in England, who reminds him that a man who didn’t care about his children’s upbringing will soon realize that he will lose his manhood. He is also dismissive of Adah as she pursues becoming a writer. The climax of Francis’s wickedness is when he burns Adah’s manuscripts for her book that she describes as her brainchild. This turns out to be the last straw that broke the camel’s back Adah walked away from her marriage with nothing but her children and the fifth pregnancy.


The novel is physically set in Lagos and London.


A Marriage Without Love

In Emecheta’s ‘Second—Class citizen ‘, the marriage between Francis and Adah is not founded on genuine love. Adah had married Francis at a tendered age because she had no relative who is kind enough to take her in and all she needed is a home where she can study. And when Francis showed up, she sees it as an opportunity, Although the marriage starts on a wrong footing, both of them are underage, that the couple even forgets to bring a ring to the wedding.

Francis is lazy and is interested in what Adah brings to the table. They had countless differences and all of these are a pointer that their marriage is without love.

The Theme of Feminist Temper

The novel, ‘Second class citizen is centered on the feminist quest of the heroine, Adah. Feminism is the quest to secure more freedom or welfare for females in a place where men are essentially in control or decide what happens as in our culture or tradition. In the novel, the narrator asks questions as regards the poor treatment of females, assumptions about them have been taken for granted. The first incident in the novel about the birth of Adah not being recorded because everyone is expecting and had
predicted a boy child. This is an indication that society placed priority on the male child than on the female child. Adah is also discouraged from getting western education while her brother Boy is encouraged to be in school. All and more ill—treatment towards a girl child made Adah conscious of the sexes.

In making decisions on whom to marry, Adah is compelled to choose an elderly suitor but Adah thinks of them Nise and wants a young suitor that she married Francis.

Adah is presented as “the IBO tigress”, she doesn’t take nonsense, especially between her and her husband. Her feminist hot-headedness is well established in the novel, especially when she leaves her. marriage and goes to hire a two-bedroom apartment with her children.

The Concept of a Second-Class citizen

At first in the novel, the concept of second-class citizen mainly applies to females living in Nigeria society. How the females are denigrated and less reckoned with in society. First, we see how Adah’s birth and arrival turned to be a disappointment for his parents and relatives who had predicted a boy, then we see how she had no record because she is a girl child that she was not even sure of her age.

Secondly, Adah is not encouraged to go to school like her brother Boy, she, however, forced herself into school. Adah’s refusal to accept the second-class status got her punished and caned in school. No one cares about her furthering her education after primary school being a second-class citizen but she did eventually.

In England, the concept of second-class citizen goes beyond sex or gender. it dwells on race or where the individual comes from. Francis’s race-conscious; he seems to have inequality as a fact of life. He reminds his wife of her second-class status when she intends to write a book, the manuscript he burnt and later put an end to their relationship.

Racism and Prejudice

Second-Class Citizen presents racism and prejudice as barriers to Adah as she attempts to achieve her dreams. The blatant racism against Black people in London is especially prominent when Adah seeks accommodations for her family in chapter 6; most advertisements include the line “Sorry, no colored’s.” Adah and Francis face discrimination firsthand when they go to view a two-room apartment. The woman with whom Adah spoke on the phone to arrange the viewing of the rooms invited her over, but Adah had also disguised her voice so the woman would not know she was Black When the couple arrives, the woman sticks her head out the window before coming downstairs, but she apparently could not see them well,judging on her shocked reaction when she opens the door:

When the landlady finally speaks, she tells them the rooms havejust been let, and it is obvious that her decision IS based on their race. Even though Adah has been made aware of racism in London before this incident, she hasn’t “faced rejection in this manner.”

Emecheta also depicts prejudice among Nigerian immigrants in London, where Yoruba and Ibo people adopt suspicious and stereotypical views toward one another. The Yoruba people even think Ibos are cannibals. Late in the novel, Adah must hide from a Yoruba landlord that she is Ibo in order to rent rooms for her and the children.


Adah Obi Nee Ofili

Adah Obi nee Ofili is an Ibuza woman born to Ma and Pa, Pa is a railway shoulder while Ma is a seamstress. Adah is not so beautiful as a woman but she is a brilliant woman who at a young age forces herself to school and against all odds even when Pa died and Ma remarried, her determination to get an education was unbeatable. For instance, she stole her cousin’s two shillings to purchase the entrance form. She later got married after much pressure and base on her upbringing of practically not having a home, made her married to an Ibuza man, named Francis in her early twenties. She is a prolific woman
who gave birth to four children in few years of marriage with Francis and she is expecting the Fifth child as she parted ways with her husband. Adah is a hard-working lady who wants the best for herself and her children. Despite being the breadwinner of the Obi Family, while her husband Francis does nothing but depended on her, yet didn’t bestow love and adoration to Adah, rather he frustrates her and even physically abuses her children.

In the end, she left her marriage after Francis burnt her brainchild to ashes.

Francis Obi

Francis is Adah’s husband, whom she marries in Nigeria when she is only a teenager. Though he cannot afford her high bride-price, Adah likes him and desires the security of marriage. Francis traveled to England shortly after their marriage to study accounting.

He is a self-conscious African who enjoys throwing about his maleness, the respected gender in his immediate culture. He seems to enjoy poverty as he never seems to make much progress. He fails all of his exams and blames his failure on Adah.

He is very conservative and does not easily make friends, but Francis coverts Trudy, his children’s minder into his mistress. In some ways, Francis has a very traditional mindset toward gender roles; however, he does not feel that he must provide financially for his wife and children. He burnt his wife’s manuscript which is obvious evidence that he is wicked. He also burns his marriage certificate and his children’s birth certificate.

Francis is lgbo centered in his thinking and actions. He allows the lgbo way of life to direct his relationship with his wife and this generates most of their misunderstanding.

Minor Characters


Babalola is an unmarried man for the Northern Nigerian. He is on scholarship and he has a lot of money. His philosophy of life is to live for today while Allah takes care of the future. He is the character who connected Adah to Trudy, the Childminder.

Babalola’s source of money is cut off and it stops flowing. His friends gradually disappear when they discovered he is getting poorer. He then moves from the highbrow area to Ashdown street in Kentish Town.

Babalola takes Janet, a sixteen—year-old pregnant English girl to his home to entertain him and his friends and after a while, they both fell in love

Mr. Cole

A Sierra Leonian and a teacher at Methodist School. He lives next door to the Ofili’s on Akinwunmi street in Lagos. It was his class Adah attended on her first day of school. Mr. Cole is a handsome and huge person. A real African, black and leathery. He takes Adah home after he had purchased boli for her to eat.


She is introduced to Adah by Mr.Babalola. She helps to mind Adah’s two children in addition to the other two children. She lives a block away from the Obis. Francis takes the children to her in the morning and goes to collect them at six. After few weeks of minding Adah’s children, Adah discovers that Titi stops talking, a child that is known to be a Chatterbox. This makes her visit Trudy unannounced which unraveled a lot about how she renders her commitment to the kids. For instance, Trudy claims Adah’s kids take three pints a day and that her milkman delivered Hve pints every day, whereas the milkman delivers only two pints. Adah takes her up with Miss Stirling. Trudy’s name is removed from the list of approved child—minders as punishment for her carelessness

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