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Lesson Note

Subject: Literature In English
Topic: Summary Analysis of the Novel “Second Class Citizen” by Buchi Emecheta.
Lesson Objectives: This lesson is aimed at helping learners understand the novel “Second Class Citizen”. By the end of the lesson, the learners should be able to:
  1. In few sentences describe the Author Buchi Emecheta;
  2. Identify and write about setting of Second Class Citizen;
  3. Narrate the plot of Second Class Citizen;
  4. Identify and discuss the themes in Second Class Citizen;

Learning Aids: See Reference Resources below lesson content.

Lesson Summary

Note: This is just summary of the novel for instruction purpose and does not cover all contents. As students preparing for exams, we always advise not to depend on this alone but get a copy of the book from bookshops for detailed study.

Lesson Discussion

Second class citizen

By Buchi Emecheta
About the novelist
Buchi Emecheta was born in 1944 in Lagos Nigeria, to Igbo parents. She married at the age of 16. In 1962, she joined her husband in London, where she became librarian (a first class job). she earned a degree at the University of London and began writing about her experiences of black British life. In her number is there is the autobiographical elements. the major themes at the experience of diaspora and the subject and the subaltern status of women, analysed in Nigerian context and in the British contest of London metropolis. Buchi emecheta Buchi Emecheta is one of the prolific and challenging novelist writing in English in the post-colonial era. My experiences during her childhood and teenage years in patriarchal Nigerian society along with the conflicts between males and females in this social structure having quite influential for the autobiographical themes in Emecheta’s novels. Her other works include: “The Joy Of Motherhood”, “In the Ditch”, “The Bride Price”, “The Slave Girl”, etc.

See 2022 WAEC past questions with solutions on Literature in English

Setting of the Novel
We can’t fail to remind you that Setting is the time or place an event occur in Literature.
The setting of the novel “Second-Class Citizen is seen in Ada’s societal ordeal marked by cultural conflict of Conservative Nigerian and colonial values, a society that is structurally categorized and presumed to be influenced by colonization. Ada’s experiences is marked by residue of the colonial structure and what can be termed neocolonialism. Also, class and gender structures are not left out in the setting as they give rise to  colonial era that persist in the post-colonial.

Style And Literary Devices
The style of the novel is integrated with its content why the tone is predominantly melancholic, a tonne of optimism passes through the test in the form of the character of Adah. The first-person narrative allows the reader to experience Adah’s thoughts and emotions as she experiences them. Her character is thus rendered realistic, as the reader is made to empathize with her and underneath with the situation and emotions experienced by her. The novel is internally focalized to show all the pic the emotions and subjective experiences of Adah, and other events, actions and reactions by other characters, all interpreted through her subjectivity. Adah is determined and resilient, looking out for survival, at most of her actions are motivated by her acting drive to fulfill her dream. The readers experiences and emotions are thus contextualized by and undulate with Adah’s experiences and emotions. The novel is a tale of struggle, hope, victory and disillusionment, and is simultaneously melancholic and hopeful, as it takes the reader on the journey of Adah in realizing, been disillusioned by and coming to terms with her dreams, which are shattered by harsh reality.

Plot/ Critical Analysis of the Novel
Plot is a literary term defined as the events that make up a story particularly as they relate to one another in a pattern, in a sequence through cause-and-effect, how the reader views the story or simply by coincidence. A plot ensures that you get your character from point A to Z so to say.
The novel, second class citizen tells the tale of Adah, a girl born in Nigeria during the second World war, depicting the struggle against the patriarchal and colonial hegemonic structure. The title of the novel, “second class citizen” immediately allows for interpretation of class divide within the novel. Adah is born into this contest and her evolution of character can be traced as influenced by the structure. The novel begins with the protagonist Adah mentioning her childhood dream. Her dream is to visit the United kingdom. Adah describe her dream and something that had always resided in her unconscious possibly due to her colonial upbringing, which seemed to lack any defined origin but had always existed in her awareness. This primacy given to the colonial model and is reflective of the imperialist and capitalist ideology embedded in the post-colonial psyche. Adah’s expectations of society are influenced by several factors including the post-colonial setting of Nigeria, the hegemonic discourse of the colonial motherland, UK, agenda in terms of the overarching patriarchal structure, her transition to elite class and subsequent the motion to a second-class citizen in UK, how individualism is a predominantly collectivistic context, high expectation of the future and subsequent disillusionment and have subjective reminiscence of her childhood memories. be born a girl in a society that expect and celebrate maleness and attempts to contain women in specific gender roles, Adah define such expectations by claiming her individual identity in terms of our dream to visit UK, by claiming education and marriage on her own terms to help facilitate the fulfillment of the dream.
The first chapter progresses with Adah briefly describing her childhood, contributing the Ibo tradition and the law where you took the law in your own hands with the introduction of the colonial tradition and law which manifests in the form of arriving of the lawyer. Adah 6 to go to school, and ultimately runs from home. Adah’s obstinate character is reflected in her personal self-assertion throughout the novel. The education system, while containing colonial residue, still largely the price women from learning. Education plays a primary role in granting agency to Adah. “I came to school – my parents will not send me!” Adah declares to the class and Mr. Cole, the teacher. Adah’s determination to fulfill her dream allows her to subvert such structures in order to succeed.
Finally, Adah get married to a man named Francis and lands a job as a librarian in Nigeria, why still holding on to her desire to go to the UK. Francis is the closest character to Adah up until this point in the novel seems to be controlled by his parents. the novel primarily functions in constructing the character of Adah, influenced by patriarchal impositions manifested in Francis.” Do you think our marriage will last if I allow Adah to go and work for the Americans?” Francis the depicts deep-seated insecurities about Adah subverting his authority, yet is controlled by his familial impositions. Finally, Francis moves to the UK, and after a short period, Adah follows him there. Once they move to the UK, Francis is free from such constraints, and dramatically transformed into a male supremacist who attempts to contain Adah into her role as his wife “The that came to meet them was a new Francis”. Adah, upon moving to the UK, besides being shocked by the sudden shift in cultural paradigm, is also shocked and disconcerted by the sudden shift in the character of Francis, which can be attributed to his context. Francis can be said to be the representation of the colonial entity. why he is himself embedded within the same false consciousness of imperialism as Adah is, hey reproduces the colonial structures with himself in the centre in the form of his marriage to Adah, and his domination over Adah can be described as the colonial process. Thus, Emecheta elegantly mirrors the colonization of Nigeria by the British in the colonization of Adah by Francis.
the novel also poses a conflict of class and culture between the overt colonial ideology and culture which is represented as the conscious and the covert ideology and culture of the colon is represented as the unconscious. When Adah moves to UK, she faces cultural shock due to the Stark contrast of London from her home in Nigeria and high expectations of London. While she lived in Nigeria as a librarian, she had managed to attain the status of a first-class citizen within the restive dual-class structure existing there. She earned a fair amount of money and enjoyed luxuries such as servants. Upon moving to the UK, she is instantly demoted to the status of second class. In the UK, it becomes increasingly evident that she is “double-colonized”, first by imperialism, and second by her marriage. Adah is discriminated against by the political superstructure that is tainted by racial prejudices in the UK. Trudy, the child-minder who works for her, represents the colonial lens of white supremacists toward those of Nigerian descent.
Towards the climax of the novel, Adah who has given birth to four children for Francis, who has finally revealed his worst colours by increasingly imposing his dominance over her and also performing implied infidelity with Trudy on her, Adah’s character his shattered is shattered.
the determination and optimism that she had expressed in the beginning of the novel has vanished. She is now a “post-colonial entity” add her spirit is shattered in the wake of the colonial oppression she has faced. France is Lord by the exorcism of whiteness, has abandoned her and adapted to the lifestyle in the UK. This assignment by the colonial hegemony is described by his desire for the white woman Trudy. In a final act to reclaim her agency, Adah decides to claim divorce from her husband. She suffers various obstacles, but finally abandons him leaving with her for children. This final act of self-assertion comes after years of denied agency, which is now resorted to her. To the end of the novel is open-ended, leaving it ambiguous as to Adah’s future. This is the point in the narrative where the novel truly embodies the spirit of the “post-colonial”. Adah has finally dismantled the colonial and patriarchal structures. After facing opression by them, her indomitable spirit has allowed her to transcend them and enter a truly post-colonial phase of life.

See 2022 WAEC past questions with solutions on Literature in English

1. Theme of Class and Gender
The title of the novel in itself portrays a class divide within the story. Set in post-colonial Nigeria and reflected in Adah’s experiences, the novel depict a society crippled by cultural conflict of Conservative Nigeria values and colonial values. The society is also divided by a class structure, indeed the class and gender structure are reproduced in the setting, resulting in a mimicking of the colonial era that persist in the post-colonial period. As a child, Adah’s gender deprived her of basic education that favours her brother, Boy, while as a mother of two who joins the husband in the United kingdom, she is meant to understand that all blacks are “second-class citizens” by the same man who should have made the difference. While in Nigeria and working as a librarian, Adah had managed to attain the status of a first-class citizen will do the rest of the class structure existing there. any a fair amount of money and enjoying luxury such as servant but her move to UK demoted her to the status of second-class as it becomes evident that she is “double colonized”, first by imperialism and second by her marriage. Adah is discriminated against by the political superstructure that is painted by racial prejudice is in the UK. For instance, Trudy, the childminder who works for Adah, represent the colonial lanes of white supremacist towards those of Nigerian descent. Francis on his part, reveals his worst colours by increasingly imposing his dominance over her and also performing implied infidelity with Trudy on her.
2. Theme of women and motherhood
Adah is significant of the travails and joys of motherhood associated with the female folk in a typical African society. She is used by Buchi Emecheta to advocate a change of attitude towards females and believes that this change should be initiated by women themselves. Adah is portrayed as a woman who questions the dependent act of men and struggles to free herself so as to have a will of her own. In spite of all she passes through in the course of the story, Adah never failed to put her children first. This means they can be all she has to live for. Adah’s disagreements with Francis and the other blacks among their cotenants starts from her refusal to send her children to foster parents, while her case with Trudy, regarding her treatment of Titi and Vicky, is remarkable. Whatever it may cost, Adah like most Nigerian mothers, was willing to give all for her children as one of the Joys she had on her way to UK and on arrival was that her children will have English education and possibly their university studies in England.

3. Theme of hard work dedication and ambition
The protagonist, Adah is portrayed as an intelligent hard-working and ambitious young girl who has to fight against considerable odds to gain education for herself which is symbolically a wish to have control in her hands because knowledge is a symbol of power. Through dint of hard work and proper self motivation, Adah is able to win a scholarship in the highly competitive secondary school examinations. As a result of a first-rate performances at the school leaving examinations, the harrowing is able to procure a job as a librarian at the American consulate in Lagos – a job which easily brings her The comforts of middle-class life. With imagination to conceive her plan, spirit, dedication, hard work, determination, heroism and resource and the good sense to carry it out, she triumphed over her plights.
4. Theme of false conception
Significantly, second-class citizen starts with a reference to Adah’s dreams of going to England. Using rhetoric that clearly emphasizes her innocence, she mentions how, with the help of her father, she goes through adolescence with an exaggerated and false conception of Britain. Like her father, she grows up believing that the United kingdom is synonymous with heaven. She makes a secret vow, quite early to herself that she would go to this United kingdom one day, and she wrongly assumes that her arrival in the United kingdom “would be the Pinnacle of her ambition”. When she arrived in England, she finds cold weather and people. Moreover, she is forced to live in an horrible house with unhuman condition. From being first class in Nigeria, she is reduced in England to a general second-class. Clearly, the reality is quite disappointing in comparison to the dream in her mind. although she has spent all her life dreaming about Britain, she is quite surprised that nobody cares about her arrival and what is more, that’s civilized world does not look like what was taught her in Nigeria.


In literature, a character is a person in a narrative work of art such as novel, play, television, series or film. Characters guides readers through their stories, helping them to understand plots and ponder themes. Below are characters and their roles in Emecheta’s Second-Class Citizen

Formerly Ofili and later Obi. She is presented to the readers as the leading character in the novel. In all ramifications, the plot of the story line of the novel revolves or centres around her life and her hatred at gender discrimination often found in the culture of our people. She is smart intelligent and determined to study despite the fact that there is not much missed or will to have her educated especially after the death of her father. How relatable illiberal father dies not too long after her registration at school. She then moves into a relative’s home where she is kept as a ward-cum-slave. after a life of abject misery and exploitation and also by dint of hard work and proper self motivation, Adah is able to win a scholarship in the highly competitive secondary school examinations. As a result of a first-rate performance at the school leaving examinations,the harrowing is able to procure a job as a librarian at the American consulate in Lagos – a job which easily brings her the comfort of middle-class life.
During my experience as a librarian in Lagos, she agrees to marry Francis, because she thinks he will provide protection, support and above all love. All these become contrary to her expectations. Instead, she becomes the breadwinner of the young and growing family with a job as a librarian. The novel can be called “the survivor struggle of Adah” – both of herself and her dreams. the totality of a person can be summed up in “never-say-die attitude” or never say never as she does not give up in the face of any struggle from her childhood in Lagos to the event in England. she cooks with being a black woman in a predominantly white society learning of the women’s rights during the seventys and the fact that there is birth control available to her and has struggled to pursue her goal in becoming a writer. One wonders through her character, how one woman can put up with so much and yet be so strong not only for ourselves but also for our children. She never gives up on them or on her drinks not even when her first piece of work is burnt by her husband Francis. With imagination to conceive her plan, spirit determination great perseverance and resource, heroism tact and good sense to carry it out to triumph over her plight.
It is pertinent to note that in second class citizen, she has an individual fight with Patriarchal imperialism of her community. Adah’s wish to educate herself a symbolically in which to have control in her hands because knowledge is a symbol of power and power is always a position of men in society.

Francis was a very quiet young man Reading to be an accountant by the time of his marriage to Adah. He was actually too poor to pay the five hundred pounds bride- price Adah’s family asked for. For the record, Francis is over pampered by his parents. his role in the novel as Adah’s immediate antagonist reflect him as a “selfish and gold-digger” – he had wanted to stop Adah from working at the American consulate library for fear of his wife earning more than him; he decides to go to England first when Adah we have to “send him twenty pounds every month, save her fare and that of the children, feed herself and the children while they were still in Lagos and pay the rent and help in paying the school fees of Francis’ seven sisters”.
The author buchi emecheta, the pics Francis has been one of the most unredeemable vallians in African literature. In scenes that are too numerous to elaborate upon in the novel, Francis is shown to be self-centered, narrow-minded, cruel, and in fact downright venal.
Instead of helping Adah to develop the creative potential which she obviously has (and part of which she uses to support him), Francis only proves to be an obstacle on her route toward self-improvement. He is correctly shown as irresponsible parent, spouse and student. Hey brutalizes his wife Adah, deliberately tried to inject a feeling of inferiority into her. Frances humiliates Adah she can not write because she is a woman. He calls women brainless and Adah’s work ‘rubbish’. In his views, a woman’s only job is to be a good mother only. Adah is only a domestic animal for Francis and she cannot be a writer according to him.
Although, he is portrayed to be an obnoxious bully – physically abusive towards his wife Adah and cheats on her – it is clear that Adah does not entirely hate him. Like Adah says: “Francis was not a bad man, just a man who could no longer cope with the over demanding society he found himself in ” (p. 110). Francis is a Jehovah’s witness who can bend the doctrine to suit his own gains. The last straw that breaks the Carmel’s back is his burning of Adah’s manuscript for her intended novel “The Bride Price” which pushes Adah to seek for divorce.

Trudy is a plump woman with too much make-up slips and nails, as red as scarlet; her hair too black to be natural. She is paid six pounds a week by Adah to look after her children while she works at Finchley Library but she ends up disappointing Adah on too many occasions. First, Adah realises she lied to her about her milk supply; she meets Titi and Vicky, washing her hands and face with the water leaking from the toilet and pulling out of the bin, respectively. The last time, Adah rushed to the news of Vicky not being well – what she did not tell or call Trudy was what she did not remember. Adah even tells her about her love affairs with Francis and threatens to kill her if anything worse happens to Vicky. Trudy’s character makes Adah give up ” one of the myths she had been brought up to believe: ” that the white never lies”. She discovers that the whites were just as falliblee as everyone else. There were bad whites and good whites as in black too, so Adah wonders why they claim to be superior.
Trudy leaves Maiden Road for Camden Town because she is scared of Adah’s threat if Vicky should die.

Who is the character who not only encourages Adah to read several African and other literary works, but who also literally guides her on the part of becoming a writer. He is one of Adah’s colleagues and friends at the chalk farm library. Not surprisingly, the narrator remarks that ” bill was the first real friend (Adah) had had outside her family” (p. 167). He reads Adah’s manuscript and opposing her initial fear that they will laugh at her, he takes it seriously, advising her to show it to somebody in publishing. Bill affirms Adah’s fulfilment at finishing the novel thus:
“But that is how writers feel. Their work is their brainchild. This is your brainchild; you are the only one in this whole world who could have produced that particular work, no one else could.
If they tried it would just be an imitation. Books tell a great deal about the writers. It is like your own particular child”.
He is the backbone on which Adah’s hope for success in publishing her book lied as he even promised to show it to somebody.

A Czech and a very friendly woman with wide hips a wide waist and a face like a flattened o. she always smiles and this displays her creamy, even teeth. She is Adah’s superior at Finchley library as the chief librarian. She is a sort of encouragement to Adah both on and off work. She sent her her maternity allowance when Bubu was born and also sent a parcel of toys for Adah’s children during Christmas. Mrs. konard and the other girls at Finchley created a conducive working atmosphere for Adah amidst the great discrimination.

Pa Noble is an old man with a hairless head who becomes Francis and Adah’s miracle after their eviction from Ash Town Street. He represent the group of Nigerians/Africans who abandoned their jobs and high positions a civil servant for education in the United kingdom and at their failure, consoled themselves by marrying white women. He is the husband to Mrs. Noble. He introduces Adah to “Never Never” as a means of escape from not having cash at hand to buy stuffs for Christmas.

He is a Nigerian who advises are there to ask for forgiveness from Francis in her desperate condition and and even followed Adah to her home to talk to Francis. However, he is walked out by Francis who tools him to go and mind his business and his own family. But before he leaves, he advices Francis to get a job and move his studies to evening section so as to earn his children’s respect in future.

Mr. Cole is Adah’s school teacher. Adah for the first time started school in his class. He is kind, loving and humane, and his presence always reassuring. He was instrumental to Adah’s early success and acclimatization in school. In other words, Adah’s childhood redeemer. Mr. Cole is a huge African, young, very handsome and he is a real black man. “His blackness shone like polished black leather”. He smiles at Adah every time he passes on his way to school.

See WAEC past questions on Literature in English

Done studying? 
Take a quick test for this lesson

  1. Who is Buchi Emecheta?
  2. Where and when is the setting of Second Class Citizen?
  3. Narrate the plot of Second Class Citizen.
  4. Identify and discuss the themes in Second Class Citizen.

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Abrahams M.H. (1981); A Glossary of Literary Terms, Fourth Edition Holt, Rinechart and Winston New York.

Emecheta, B. (1974). Second-Class Citizen.  Alison and Busby Ltd, Britain.