Onitsha Market Literature


ADELE MADUMERE
The way to make friends with girls.

The strong feminist overtones of this fictional account suggest that the author, Adele Madumere, is a woman. Lizzy, the main character of this long story, is a strong and independent woman who continuously questions men and their intentions. In the pamphlet’s opening paragraph Lizzy asks, “why are some men fond of interrupting women on high ways?” (6) The author also uses a gentle humor to look at the budding relationship between Lizzy and her suitor Ade:

There was no reply from either side. Passers-by wondered why the two people broke their journey on a high way. The popular feeling was that they were discussing an important matter largely personal to them. It was bad light. Lizzy could not continue to stand on the road unmindful of her appointment. (6)

After Ade had waylaid Lizzy in the classic manner of Onitsha Market Literature, the author plays with those assumptions. To the main characters, it is clear that Lizzy wants nothing to do with Ade at this time, and it is only the bad light that keeps the other passers-by in the dark as to the nature of the interaction.

Unlike many of the other pamphlets, Lizzy is not a naive young girl. She is separated from her first husband and does not want to commit herself to another man, even if she does come to like Ade, a politician. Lizzy and this new lover endure a scandalous court case because her husband, Mr. Cousin, has accused Ade of unlawfully detaining his wife and depriving him of his liberties. In fact, Lizzy did not leave Mr. Cousin for Ade, but rather left her husband because she did not feel like an equal partner in a polygamous marriage. She explains, “You know I had to respect you in all respects. I like your personality so dearly but hate your manners. I did all in my power to play the game with you as a comrade. You did not regard me as somebody in union with you but as a visitor.” (21) Thus, Lizzy left Mr. Cousin for herself rather than for another man.

As Lizzy commits to Ade in the story, however, Madumere reverts to a more traditional plot and characterization of male dominance. When Lizzy becomes jealous of another woman, she consults a traditional healer. After this visit she inadvertently poisons Ade, and he becomes insane. In her desire to restore Ade’s faculties, she poisons herself and dies. The tale ends with Ade and the other woman both committing suicide to be with their soul mates. Even though Lizzy, as a heroine, creates an interesting space in the story to assert both independence and moral character, in the end she appears to be caught up by her love for Ade and controlled once again by a man.

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