A Sense of Self-Perspective

Duality is present in everyday life, in every culture all over the world. The duality described here is the separation of values within a person, and it takes many different forms, each very specific to the person and the situation that one is living in. This prevents one from finding confidence and acceptance in the society that one is in. In the Book Kehinde by Buchi Emecheta, duality takes place throughout Kehinde’s life, which challenges her emotionally to find a sense of belonging, no matter where she is in her life. Duality is here characterized as being from multiple cultures and not being able to find one’s place of acceptance in either of them.

After moving away from their home countries, people are seen as foreigners and outsiders in the country that they are now trying to call home. However, they soon adopt the customs and ideals of their new homes, leaving behind the traditions they once followed. Nonetheless, it is very difficult to completely switch cultures. Even as a young girl, Kehinde did not agree nor like the way of life in Nigeria. “I had to watch what I said because I didn’t want them to laugh at me, but I wanted to protest, to say that when I grow up, I’m going to be like the white people. I will look after my own only, since for over eleven years I did not know of my families’ existence” (80). Kehinde was eager to start a new life out of Nigeria. However, there was one important aspect that Kehinde had difficulty leaving behind her: her Chi, one’s personal god that follows the person everywhere they go. For Kehinde, that was her twin sister that died while they were in the womb; Kehinde felt she had to live her life to fulfill the expectations of her Chi, and it was not until the end of the story that she realized she had to learn to live for herself, to meet her own needs and dreams.

Kehinde was not raised with her immediate family and was not completely accustomed to the Nigerian way of life; therefore once she experienced it, she was completely against it. It allowed her to take in and accept the different ways of life outside of Nigeria, opposed to someone like her husband Albert that liked the way of life in his home country. This was a major problem in Kehinde’s family throughout the entire story, starting from the time that they moved from Nigeria to England. There was a constant tension between Kehinde and her husband because he was unable to let go of the traditions that he was raised in. The job that Kehinde had in London was higher paying than Albert’s job. This point in the story began to show the duality of the life that Kehinde was living; her husband was not able to accept the fact that his wife had a higher income than he did, making him feel less than her. This shows how Kehinde is still living with the traditions of Nigeria while trying to live a life in a different culture, where it is acceptable if wives income is higher than her husband’s. Although being a successful African woman in London was a great achievement for her, however Kehinde was still insecure without her husband’s support- how her husband was looking at her as if she was doing something wrong. Kehinde was being split by the society that she lived in and the traditions from Nigeria that her husband still wanted to follow. Her husband was unable to accept the way of life in London, so he moved back to Nigeria and left Kehinde behind.

Once Kehinde’s husband left London, she lived alone and was easily able to support herself financially. In many cultures, such as the one in London, it is perfectly acceptable for a women to live with out the presence of a man in her life. However, her culture looks down upon her choices and circumstances. Tunde criticizes his wife, Kehinde’s good friend, for associating with her: “What was a good Muslim wife, doing at all, with a woman who had sent all her family away so she could have a goodtime? Any man could go to her now, had Moriammo thought of that?” (56). Tunde prevented Kehinde and Moriammos from being friends because his traditions did not agree with the way Kahinde was living her life. This was just another example of how Kehinde’s life was split into two different cultures. This pushed Kehinde over the edge and made her truly want to move back to Nigeria because she felt like she would fit in better and be with her family.

After moving into a new culture, people are continuously adapting to their new lifestyle without realizing they have changed in the process. This was the case for Kehinde; she thought that she could just fly back to Nigeria, and it would be like she had never left. She did not consider how different her life was in London compared to Nigeria. “Two wide pieces of plank had been nailed together to form a bridge over the gutter which smelt so bad that Kehinde wanted to throw up” (68). This showed how Kehinde was an outsider in her home country. Something as simple as the smell and the plumbing shows how different the two places were; she was no longer used to the way of life or the customs of Nigeria. “Kehinde made to sit in the front seat of the Jaguar, as she had done in London, daring Rike to challenge her right to sit next to Albert. Instead, Mama Kaduna’s boisterous laughter haltered her”(88). This showed how out of place Kehinde was when she went back to Nigeria. Up to this point, Kehinde did not have the guts or power to defend herself against the disapproval from her Nigerian culture. One will never fully develop a sense of belonging until one has the confidence to be able to defend oneself no matter who is challenging one. Kehide was not able to do that until the end of the story, when she moved back to London and transformed her life.

Once Kehinde moved back to London, she instantly began to change her life to the way she wanted it, without being split by the culture that she came from. The first thing that she did was obtain a degree. Being educated gives a person a sense of authority and allows one to defend oneself with confidence: “The degree made her feel she was entitled to hold her head up, despite being a cleaner.” (128). This gave her the confidence to stand up to the sheik when he was looking down on her; this was something that she was never able to do before. When her culture tried to come back into her life she shut it down and continued to live her life the way that she wanted to. Even when her son returned to London and objected to the way she was living her life, she let him know that she was no longer in Nigeria. She told him she loved him, but she would continue to live her life the way that she wanted. Kehinde was no longer living to meet the expectations of others but to fulfill her own goals and desires. At this point Kehinde was completely clear of duality—‘“Now we are one,’ the living Kehinde said to the spirit of her long dead Taiwo” (141). This shows how Kehinde had now unified herself and her Chi; she was able to stand up for who she was and was no longer in limbo between two cultures.


Hawley, John. C. “Coming to Terms: Buchi Emecheta’s Kehinde And The Birth of A ‘Nation.’” Emerging Perspectives on Buchi Emecheta. Ed. Marie Umeh. Trenton, New Jersey: Africa World Press, Inc. 1996. Print.


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