Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga

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The bridging of native traditions with modern imperial ways has a direct effect on the minds of Zimbabwean girls and women. Dangarembga drew inspiration for her title from the quote “the condition of the nation is a nervous one”, from Frantz Franon’s book Wretched of the Earth. The reader sees this idea of nervousness displayed within the female main characters of this novel. “ Its bad enough, when a country gets colonised but when the people do as well! That’s the end, really, that’s the end. (Nervous Conditions,150). This quote stated by Nyasha addresses how colonialism and imperialism are not just cultural, political and economical, but psychological as well. It infiltrates the minds of the citizens and their very cultural existence. The women in this novel are faced with the choice of embracing the British ways or running back to their Shona roots. No matter the choice they make, the Imperial control of the British Empire over Zimbabwe affects the minds of these women. The title of Dangarembga's novel, Nervous Conditions, alludes to the influence imperialism has on the minds of Tambu, Nyasha and Maiguru as they struggle to re-define themselves in a white man’s world.
Tambu's nervous condition manifests itself when she refuses to attend her parents' wedding and the pulling between her Shona roots and her colonial schooling. As her mother prepares to marry she is left feeling anger towards Babamukur and embarrassed. Whenever the idea of her parent’s wedding came to mind she” suffered a horrible crawling over [her] skin, [her] chest contracted to a breathless tension and even [her] bowels threatened to let [her] know their opinion” (Nervous Conditions,151). This anxiety takes over her and "guilt, so many razor sharp edges of...

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...zens it takes over. Throughout Nervous Conditions the female characters in the novel struggle to find themselves in a western influenced world. Tambu, Nyasha and Maiguru are faced with the choice of embracing the colonial ways or returning to their Shona roots. Each one of these women experience this nervous condition in different forms and affects them in different ways. For Tambu it is through her parent’s wedding and the struggle between her colonial schooling and Shona culture. Nyasha’s nervous condition is expressed through the form of a typical western disease, Anorexia. In the case of Maiguru, her nervous condition deals with the blending of two different worlds. The title, Nervous Conditions alludes to the control imperialism has on the minds of Tambu,Nyasha and Maiguru.

Works Cited

Dangarembga, Tsitsi. Nervous Conditions. Los Angeles: Seal Press, 1996
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