Short Story: Girls At War By Chinua Achebe

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Abigail Balint English 131 3 December 2014 The War Machine, As Told On Wheels “Girls At War” by Chinua Achebe is a story that takes place during the Nigerian Civil War. It tells the story of Reginald Nwankwo’s meeting with a young girl named Gladys who he meets when his car is searched at a checkpoint. The story follows their three encounters and the relationship they develop. Many scenes in the story take place in Nwankwo’s car. In “Girls At War”, the car is used as a setting to allow readers to see the hardships the war in Nigeria has brought. However, the car becomes a character when embodying Gladys as an objectified woman who is ultimately destroyed by the machine of her society. Instances of the car being used as both a setting and a…show more content…
When Nwankwo first picks up Gladys on the side of the road after retrieving his supplies, the car begins to embody her and symbolize a larger meaning. This is how it begins to move from a setting to a character. The car is a character that represents Nwankwo as an individual combined with his feelings and actions towards women. The reason he stops for Gladys in the first place is because she is “very attractive” (108), which begins the meaning of their relationship. On page 114, the car characterizes their relationship completely. Nwankwo assumes that Gladys’s friend will come back to Nigeria bearing all of the things that girls love: “shoes, wigs, pants, bras, cosmetics” (114) and then sell them. He closes this idea by implying that this is how the girls of Nigeria are at war. Gladys gets offended by this and says “that is what you men want us to do” (114). This is a sort of slap in the face for Nwankwo because he is sitting in the car believing that he has the upper hand, but really Gladys is an intelligent individual who is completely aware of how this system is working and how he is demeaning her. This is a strong example of the car embodying their relationship as a character that plays a role in this story. Because of Gladys’s gender, Nwankwo looks at her differently. He assumes things about her and assumes things about her role in this civil war. The character embodied inside of the car is part of the machine that…show more content…
Nwankwo suddenly realizes Gladys is an individual and is more than just a woman he can put into a category with the rest. Nwankwo asks her what she wants to do, and ends by saying “All right, just as you wish. You are the boss” (118). At this point, the car is still the character of their relationship, and just like any dynamic character in a story, it is beginning to evolve and have realizations. Nwankwo is starting to look at Gladys in a different way. The car is the site that simply embodies this relationship as it grows and
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