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 character can be found throughout the text.
In the beginning of “Girls At War”, Nwankwo first meets Gladys at a check-point where his car must be checked to make sure he does not have anything illegal inside it. Nwankwo is embarrassed because he feels he is important enough to not have to go through this procedure. However, he obliges anyways and allows Gladys to look through his car. This is the first time we see the car as a setting meant to help us understand the struggles of the Nigerian War. When Gladys points out that it was in fact the area of government that Nwankwo works for that provided her with this job, he has nothing left to say. He says “Never mind. You are damn right. It’s just that I happen to be in a hurry. But never mind” (104). This moment is when Nwankwo begins to realize what this war means for him.
Another instance where the car is a setting for war hardships would be when Nwankwo goes to pick up food rations. He goes to this specific depot because he knows someone who ...
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...at War” by Chinua Achebe is a story that tells us a lot about the structures that shaped the Nigerian Civil War. Through the story of Reginald Nwankwo and the girl he meets, Gladys, he tells readers how this war affected everyone involved, from the women to the starving children to even the men who were working to keep the country safe. Nwankwo’s car is used throughout the entire story as a catalyst for outcome of Nwankwo and Gladys’s ultimate places in this history. The car is the setting of the bad times and unfortunate circumstances faced by the citizens during this war, and turns to a character that allows us to understand the dynamic between the two main characters and how it ultimately destroys them both in different ways.
Achebe, Chinua. “Girls at War.” Girls at War and Other Stories. 2nd Edition. New York:
Fawcett Premier, 1977. 103-123. Print.
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