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She no-longer weeps(Tsitsi Dangarembga) novel analysis

She nolonger weeps novel analysis


She No Longer Weeps (1987) is a play written by Tsitsi Dangarembga. It was written after the author realized that women liberation struggle in Zimbabwe (Post Independence)was taking place in the midst of untold carnage.’’ I have come a long way in my thinking from really dichotomizing the issue… because you cannot ignore the other powers that really inform life itself’’ (George and Scott 1993, 313). The play has a daughter who directly battles with her parents for a social morality in newly independent Zimbabwe. Martha’s parents see her behaviour as an insult to expected moral behaviour as well as an attack on their dignity and status. She became a well to do lady impregnated by Freddie whose ego has been threatened by her present status. Martha suffers scorn; shame and discouragement form those around her including her aunt, Gertrude and religion.
Martha seems to be swimming over all by setting a war of resistance which eventually made Tsitsi to typify her action as a revolutionary and a good gesture after she left Freddie for Lovemore

Dangarembga‘s play is based on her belief in saying something and speaking up regardless of the world’s overview. In her interview with Rooney (2007), she stated that she was not a feminist writer but was called to become one by men and this did not stop her from writing ‘as long as she achieves what she wants to achieve.

It is also important to note that the reactions or responses of Martha the main protagonist in this play to her relations is an influence of the writer’s experience, background knowledge, motives and sentiments of the world’s overview. Dangarembga‘s feminism is the one which includes resistance to sexism through individual agency who speak their minds and their control over own productive and reproductive capacities and products.This is a justification as to why she created the likes of Tambus in Nervous Condition and Martha the main protagonist in the play in selection and her Mother. Such charactershold that women can be separated from the sacrifices and endurance of wife, mother; that women should celebrate their existence (SNLW,30); that they should live so as to bring about needed changes (SNLW,35, 49).

The play is also informed by Dangarembga’s knowledge of the 19th century missionary values which sees marriage, sexual fidelity and the family as the ideal Christian life. Women were to be obedient companions for their husbands and bringing up their children according to recognised Christian values. Christian femininity emphasized religious piety devotion to duty within the family, moral rectitude and modesty like Martha’s Mother. However this is something else to Martha who is always critical of everything expected of her as long as it is not in line with her own sentiments.(Dangarembga’s arrogance)

Martha’s independence undermines the aspect of Unhu/Ubuntu. According to her it is a thing of the past since her quest or pursuit of freedom is feministic. She seems to want to eliminate everything that blocks her way regardless of how important that is and to who? She care less for the other person,(parents ,child, other women).

Scene 3 witnesses how Martha care less,
Mother: No Martha, pity your mother. Pity your poor father and mother
Martha: Be quiet both of you.(pg 58)

She is told of how society accept men to remain like children (SNLW,49) but she now have no desire to keep any child she has not produced. Moreover Dangarembga’s feminism states that women should have power and authority over their children to dissolve patriarchy.
And by this she tells Mrs Matsika and Mrs Chiwara: Martha: …they should not even be allowed to see the children otherwise they will in their simple-mindedness be happy because they can have the pleasure without the responsibility.(pg 49) The above assertion is again the writer’s feminism which include resistance to sexism through individual agency who speak their minds and their control over own productive and reproductive capacities and products. During the same dialog, Martha holds that women can be separated from the sacrifices and endurance of wife, mother; that women should celebrate their existence; that they should live so as to bring needed changes.

During this century, there was a shift in the gender ordering of society. The type of missionary education being challenged by Martha as a feminist is the very one that originated during the church schools in England from the very beginning (Purvis 1989). The same gender subordination, domestic ideology and school curriculum that they (missionary women) themselves had been exposed to is the one they introduced in Africa (Harris 1997). This has also been noted by Rodney (1972) when he stated that the colonizers did nit introduce education into Africa, they introduced a new set of formal institutions which partly supplemented and partly replaced those which were there before.

The colonial system stimulates values and practices of different places and value accorded to men and women. Girls were taught how to sew while boys received industrial and commercial education. It has been noted that dressmaking and clothing were a contributing factor to shaping societal behavior and expectations as well as to avoid nakedness being associated with sexual immorality and heathenisms. This knowledge sounded very ‘nice’ and sets women as the custodians of cultural values. However, for Martha this did not only protected girls from excess leisure time and moral depravity but this missionary pre-occupation with the feminine skill of sewing ensured that girls had less access to academic study than boys. This is the very reason why she hates sewing and knitting because it hinders progress and delays women effort to achieve what they want to achieve. (SNLW, 6).

However this is the contents that the curriculum contains, the very type of education Martha receives and the very weapon she wants to use to revolutionarise. This is ridiculous while at the same time critiquing how Dangarembga’s feminist narrative is somehow a revelation of women vulnerability (Chitando, 2011).
Instead of embracing the two types of knowledge system and connive both the academic and the social that makes her an ideal African woman, Martha criticizes it. One would agree with Freddie that the type of education Martha receives is for only thing, ‘it lets you earn money’ (SNLW, 9). Freddie seems to be pointing out that Martha receives education that only gives her financial stamina and status, ‘I have money…i know you love my money and the comfortable life,(Martha,page 52). It is the only reason why men like women like Martha.(SNLW, 9).
Educating a woman or a girl child has always been a feminist goal in order to fight hegemonic exploitations. However it only makes one to have a good living through earning but not necessarily possessing an all round empowering tool. Maybe it is to fulfilll only the mandate and exercise of rights that women had access to education as men did. It is an achievement according to Dangarembga as opposed to her Nervous Conditions where only boys had first preference to book learning
Thus holding all things constant, the question still rings, doe this gives all happiness or fulfill a woman’s all round needs? Or else it only brings artificial and partial happiness and internal suffrage. Martha suffers psychologically after having attained what she thought is a weapon to fighting the gigantic patriarchy. This brings Laing (1960)’s notion that Dangarembga’s characters end up paranoid as they try to negotiate their way out of several traps they found themselves in. If only if Martha holds on to Aggrey(1924)’ s type of education, things would have been better. He tolerated the type of education that develops a socially efficient individual. That is why he called for the education of women so that they do not just get learned but receive the training in mind, in morals and in hand: that is the education that helps to make one socially efficient and not the three R’s but the three H’s, the head, the hand and the heart.

By: T.Titus Nyakudyara
Twitter: @NyakudyaraTitus

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