THE TRULY MARRIED WOMAN, Abioseh Nical- Sierra Leone
The Truly Married Woman by Abioseh Nicol- Sierra Leone Abioseh Nicol was a Sierra Leone writer, poet and diplomat with a specialty in medicine as a physician. He died in the year 1994 having made great contribution to Sierra Leone literature. He was a writer of short stories, poems, academic literature as well as music. His works include Two African Tales (his first published work) and Creative Women (his last published work).
POINTS TO GUIDE INTERPRETATION OF THE STORY
The truly Married Woman
What is the meaning of the title?
A woman can live for long with a man (cohabit) and never be considered married — Ayo is not married, yet she has lived with Ajayi for twelve years. There must be a marriage ceremony (Church marriage) to be genuinely married.
A truly married woman changes in behaviour. She seizes to be dutiful and demands more respect. Ayo refuses to prepare her husband's morning tea after she is married.
He is the eldest son of Ajayi and Ayo. He is ten years old and is frequently beaten by his father for wetting his sleeping mat. The beating does not help but instead worsens the situation.
d. Ayo's father
He is seen as a father who wanted the best for his daughter, Ayo since he had hoped that she would marry a high school teacher.
He is authoritative as he made Ayo move everything she owned to his house once he learned the planned marriage. He cautiously follows the traditional marriage preparations rites to ensure that his daughter is safe in her new home.
Abioseh Nical's story, 'The Truly Married Woman,' is a contemporary story that merges both traditional aspects of marriage and modern marriage practices. story emphasises the importance of valid marriage as compared to cohabiting.
Through this emphasis, the writer, however, satirises marriage as it is not only economically draining but fails to provide happiness that should come with it.
In the beginning, Ajayi and Ayo live together even though Ayo had always wanted to be married properly. While Ayo tries to coarse Ajayi to marry her indeed, Ajayi is hesitant as he feels that marriage involves some wild spending and the ceremony is unnecessarily costly. This view frustrates Ayo until she admits that it would never happen; thus, she stops talking him into it.
Their time together appears relatively amicable as Ayo performs her wifely duties faithfully. They enjoy an everyday family life punctuated with minor conflicts such as the one that arises over Ajayi's beating of their son Oju. This conflict surprises Ajayi as Ayo rarely ever disagreed with him. At this point, Ayo's modernised trait is revealed as she discloses that she has been attending women's meetings where they learn modern ideas of oversea doctors.
Ajayi spends his day in the office thinking about this revelation which makes him admire Ayo the more. As the closing hours approach, Ajayi receives an unexpected guest missionaries from World Gospel Crusading Alliance (WGCA).
He remembers that he had contacted them with the hope of getting free bibles, religious pictures and maybe some
However, the missionaries are set on enrolling him as one of them, but the chief clerk saves him by explaining that it was prohibited for government workers.
He invites the team with the chief to his home, where the wife reorganises the house after learning that guests are on their way. She even borrows a wedding ring from a neighbour. After the missionaries' visit, Ajayi tells Ayo that he plans to marry her.
Although she is shocked, Ayo welcomes the marriage and thus starts preparing for it. Ironically, she turns down his sexual advances that evening, arguing that it would be incorrect. She moves back to her parental home, where the traditional marriage preparation practices are carried out. Soon, the church wedding ceremony takes place. Ayo chooses to dress in a grey dress instead of the traditional white one as Ayaji had wished.
The grey dress is symbolic of her impurity since she is already a mother of three. She also wanted a corset to ensure she did not look too massive. After the church wedding, a European ceremony is also conducted where a wedding cake is cut.
Ajayi notices that Ayo had been transformed after the wedding. He saw her proud head for the first time, and true to his observation, the following day, Ayo does not wake up early to prepare his morning tea like she always did.
The story ends with Ayo's declaration to Ajayi that she was now a genuinely married woman who needed a little more respect and thus would not arise to prepare a cup of tea for the husband.
Plot related Questions
EPISODIC ANALYSIS OF KEY ISSUES
Cohabiting vs marriage
Despite living together for twelve years and having three children already, Ayo and Ajayi are not considered married. The writer tells us that 'Ajayi and Ayo have been together for twelve years. They are not married. Ajayi had meant to marry Ayo, but the right moment never came. (pg.42).
It is no wonder that while explaining to his friends who Ayo is, Ajayi refers to her as not a wife but a mistress (pg. 43). Ayo is seen to have hoped that Ajayi would indeed marry her.
During their first year of marriage, she kept telling Ajayi about their friends' weddings, hoping that he would get interested and marry her. She, however, ends up frustrated when instead of showing an interest, he criticises the friends' spending due to the considerable cost of the ceremony (pg. 43).
The priest emphasises the importance of people getting married through his sermon. The writer observes that the priest would speak out violently against unmarried couples who lived together about two or three times in a year (pg. 43).
These sermons would make friends of Ajayi and Ayo look at them sympathetically, leading to Ajayi keeping off from the church for a few weeks.
Despite not being married, Ajayi and Ayo enjoy some peaceful ambience in their marriage. Ayo performs her wifely roles dutifully. She would wake up at five to prepare his breakfast (pg. 48).
Ajayi would wake at six-fifteen and find his cup of tea ready just as he liked it 'weak and sugary, without milk' (pg. 42). Ironically, after Ayo is married, things seem to change. Instead of continuing with her wifely duty or making them better, Ayo is reluctant to serve her husband as she used it. The morning after the wedding finds Ayo comfortably beside her husband when his alarm goes off.
Unlike other previous mornings, there is no tea ready for Ajayi. He is initially alarmed as he thinks she is ill. Still, her shocking reply confirms her deliberately intention not to do it - "Ajayi, my husband,...for twelve years I have got up every morning at five to make tea for you and breakfast.
Now I am a truly married woman; you must behave towards me with some respect. You are now my husband and not a lover. Get up and make yourself a cup of tea" (pg. 48). This strange turn of events raises concern over whether valid marriage helps improve the home environment or destroys the home.
Conflict due to parenting styles
Different parents adopt different parenting styles. Some parents are very strict with their children to the extent that they use excessive force to ensure their children behave as they wish. A good example is Ajayi, who beats his eldest son Oju for having wet his sleeping mat (pg.43).
On her part, Ayo feels that this is not right, and in one of the rare occurrences, she disagrees with Ajayi about it. She tells him, "Ajayi, you beat Oju too much...he has not stopped wetting although you beat him everytime he does. Infact, he is doing it more and more now. Perhaps if you stopped beating him, he would get better." (pg.43).
Through their disagreement, we learn of Ayo's modernised and informed traits as she discloses that she has been attending women's meetings where they are taught modern ideas (pg.44).
These traits are one of the triggers that make Ajayi marry Ayo after realising that she is a woman to be proud of. We also see some conflict over what parents want for their children in relation to what the children want for themselves.
Ayo's living with Ajayi had not been accepted by her parents 'When she first came to him-against her parents' wishes...' (pg. 43). The writer further tells us what Ayo's father had hoped that she would marry a high school teacher. However, Ayo fell in love with Ajayi, a government clerk, and moved in with him (pg. 43).
There is a lot of pretence among people in society to portray a particular image. Ajayi wrote to World Gospel Crusading Alliance, pretending to be interested in some information from them after a friend gave him a magazine that contained an invitation to join the missionary Alliance. However, his true intention was not to work with them, but he hoped to get free items such as bibles and large religious pictures that he would sell, give away, or use as wall pictures (pg.44).
The depth of his hypocrisy is seen when he appears relieved that the chief clerk saved him from a life as a missionary when he told the visitors that the government prohibited his workers from working as missionaries. So appreciative is Ajayi of the chief clerk that he presents a carefully wrapped bottle of beer to the chief clerk as a present for having saved him (pg.45).
He hypocritically extends an invitation of the missionaries to his home. He lies to them that the roads are not suitable to prevent them from using a taxi. He intends to give time to his wife to reorganise their home into an appropriate environment to host the missionaries. Ayo also portrays high levels of hypocrisy. She changes the appearance of their home when she receives a message from Ajayi that he will be bringing white men to their home in half an hour. Ayo took down the calendars with pictures of lightly clothed women and replaced them with family photographs. She also replaced the magazines with religious books and hid the wine glasses under the sofa. In efforts to portray an actual spiritual image, she goes ahead to borrow a wedding ring from her neighbour before putting on her Sunday dress (pg. 45).
The missionaries are impressed by the show that she put up. The writer uses this act to symbolise Ayo's hypocrisy even in her marriage. Ayo has been pretending to be a dutiful wife for the twelve years before her marriage as she shows her true colours after the wedding. She refuses to prepare morning tea and breakfast for Ajayi (pg 48).
Her hypocrisy is further seen when she turns down Ajayi's advances on the evening he disclosed to her that he intended to marry her. She shyly says 'No' (pg. 45) and pushes him away, asking him to wait until after marriage. She argues that it would not be correct. This is ironic since the two have lived together for twelve years, and their intimacy has borne three children.