Original Research

Psychological afflictions as expressed in Bessie Head’s A Question of Power and Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions

N. Cloete
Literator | Vol 21, No 1 | a439 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v21i1.439 | © 2000 N. Cloete | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 26 April 2000 | Published: 26 April 2000

About the author(s)

N. Cloete, Department of English Studies, University of the North, Sovenga, South Africa

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This article refutes the glib generalization about the lack of psychological sensitivity so often attributed to Africans by examining female suffering manifesting itself in nervous afflictions as a result of colonialism and patriarchy as portrayed in these two novels. It is argued that the overriding theme of A Question of Power (1973) is the struggle of a displaced, marginalised woman for what she perceives as her rights in a hostile world. In similar vein, Dangarembga reveals in Nervous Conditions (1988) how patriarchy coupled with colonialism, causes different kinds of psychological afflictions in her female protagonists. In this article the thematically interpretive discourse-analytical method is employed to focus on the autobiographical mode used in the novels under discussion, while special attention is paid to characterization and stylistic aspects. The investigation exposes both similarities and dissimilarities in the writers’ handling of this universal problem. Moreover, Head and Dangarembga are hailed for breaking new ground in moving beyond the confines of their own literary conventions, while simultaneously destroying the social silencing and political disenfranchisement traditionally experienced by women of colour.


African Literature; Dangarembga; Eating Disorders; Female Literature; Head; Nervous Conditions


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