The Slave Girl: An Illusion of Childhood

Erica Dillon '99 (English 27, 1997)

The narrative of The Slave Girl in no way depicts an ideal childhood. Emecheta creates a view of childhood as that stage in life where some freedom exists, freedom to be oneself, to be indulged, yet essentially a time that imparts the illusion that the future will continue as such.

She did not know then that she too...who had been encouraged to trust everybody, to say what she felt like saying, to shout when she felt like doing so, would start behaving like these girls who so reminded her of the wooden dolls in front of her chi shrine. (The Slave Girl, 87)

Thus a strong tension exists between childhood and adulthood; the abrupt changes that Ojebeta experiences obscure the reality of both her adulthood and childhood, i.e., she cannot maintain a critical stance in her life:

Ojebeta was one of the few Palagada girls lucky enough to be able to remember who her people were and to have been old enough to be able to recall the first love her parents had showered over her. Over the years such thoughts had magnified and grown right inside her head until that whole time before she was sold now seemed completely golden in her mind's eye. (132)

Or, as Tom Crick says, nostalgia is a "bastard but pampered child." (Waterland, 136)


Last Modified: 15 March, 2002