Nervous Conditions Summary & Study Guide

Tsitsi Dangarembga
This Study Guide consists of approximately 41 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Nervous Conditions.
This section contains 476 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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Nervous Conditions Summary & Study Guide Description

Nervous Conditions Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

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Set in white-dominated Rhodesia of the 1960's, Tambu begins her story by talking about her brother's trip to and from mission school each day. She says that he complains about the trip - especially the two-mile walk from the bus station to their home - and that she could talk endlessly about all there was to do during that walk and how much she loved it. Children, including Tambu, were seldom restricted and were allowed to swim in the pools.

Tambu is the oldest daughter and the second oldest child of Ma'Shingayi and Babamukuru. Her uncle, known to Tambu as Babamukuru, is the patriarch of the family and is an important benefactor, providing money, food and education for Tambu's immediate family. The family is obliged to show earnest gratitude for the gifts, and Tambu believes her uncle to be as near an angel as an earthly person can be.

As a young child, Tambu works hard for her family, taking on chores before she's told in an effort to lighten her mother's load. Her brother, Nhamo, attends school, first a walking distance away and later at a mission school where Babamukuru is headmaster. Tambu's own education at one point is put on hold because there is no money to pay school fees. When this happens, she clears a field, plants maize and sells the ears to finance her education. Upon Nhamo's death, Tambu is sent to school. The purpose of education is not for education's sake but so that the educated member of the family will help support the rest of the family. As Tambu is considering her role in adulthood, she imagines being able to buy pretty clothes for her younger sisters and provide adequate food so her mother will grow strong and healthy. Tambu studies hard and wins a place at Sacred Heart, a school run by nuns for further education.

Along the way, Tambu all but severs her relationship with her mother admitting there is nothing at the homestead for her any longer, but Tambu grows a bond with her cousin, Nyasha. It's through Nyasha's constant movement that Tambu learns to question things in her life and to test the boundaries set up for her by others. She learns that her aunt, Maiguru, has as much education as her Babamukuru and that she doesn't keep any of her earnings for herself, nor is Maiguru's education ever touted as is Babamukuru's. Tambu doesn't seem to question the reason but later admits that everything she saw as a child has been a seed, planted and waiting for the right time to grow.

Tambu's story is one of how to grow and learn, though her most significant step in the coming of age process happens at the conclusion of the book. She comes to realize many things about her family, her world and herself.

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