Nervous Conditions Paper

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"Pass the Brainwash Please, On Second Thought…"

"Quietly, unobtrusively and extremely fitfully, something in my mind began to assert itself, to question things, and to refuse to be brainwashed…" The main character, Tambudzai, in the novel Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga, is determined to get a white education without losing her native tongue and ways. However this proves to be more difficult that she would expect and seeds that are planted in her mind by the whites begin to take shape, and greatly affect her existence. I will begin by giving an overview of the story leading up to the point where Tambu heads off to begin her education at the missionary school. Next I show how Tambu has already been brainwashed into believing that the white's educational system is better than her own. Following I will discuss the influences that Tambu had to overcome in order to refuse to be brainwashed further. Finally I will give exam to the insight that Tambu's story offers on the situation of a person in her position.

Tambu, as we shall call her, wants very badly to attain an education. Since her brother is the oldest and male he is given the first opportunity to attain an education. Because Tambu is a female it is thought by her family that attaining an education would not benefit her family, but some other man outside of her family, because she will marry, therefore she is not given an opportunity to be educated. Tambu fights this oppression by cultivating mealies in her grandmother's old garden, and then taking them to the city to be sold. While there she is told by a white woman that she should be in school, and her teacher who was with her states that Tambu would very much like an education but can not afford it. The woman gives Tambu ten pounds which pays for her education at the local village school for a long time. Her brother then dies, creating a opening for a student from their family at the missionary school where her uncle Babamukuru is the headmaster. Since she has no more male siblings at the time it is okay for Tambu to be educated. Tambu's education is now of some value since her brother is gone, as it will help pull the family further out of poverty since a higher education will allow her to marry well. Tambu believes that her education will help her family, although she hopes it will be independent from marriage. Because of her desire to help her family and to escape poverty Tambu does not stop to question in the beginning whether she has been brainwashed. It is not until later in the novel that Tambu realizes that she had been brainwashed to believe that the white educational system was better than her villages black education system, and that the white ways are better than her villages' ways. This is reflected in her uncle Babamukuru, who is looked upon as a being of higher status by those in African culture because he is educated, but his education taught him white ideas, therefore his transformation from African to white caused other blacks to view him as being higher up then they are. Tambu wants badly to help her family escape poverty, but does not realize that they only way to do that is to follow the white's ideas outlined for her throughout her education. She wants to be able to avoid conforming to the cultural ideas held by the whites, all the while using their education to get ahead. However the avoidance of brainwashing is not as simple as she thinks.

Tambu decided that she did not want to be brainwashed like her brother. Tambu first noticed the effect that brainwashing had on her brother Nhamo when he returned on school vacation to their homestead. She disapproved of her brother because he renounced the family life, as he had been brainwashed to believe that since there standard of living did not meet the expectations of a white standard of living then their standard of living must be bad. Nhamo shows increasing contempt for manual labor. He also shows a new...
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