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The Dilemma of a Ghost by Ama Ata Aidoo

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

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B- : interesting if limited play about a small clash of cultures

See our review for fuller assessment.

   From the Reviews : "The ambition of the project, however, with its 15-strong cast, appears to have pushed Arambe to the edge of its capabilities. Bisi Adigun's production suffers from a lack of a clear reading of the play and from apparent under-rehearsal. Most problematically, the production underplays the text's feminism" - Karen Fricker, The Guardian "(A)lthough it signals the writer and scholar she was to become, it has not worn its years well. (...) The play moves too slowly to an illogical resolution of the dilemma, compounding other sporadic difficulties of audibility and heavily accented language. But the major problem is simply its age, and the presentation of characters still mired in primitive superstitions." - Gerry Colgan, Irish Times Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review 's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

The complete review 's Review :

        The Dilemma of a Ghost centres around Ato Yawson, a Ghanaian who recently completed his studies in the United States and returns home with an American bride, Eulalie.        From the beginning it is clear that Eulalie isn't like the girls back home, and that there is potential for conflict here. Already in the opening scene, a short prelude, Eulalie and Ato are arguing. Still, here there seems hope that love can conquer all -- at least that's how the two feel. But one of the big issues they will face is already addressed here: Eulalie isn't eager to bear children yet, though it is expected of her and Ato that they will begin a family as soon as possible.        Eulalie doesn't quite fit into the African lifestyle. Ato, the scholar, is highly regarded for his accomplishments, but there are also expectations on him now, and it is difficult to balance them with wilful Eulalie's needs and desires.        The action of the play is spread out over a year. Over the entire time Eulalie can't accustom herself to African customs and life. She turns to alcohol, and continues to do much as she pleases, rather than adopting the position expected of her. She doesn't fit in -- a situation that seems impossible to remedy.        Aidoo presents the story quite well, balancing the action between the couple (and the family) with dialogues between two village women who provide a different perspective on events. Some of the dialogue is also quite good. Still, the story is not truly gripping, the characters not fully realized.        An interesting play, a bit more than a period piece (it was written in the early 1960s), but not truly compelling.

About the Author :

       Ghanaian author Ama Ata Aidoo lived 1942 to 2023.

© 2002-2023 the complete review Main | the New | the Best | the Rest | Review Index | Links

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Saying the Truth about Us: A Cultural Study of Ama Ata Aidoo’s: The Dilemma of a Ghost

Profile image of Uche Nnyagu

The Dilemma of a Ghost is Ama Ata Aidoo’s response to the unwary Europeans who nurse the impression that Africa is savage. A lot of Europeans disparage Africa and in their individual books, they express their aversion for the continent by presenting Africa as being too primitive and without any culture and tradition. Concerned Africans, pioneered by Chinua Achebe, in his debut novel, Things Fall Apart, proves them wrong by vividly X-raying the good images of the continent so that those who nurse ill impressions about Africa will tend to have a rethink. Other Africans follow Achebe in the evangelism. Ama Ata Aidoo is one of them. Like Achebe, she has made it vivid in her play that Africa has rich cultural heritage which must not be drawn to the mud. In the comic piece, she meticulously selects plausible and credible characters to enable her to effectively pass her information. The researcher in this paper thus uses Cultural Criticism as the theoretical framework to explore the play w...

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The article is inspired by Achebe's belief that human stories should be told from distinct perspectives to grasp all it intents. The story of Umuofia, the fictitious Igbo village, in Achebe's Things Fall Apart (1958) can be read intertextually in light of the non-fictional text of Mary Kingsley, Travels in West Africa (1897) to underline the thrust of authenticity and fidelity of Achebe that makes his fiction true to life. This juxtaposition is further staged to question the stereotypical representation of Africa and Africans through the fictional texts of 19 th c British writers such as Joseph Conrad, Rider Haggard among many others. Though it is not a purely historical text, Things Fall Apart is spearheaded against the reductive approach applied by 19 th c British writers to deny Africa history and culture wholesale, presenting it on a dire need for the enlightenment and mission civilisatrice of the Westerners. Hence, the ostensible aim to enlighten the African heathens living in utter darkness, to free the African minds from the enslavement of superstition, to liberate African women from the sexual laxity endorsed by the barbaric morals of heathenism is counterpointed in Achebe's Things Fall Apart. Chiefly, Achebe states that the cultural practices of the African people in their particular African environment down through ages have catered them with particular insights into life that are the bedrock of values and outlooks shaping contemporary African life. The same insights are confirmed in Kingsley's text Travels in West Africa.

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Dilemma of a Ghost

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A: Ama Ata Aidoo Pf: 1964, Legon, Ghana Pb: 1965 G: Drama in 5 acts and a prelude; prose and free verse S: Courtyard of the Odumna Clan house, rural Ghana, 1960s C: 2m, 8f, 2 children (1m, 1f), 1 birdThe Wayside Bird tells of Ato Yawson, who has gone to the USA to study and is now returning to his ancestral home in Ghana. While at college, he meets and marries an African-American graduate Eulalie. His family are shocked that their oldest son has married a ‘woman who has no tribe’ and ‘the daughter of slaves’. Eulalie is excited by being in Africa but fearful of being thought a witch. She would like to have children, but Ato urges her to wait. Ato dreams of a traditional song about a ghost who did not know in which direction to travel. His mother Esi Kom gives Eulalie some snails to cook, and she horrifies Esi by throwing them away. Esi complains to Ato that, after all the sacrifices made to pay for his education, he now shows no gratitude or respect towards the family. Ato blames Eulalie for his troubles. About a year after her arrival, Eulalie is the subject of malicious gossip, because she has borne no children and insists on spending money on household appliances. The relatives come with magic herbs to make Eulalie fertile, but Ato lacks the courage to admit they are using birth control. Eulalie smokes and drinks too much and finally has an angry confrontation with Ato, who slaps her. That evening, Ato explains to his mother about birth control, and she is sorry that her family has been made fools of. Eulalie arrives unhappily, and Esi gently leads her off, while Ato hears again the ‘dilemma of the ghost’.

A: Ama Ata Aidoo Pf: 1964, Legon, Ghana Pb: 1965 G: Drama in 5 acts and a prelude; prose and free verse S: Courtyard of the Odumna Clan house, rural Ghana, 1960s C: 2m, 8f, 2 children (1m, 1f), 1 bird

Together with Sutherland, Aidoo is one of Ghana's leading playwrights, and this is her best-known play. It deals, as does Soyinka's Death and the King's Horsemen, with the problematic relationship with traditional tribal customs experienced by Africans educated abroad, facing the dilemma of not knowing in which direction to travel. It is the generous warmth of the women, the tenderness of the mother towards her daughter-in-law, that may solve the dilemma.

From:   Dilemma of a Ghost, The   in  The Oxford Dictionary of Plays »

Subjects: Literature — Literary studies - plays and playwrights

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The Dilemma of a Ghost: Summary and Analysis

You are currently viewing The Dilemma of a Ghost: Summary and Analysis

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  • Post published: January 6, 2024
  • Post category: Short Stories

A Short Summary

The “Dilemma of a Ghost” by Ama Ata Aidoo is a drama about a young Ghanaian graduate (Ato) whose arrival with his fiancée (Eulalie) in Africa causes problems that would later put him in a dilemma.

The constant confusion between Ato’s family and Eulalie is a result of cultural differences and societal expectations of how a wife should behave.

This is the shortest possible summary I could give on the play. However, if you want a more detailed summary , continue with the article.

The drama starts with a prelude followed by 5 ACTS thus, ACT 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5

Characters in the Dilemma of a Ghost

Ato : A Ghanaian graduate and the main character.

Eulalie : African American Woman (Ato’s fiancée)

Esi Kom : Mother of Ato

Monka : Ato’s sister

Nana : Ato’s grandmother

Akyere : Ato’s elder aunt

Mansah : Ato’s younger aunt

Petu : Ato’s elder uncle

Akroma : Ato’s younger uncle

1st woman and 2nd woman : Ato’s neighbours

Boy and Girl : Two children in Ato’s dream.

Summary of Prelude

The prelude begins with a poem that seems to arouse our interest in what the reader is about to experience.

Next, In a dialogue, Ato (a young Ghanaian graduate) and his fiancée Eulalie (an Afro-American graduate) have a lovely discussion with each other.

They seem to be in love and are planning to move to Africa to live there. Eulalie cannot wait to meet Ato’s people and have the African experience.

Her only concern is with her plan to postpone childbirth until she’s ready but Ato assures her it wouldn’t be a problem.

Summary of Act (1)

Two neighbours in Ato’s village, 1st woman and 2nd woman discuss the topic of childbirth while returning from the river.

They later change the topic to talk about the arrival of Ato from abroad and other matters relating to Ato’s family.

As usual, Ato meets with the whole family after his arrival to discuss family matters, but issues get out of hand.

When Ato announced that he was married to a woman from another land, all the family members were surprised and displeased with the news. Nana particularly was unhappy about Ato’s choice of life partner.

Summary of Act (2)

Act two begins with 1st woman and the second woman debating on the topic of childbearing, where 1st woman laments her inability to give birth.

Later, Esi Kom, Monka and Ato became the topic of discussion. They commented on Monka’s (Ato’s sister) inability to get a good husband.

Their next discussion was on Ato’s refusal to marry a native but rather a stranger.

Moving on, Ato and Eulalie are having a good time in Africa as they have a chat about outdated cultural practices such as witch-hunting.

Near the end of Act 2, Eulalie brings up the topic of childbirth again but Ato brushes it off and says they should stick to their original plan of postponing childbirth.

Summary of Act (3)

{ Ato and Eulalie comes to spend a weekend in the village }

In the Ato has a strange dream while having a siesta. In his dream, he saw a Boy and a Girl singing a song about a ghost.

Next, Petu ( Ato’s Elder Uncle) comes to visit Ato where they talk about Ato’s dream. Esi Kom and Monka were the next to visit Ato.

Things go very wrong when Eulalie throws away the snails Esi Kom brought for Ato, describing the snails as horrible creatures. This creates an unpleasant tension between Ato, Eulalie and Esi Kom.

Esi Kom complains bitterly about how unfairly she was treated when she visited Ato in Accra.

Summary of Act 4

{ Another 6months later, Ato and Eulalie visits the village once again }

It starts again with 1st woman and 2nd woman discussing about the sprinkling of stools in the village.

Again, they switch topics to Ato’s family matters. They hint that even though Ato is back from abroad Esi, her Mom still lives a poor life.

They are concerned that Eulalie uses modern equipments which they refer to as “machines” to do all her house chores.

They even suspect that Eulalie might be barren.

1st woman comments, “If it is real barrenness, then, oh stranger-girl, whom I do not know, I weep for you.”

Later, the family visits Ato to ask him why his wife has not given birth. They even suggest bathing Eulalie stomach with a medicine to help her give birth.

However, they left the place very upset because Ato insisted there was nothing wrong with his wife. Eulalie was frustrated because Ato refused to tell his family about the real reason why they hadn’t started a family.

Summary of Act 5

The following morning, Ato and Eulalie are supposed to go to a thanksgiving service but Eulalie refuses to go.

Ato is not pleased that Eulalie is drunk on a Sunday morning but Eulalie shows no concern.

Eulalie in her drunken state insults Ato’s people calling them bastards and savages who lack understanding. Ato gets angry and slaps Eulalie on the cheeks.

Eulalie leaves the house and is nowhere to be found. Ato goes all around searching for her.

Ato in his search finds himself knocking on his mother’s door. Ato explains to his mother that Eulalie is gone.

He also reveals that, Eulalie is not barren and that they had planned to postpone childbirth until they were ready.

Esi Kom upon learning this secret blames Ato for all the confusion and misunderstanding they had with Eulalie. She then had empathy and understood Eulalie better.

Fortunately, Eulalie made her appearance In the middle of the conversation. Esi Kom upon seeing how miserable she was, took her inside the house.

Ato was then confused as to where he went wrong. In the end, he was in a dilemma because he didn’t know what to do. Should he follow them or should he go to his room?

End of the Drama

Credit to: {John. A. Sackey and Lawrence Darmani}

Thanks for reading to the end. I would love to hear your thoughts on the play.

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Playwright: ama ata aidoo., publishers: longman african writers., publication: 1965., introduction.

The Dilemma of a Ghost  is concerned with the arrival in Africa of a black American woman married to a Ghanaian and the struggle she has in coming to terms with her cultural past and with her new home

Ama Ata Aidoo, a Ghanaian writer, wrote the short drama The Dilemma of a Ghost. The plot revolves around Ato, a young Ghanaian man studying in America. He meets and falls in love with Eulalie, an African-American girl living in America, here .

When Ato goes home with his new bride, he finds himself divided between his family’s traditional customs and his wife’s western lifestyle. His marriage and his wife’s behavior are heavily criticized by both family members and the Ghanaian community at large. The author employs a variety of scenarios to highlight the differences between traditional African culture and current Western civilization .

When two cultures collide, there is generally a point of contention. One seeks to dominate the other.

The writer uses the various lifestyles of an African family and their union with an African American to demonstrate the cultural split that happens throughout the novel. Their daily lives demonstrate how people from all cultures seek to coexist under the same roof. The collision of civilizations is shown by how they react to each other in various situations.




-A young Ghanaian graduate


-An Afro-American graduate

iii). ESI KOM.

-Ato’s mother

-Ato’s sister

-Ato’s grandmother

vi). AKYERE.

-Ato’s elder aunt

vii). MANSA.

-Ato’s younger aunt

viii). PETU.

-Ato’s elder uncle

ix). AKROMA.

-Ato’s younger uncle

x). 1 st AND 2 nd WOMAN.

-Ato’s family neighbours

This is portrayed as it is said that,

“And all my people your people…

EU: And your god my gods?

EU: Shall i die where you die?

ATO: Yes… and if you want you shall be buried there also…” Page.9-10

“ATO:…I love you Eulalie…” Page.10

“ATO:…I couldn’t bear seeing you love someone else better than you do me…” Page.10

4: Cultural alienation

“ATO:…We shall postpone having children for as long you would want…” Page.10

“ATO:…She said that my people have no understanding, that they are uncivilized…” Page.50

5. Awareness

“EU:…Darling, some men do mind a lot…

…But still I understand in Africa…” Page.10

6. Position of a child

“2 nd W:…Sometimes we feel you are luckier

Who are are childless.

1 st W:You are luckiest ho have them…” Page.11

“PETU:…When two people marry, everyone expects them to have children.

For men and women marry because they want children…” Page.44

7: Ignorance

“NANA:…They say they buy kresin and pay for it with money…” Page.13 (KRESIN-KEROSIN)


THE W:…Hurere…” Page.16 (HURERE-EULALIE)

“MONKA:…Amrika! My brother…” Page.17 (AMRIKA-AMERICA)

“NANA:…Why do you not take her to Kofikrom? The herbalist there is famous…” Page.14

9: African tradition

i). Bride price

“ESI:…and add to it to give to Ato’s father to pay for the bride price for its owner…” Page.15

“…I have sold your sheep to pay the bride price for you when you make up your mind to marry…” Page.16

ii). Treatment

“PETU:…Whose stomach shall we wash with this medicine…” Page.43

iii). Believes

“PETU:…This day we try to drive away all evil spirits, ill luck and unkind feelings…

…We invoke our sacred dead to bring us blessings…

…Then pour libation to ask the dead to come and…” Page.44

10: Illiteracy

“ESI:…Ato, you know that some of us did not hear the school bell when it rang…” Page.17

11. Tribalism

“AKYERE:…What is her tribe?…

NANA:…She has no tribe?…” Page.17

12. Humiliation

“ESI:…And if you threw my gifts into my face and drove me out of your house how, can I forget it?…” Page.34

“ESI:…Where did you through the snails?…” Page.34

13: Meanness

“ESI:…Neither you nor your wife bothered to give us seats to sit on or water to cool our parched throats…”

…How can I then sleep in a house where I am not welcome?…” Page.34

14. Lamentation

“ESI:…Oh, Esi of the luckless soul…

…My knees are callous with bending before the rich…

…how often did I wept before your uncles and great uncles while everyone complained that my one son’s education was ruining our home…” Page.35

15: Modernity

“EULALIE makes as if to stand and speak but sits down again and continues puffing at her cigarette …” Page.34-35

“…EULALIE still puffing at a cigarette …EULALIE continues to puff her cigarette …” Page.36

“ATO:…Her womb has not receded!…If we wanted children, she would have given birth to some…

In these days of civilization…It can be done…” Page.51


i). Ato against his family- This is portrayed as it is said that,

“ALL:…You are married? Married! Married!…

ESI:…Who is your wife?…

AKYERE: When did you marry?…” Page.16

“AKYERE…What is her tribe…

PETU:…Where does your wife come from…” Page.17

ii). Ato against his mother- This is portrayed as it is said that,

“ATO:…Are you still harbouring this grievance?

ESI:…Do not annoy me, please. How can I forget it?…” Page.34

iii). Ato against Eulalie- This is portrayed as it is said that,

“ATO:…Now you have succeeded in making trouble for me…” Page.36



“EU:…I am not as good as your folks…” Page.9

“ESI:…I have been quite as if I were a tortoise…” Page.34

“ESI:…Living a life of failure is like taking snuff at the beach…” Page.35

“ESI:…The name keeps buzzing in my head like the sting of a witch bee!…” Page.36

b). Tautology

“ALL:…You are married? Married! Married!…” Page.16

c). Personification

“…Eulalie’s eyes follow him as he goes back… ” Page. 26

“2 nd W:…If Nakedness promises you clothes…” Page.37

d). Rhetorical question

“ATO:…You went to the farm?

PETU:…My Master where else have I to go?…” Page.29

“NANA:…Who says it is not your affair? It’s his affair, isn’t it?…” Page.42

e). Symbolism

i). Ghost- This stands for cultural alienation.

a). “AKROMA:…We can soon know the bird which will not do well, for his nest hangs by the wayside…” Page.15

b). “PETU:…One must take time to dissect an ant in order to discover its entrails…” Page.16

c). “ESI:…Some of us did not hear the school bell when it rang…” Page.17

d). “NANA:…Young man, one does not stand in ant-trail to pick off ants…” Page.42



a). Ghana- This is portrayed as it is said that,

“ESI:…The same thing happened the day i came to visit you at Accra…” Page.34


i). The play has been told in dialogue, however there are some parts of monologue as soliloquy when characters are portraying their personal conflicts. This has been revealed where it is portrayed that,

“NANA:…Do not be pained…” Page.13

“NANA:…My spirit mother ought to…” Page.19

“ATO:…Where are they?…” Page.29

“MONKA:…I remember the time he was preparing…” Page.35

ii). Singing and dancing- This has been revealed where it is portrayed that,

“BOY:…Shall I go

To Cape Coast,

Or to Elmina…” Page.28 and 51.

-The play has been portrayed in chronological order as events are arranged in series form. The playwright has divided this text into two parts;

The first part is called PRELUDE in which a play resumes portraying on the way the Odumna clan has vested its wishes and hope toward its only scholar who will soon return a graduate. Later this part introduces a dialogue of two elites ATO YAWSON and EULALIE YAWSON who are shown to be lovers and they expect to come in Africa for a better stay after their studies.

The second part is divided into ACTS.

ACT ONE begins by showing a conversation made between two women, the 1 ST W and the 2 ND W. The 1 ST W is portrayed being childless and she believes that women with children are luckiest. Also, this chapter builds an expository part by creating a disagreement on the affair of marriage the thing which builds a core part of what the text is all about.

ACT TWO begins by portraying the two women telling on the way ATO’s mother has became angry from the way her only son has married a stranger. Not only that but also her only daughter MONKA does not get married in spite of her age being ripe. Parallel to that this chapter portrays that ATO is staying at the city Accra with his wife and they are shown living a happy life.

ACT THREE is set at ATO’s village where he has gone with his wife to spend a weekend. The act starts by portraying on the conversation made between a BOY and a GIRL on what they should do either to play a game of hiding or to sing. Then they decide to sing a song of a Ghost. These are portrayed to be ATO’s thoughts in a dream. Also, the chapter portrays on the way ATO is visited by his uncle being followed by his mother being accompanied by MONKA with a present of snails. This chapter creates another conflict as ATO’s wife throws the present brought by her mother in law at her presence, this creates grievance between them.

ACT FOUR is set at the city Accra at ATO’s home. This chapter begins by the portrayal of two women who portrays that ATO’s mother has changed she is not the same as she was. Also, this chapter portrays on the position of a child in any marriage as it portrays ATO’s family visiting him and his wife to ask as to why they have no child in spite of a long time of their stay. Here, a theme of traditionalism and modernity is established as it is portrayed that ATO’s family has visited their son with a bowl of herbal concoction, the medicine to wash EULALE’s womb as it is believed to be receded. But this brings a strong conflict as ATO tells them that there is nothing of a disease but is their way to family planning.

Moreover, the Act introduces some African traditions like pouring libation and thanksgiving as a way of rejoining with the dead and their blessings the thing which were of a dream to EULALIE.

At last the chapter sums up by showing ESI, receiving ATO and his wife as her children as she becomes aware that the issue of bearing children can be planned by a couple as well as living a life to a new society by the beginning people becomes stranger but they can be used to the new traditions and become good people.

To sum upon a plot of this play a playwright has ordered the events from exposition named prelude where the societies expectation is portrayed being followed with an illusive life that ATO expects to live with his lover EULALIE as they come in Africa.

Rising action begins when the two women portrays on the value of children in African marriages being followed with a conflict between ATO against his family as he informs them that he is married.

Climax is portrayed through EULALIE’s failure toward coping the African living style like eating of snails, worshiping the dead, thanksgiving as well as pouring libation, thus EULALIE is portrayed a stranger the thing which alienates ATO from his society. This part continues until when ATO’s parents comes with the demand of a child in ATO’s family resulting to a misunderstanding with his family as he informs them that there is nothing wrong.

Falling action comes as ATO making his mother aware that his family has no problems at getting children but they are exercising a family planning the thing which is nit useful among village dwellers.

This part leads us to a last part of resolution as ATO’s mother understands and promises at telling other relatives. Also, ESI blames ATO from failing to tell her of that to the extend they embarrassed his wife by suspecting her as a receded woman. Then ESI ends the play by telling ATO that “…No stranger ever breaks the law…” being followed by the acceptance of EULALIE to begin a new life with ATO’s parents.


a). Marriage is a complicated institution but it should be left on the hands of lovers to decide while parents overseeing as advisors.

b). Being educated it doesn’t mean knowing everything rather the elites have to learn from others in order to cope with the societal life.

c). Some African traditions like medication and unity in decision making are good and they should be preserved but others like worshiping gods and the dead by pouring libation are not good to cope with the world of science and technology.

d). Love has no boundary as it doesn’t focus on tribes or nationality.


-Aidoo’s play THE DILEMMA OF A GHOST is relevant to Tanzanian as well as any other African society. This comes as Africans hates intermarriages basing on tribes as well nations as ATO’s parents portrays.

-Also, the play is relevant among Tanzanian as well as Africa at large because of the position of a child portrayed in it. To Africans, having children after marriage is a good luck. Any other way round it is a misfortune as ATO’s parents portrays.

-Moreover, the play reveals on the way youngsters meets with opposition from their parents as they decide to marry in families, tribes or nations that are not favorable to their parents. This reveals the reality existing in most of the African societies.

-Parallel to that, this play reveals some African traditions like paying of bride price, traditional dances, traditional medicines as well as beliefs like pouring libation and thanksgiving which still exist in most of some African societies.

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22 pages • 44 minutes read

Ama Ata Aidoo

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Summary and Study Guide

Published in 1970, Ama Ata Aidoo’s play Anowa tells the gripping story of its title character, who serves as an allegory for Africa itself. No stranger to Africa’s political and societal turmoil, Aidoo, a Ghanaian playwright, uses Anowa to interrogate the relationships between men and women, husbands and wives, women and motherhood , mothers and daughters, society and the individuals comprising it, and the future encroaching on ancient traditions.  

Anowa opens in the 1870s in the Ghanaian village of Yebi. During the prologue, two figures—called the Old Man and the Old Woman—take the stage and describe one of Ghana’s perennial folk tale tropes: the daughter who refuses to obey. It is clear that the Old Woman views Anowa’s story with disdain, while the Old Man considers it an opportunity for reflection. 

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After the prologue, the first scene begins with Badua and Osam arguing about their headstrong daughter, Anowa. Osam believes that Anowa might make a better priestess than a wife, but Badua insists that Anowa needs to conform to societal mores, settle down, and marry. However, when Anowa falls instantly in love with a handsome young man named Kofi Ano, Badua protests the union. She wants to arrange a marriage for Badua, seeing Kofi as a narcissistic, lazy show-off from a family who tends to produce disastrous husbands. Anowa ignores her mother’s opinions, marries Kofi, and leaves the village of Yebi forever. 

Two years later, the reader sees Kofi and Anowa on the road. They are making a decent—if hard—living selling monkey skins and corn. They are playful and affectionate, but Anowa asks Kofi if he might not like to have another wife. The reader learns that they have been trying unsuccessfully to conceive a child. Kofi wants for them to consult with a medicine man, but Anowa wants to see a traditional Western doctor. Kofi changes the subject to slaves. He wants to buy several men to help them with their work. Anowa is appalled and angered by the suggestion. She believes that slavery is evil. Also, she says that if she has no work to do, she will wither away. 

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Years later, Kofi has grown prosperous. Financially, at least, buying the slaves has paid off handsomely. However, his marriage to Anowa is deteriorating. Now that she no longer has to work, she hates idleness as much as she predicted she would. He is mystified that she cannot enjoy or appreciate the life he has provided with her. But the fact that they still have no child weighs on her heavily and consumes her thoughts. Again, she asks Kofi to take another wife, and again, he refuses. 

In the final segment of the play, Kofi has become the richest man on the Guinea Coast. But he still cannot make Anowa happy. Without daily work or a child to care for, she is directionless and despairing. She spends her days pacing their home, encouraging the children who clean for them to call her mother. During a final argument with Kofi, he says that he wishes for her to leave. Her ingratitude is making him miserable. For her own good, he wants to separate. However, he will not give her a specific reason. Anowa is incensed. She would be willing to leave him, but is not willing to be expelled. She has a cleaning boy summon the slaves, who gather in the room with them. Before them all, she reveals that Kofi is impotent, and this is why they have no children.

Kofi leaves the room and shoots himself. Anowa drowns herself shortly after. The Old Man and Old Woman retake the stage. The Old Woman lays all of the responsibility on Anowa and her erratic actions and emotional instability. The Old Man, however, says that the blame belongs to Anowa, Kofi, and also the villagers. He is more optimistic about change than she is, and while the ending is grim, the fact that the Old Man is given the final word suggests that Aidoo is hopeful about the future. 

Anowa is a challenging play filled with grave questions. It was released to well-deserved critical acclaim and has been hailed as a feminist masterpiece.

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