50+ List of Characters in Second Class Citizen

A good list of characters in Second Class Citizen must include Mr Cole (the teacher from Sierra Leone), Francis Obi, Adah Ofili, Mr Noble, Mr Okpara, Pa, Ma, Boy, and Lawyer Nweze. Apart from these, we also need to mention the following:

  • Peggy
  • Janet
  • Bill
  • Mr Ojo
  • Mr Barking
  • Mrs Konrad
  • Trudy
  • Miss Stirling and
  • Cousin Vincent.

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Never must we forget such baby characters in Second Class Citizen like Tony, Titi, Vicky, Bubu, and Dada.

But this is far from being the complete list of characters in Buchi Emecheta’s novel, Second Class Citizen.

In this post, therefore, I’ll give you a comprehensive list of all the characters in this novel. My purpose is to help you to identify both the major characters and minor characters in Second Class Citizen.

That is definitely not all. You will find in this post a brief description of each of these characters and their roles in Second Class Citizen.

So if all you want is the most useful list of all the characters in Second Class Citizen then you’ve certainly arrived at the right place.

You will have as much as you need in order to go a step further and add the necessary explanations for your WAEC/NECO/JAMB Literature-in-English essay.

Without wasting any more time, let’s start our comprehensive list of characters in Second Class Citizen by the renowned Nigerian novelist, Buchi Emecheta.

1. Adah Obi (nee Ofili)

Adah is the obvious choice for the top spot in this list of characters in Second Class Citizen.

This is because Adah is the main character in Second Class Citizen. So the whole narrative is the story of Adah, a young Nigerian girl from the Igbo tribe of south-eastern Nigeria. 

She is the daughter of Mr. Ofili, a native of Ibuza and a World War II veteran who dies suddenly due to some complications from an injury he sustained during the war.

Adah’s mother, Ma, also passes away soon after at the age of 38.

Somewhere in her late teens, Adah becomes the wife of Francis Obi, a young man she married against her relatives’ will.

As a young girl growing up, Adah was a dreamer whose ambition was to travel to the United Kingdom.

She also nursed the dream of becoming a librarian and a published author.

Adah’s progress towards the fulfillment of her dreams has not been smooth-sailing, to put it mildly. She has had to overcome many obstacles to give herself the needed education, marital status, and financial backbone to enable her to travel to the United Kingdom.

She finally arrives in England only to discover that the United Kingdom is not exactly what she had expected. Besides the rather cold weather, there is poor accommodation and there is racial discrimination against black immigrants.

Then she has to endure so much hardship due to the lazy and wicked attitude of Francis, her husband.

Meanwhile, Adah keeps getting pregnant in rapid succession.

Eventually, the financial and emotional burden becomes too much for Adah to bear. Her attempt to use a family planning cap to stop producing more children fails miserably. Francis discovers her secret plot and beats her up mercilessly.

Despite all these challenges, Adah refuses to give up. She finishes writing her first novel but Francis is not happy. He burns the manuscript right in front of Adah.

When she moves out to live on her own with her four very young children, Francis traces her to her new apartment and picks a quarrel with her. This one is more brutal and scarier than the other beatings. Unsurprisingly, the narrator calls it The Big Fight.

Significance of the Big Fight in Second Class Citizen

Summary of Second Class Citizen

100+ Sample WAEC Questions and Answers on Grammatical Name and Function

The Big Fight

Francis forces his way into Adah’s two-room apartment carrying knives. Luckily for Adah, her neighbours come to her rescue. Adah reports Francis to the authorities and he is arraigned before a Magistrate’s Court.

The outcome of the proceedings is not completely satisfactory. Adah herself begins to have concerns about what the court might do to Francis. Thus, she stammers throughout the proceedings. And Francis himself, in his characteristic manner, tells the magistrate many clever lies.

He disowns  Adah and the children. Adah leaves the court feeling deflated. But one thing is certain in her mind. She will not return to live with Francis ever again.

Adah’s Transformation – Development of Adah’s Character

Adah was once a determined, resourceful, and obstinate young girl who knew how to get what she wanted. But somehow, on her arrival in England, the cultural shock she experiences and the shocking behaviour of her husband, Francis combine to turn her into a docile wife and a clueless young mother.

Her abiding love for Francis, and her awareness that she has no other relative in this foreign land make it difficult for her to take on Francis the way she knows how to.

Until the big fight, Adah appears to be at her wit’s end as to how to deal with the brutalities she suffers at the hands of an abusive man she calls a husband.


Have a look at some of the character traits Adah possesses

  • Dreamer
  • Determined
  • Resourceful
  • Loving and caring mother

Adah is a caring mother with a mother’s instinct. Her ability to sense that something is not right with her children at Trudy’s place, far away from her own workplace, astounds Cynthia one of her co-workers at the North Finchley Library.

  • Dutiful wife
  • Hardworking
  • Academically brilliant
  • Emotionally dependent on Francis

Adah is emotionally attached to Francis. Perhaps, this is her softest spot and the greatest source of weakness for Adah. Francis is aware of this weakness in Adah and exploits it to the full.

  • Faithful wife. This is unlike Francis her husband who has scores of extra-marital affairs to his name.
  • Friendly. Adah has a natural ability to make people like her very easily.
  • Stubborn. As a young girl, Adah does not take no for an answer.

Coming next in our mega list of characters in Second Class Citizen is Francis Obi.

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2. Francis Obi

Francis Obi is the second most important character in Second Class Citizen. He is the visibly immature young man Adah chooses to marry despite the fact that he cannot afford her bride price.

Francis comes from a typical Igbo family where male children are over-pampered and over-protected. It is clear that the status of male privilege that Francis grew up with has shaped his attitude towards the female gender and his overall worldview in too many ways.

The Character and Role of Francis in Second Class Citizen

The Theme of Education in Second Class Citizen

The Theme of Gender Discrimination in Second Class Citizen

The Theme of Conflict in Second Class Citizen

The Theme of Domestic Violence in Second Class Citizen

In Second Class Citizen, therefore, Francis comes across as a very unattractive character. Below are some of the character traits of Francis in Second Class Citizen.

  • Abusive husband
  • Irresponsible father
  • Lazy student
  • Envious of Adah’s academic and career achievements
  • Naturally good-looking. No wonder Adah loves him despite the pain he causes her.
  • Doesn’t take care of his physical appearance. He often looks untidy.
  • Opportunistic. Even in matters of religion and faith, he moves from one faith or denomination to another according to his current selfish needs.
  • Lacks self-control
  • Loves sex to the extreme. This explains his womanizing attitude and Adah’s frequent pregnancies.
  • He is a loner. Francis is not the type who has friends coming to him all the time. Likewise, he hardly goes out to visit anybody.

3. Pa (Adah’s Father)

Pa is Adah’s father. He is a Second World War veteran.

At the beginning of the novel, Pa is a worker at a railway station in Lagos, Nigeria. He also once worked as a moulder at the loco-yard.

Until his untimely death, Pa has been very fond of Adah. He makes sure that Adah attends the prestigious Ladi-Lak Institute the same school where Boy, Adah’s younger brother had already been enrolled.

Pa has his own special way of calling Adah’s name. He refers to her as Nne-Nna among others.

Pa’s sudden death brings a serious disruption in the life of his family. For example, Adah has to go and work like a slave in her maternal uncle’s home.

Please Note: Mr Ofili is not the only person referred to as Pa in the novel. Francis’s father is also called Pa. Pa is thus a respectful way of addressing a father figure in Igbo culture as well as many other African societies.

4. Ma (Adah’s Mother)

Ma in Second Class Citizen is Adah’s mother. The relationship between Adah and Ma is not as cosy as it is between Adah and Pa.

One memorable incident involving Ma in Second Class Citizen is when she is taken to the police station and accused of child negligence. This is when Adah runs away to school while Ma is busy conversing with a friend in the compound.

The gari-and-water-drinking ordeal Ma goes through at the police station adds an element of humour to the narrative.

Beyond that, this police station incident in Second Class Citizen opens the door for the young Adah to begin attending school – a first significant step in the plot towards the fulfilment of the protagonist’s dream to travel to the United Kingdom.

Later in the narrative, Adah’s Ma demands a high bride price from any man who desires Adah’s hand in marriage.

Ma, too, dies very early at the young age of 38, leaving behind the orphaned Adah and Boy alone in the world.

Again, note that Francis’s mother is also addressed as Ma in Second Class Citizen. Just that her presence is not as prominent as that of Adah’s Ma.

Boy is next in your list of characters in Second Class Citizen.

5. Boy

Boy is Adah’s kid brother. Like other male children in Igbo society, Boy enjoys special privileges over Adah, his elder sister.

For example, Boy is given all the support to attend the expensive Ladi-Lak Institute while Adah is at home confined to household chores.

Boy is fond of his sister Adah but hates Francis her chosen husband.

On the day Adah finally leaves the shores of Nigeria to join Francis in England, Boy cries bitterly. He will later send all his savings to Adah pleading with her to return home from an abusive husband.


6. Cousin Vincent

Cousin Vincent in Second Class Citizen is one of the male children of Adah’s maternal uncle. He is one of the many minor characters in the novel.

He appears to be a vindictive young man who has little regard for females.

We meet Cousin Vincent in the incident where Adah has to steal money (2 shillings) meant for buying a pound of teak to enable her to register for the Common Entrance Examination. She buries the money in the ground and returns home claiming that the money is lost.

Objective Questions and Answers on Chapter 3 of Second Class Citizen

Chapter 2 Summary of Second Class Citizen

Vincent will have none of it. He gives Adah as many as 103 strokes of the koboko cane but Adah stubbornly refuses to cry.

Meanwhile, Cousin Vincent’s anger increased; he caned her wildly, all over her body. After a hundred and three strokes, he told Adah that he would never talk to her again, not in this world nor in the world to come. Adah did not mind that. She was, in fact, very happy. She had earned the two shillings. And he was a nasty, nasty man.

Buchi Emecheta (Second Class Citizen)

The incident involving Cousin Vincent is used to demonstrate at least two character traits of Adah’s. She is a stubborn and determined individual and can be very resourceful even to the point of criminality.

We can now take a quick look at Francis’s parents in this list of characters in Second Class Citizen.

7. Pa (Francis’s Father)

Not much is said about Francis’s Pa in the novel. Pa, as Francis’s father is also called has a large family made up of male and female children. Below are some facts to remember about this other Pa in Second Class Citizen.


Considerable Influence Over Francis

First of all, Francis’s Pa wields so much influence over his son that the latter cannot even make simple decisions regarding his marriage without his father’s help.

An example is when Francis goes to inquire from his father what he must do about Adah’s salary of about 60 pounds. His problem is that his wife’s salary is much bigger than his.

Francis complains bitterly that his colleagues at his workplace have already started laughing at him. Francis’s Pa advises his son to consider Adah’s salary as God-sent. For that matter, he must stop complaining like an idiot.

You are a fool of a man, you are. Where will she take the money to? Her people? Her people who did not even come to congratulate her on the arrival of baby Titi? Her relatives, who did not care whether she lived or died? The money is for you, can’t you see? Let her go and work for a million Americans and bring their money here, into this house. It is your luck. You made a good choice in marriage, son.

Buchi Emecheta (Second Class Citizen)

Believer In Male Dominance

Secondly, Francis’s Pa believes in male dominance in marriage in the larger society.

He views women as objects that must be used and exploited as much as possible. This is why he tells Francis that Adah’s salary is technically his.

And it is with this view of the female gender that he has brought up his male children. No wonder, Francis grows up into the abusive husband he has become.

He Does Not Believe In Women’s Rights

It is not surprising, therefore, that Francis’s Pa has very little regard for women’s rights.

One proof of this is his unwillingness to allow Adah to travel to the United Kingdom to join her husband, Francis. According to Francis’s Pa, London is just like Lagos so there is no need for Adah to travel just to see London. But the truth is he does not want to lose the financial support that Adah now gives him and his family.

He Is A Realist

Franicis’s Pa is very much conscious of the unemployment situation in Nigeria. As a young man, he suffered from joblessness himself. So he wants Adah to stay in Nigeria and keep her high-paying job which is rare to come by.

It is only when Adah tells him that her departure to England is going to be ‘leave without pay, meaning the job at the American Consulate Library will be there waiting for her return that Francis’s father finally agrees to Adah’s travelling to England.

He Is Unable to Provide For His Family

Francis’s father is unable to support his family financially.

Thus, Adah’s entry into the Obi family and her good salary from the American Consulate Library becomes the mainstay of the family.

It is highly probable that Francis’s failure to support his own wife and children is simply a family thing. He is only taking a leaf out of his father’s book.

Francis’s Ma is next on our list of characters in Second Class Citizen.

8. Ma (Francis’s Mother)

Adah’s mother-in-law is also referred to as Ma in the novel. But compared to Adah’s Ma, Francis’s mother does not feature prominently in the narrative.

One notable incident involving Francis’s Ma is how Adah cunningly convinces her to agree to her travelling to join Francis in England.

Initially, Adah’s mother-in-law was not happy about Adah’s intention to travel to England. Just like her husband, she is concerned that the family will lose Adah’s huge financial support.

But Adah knows that this woman is materialistic. So all she does is suggest to her that she and Francis will return with more money, cars, and other goodies for the family.

9. Lawyer Nweze

Under no circumstance must Lawyer Nweze escape your attention in the list of characters in Second Class Citizen.

Lawyer Nweze is the illustrious son of the Igbo town of Ibuza. He has made his people proud with a rare achievement. Lawyer Nweze is the first-ever son of Ibuza to have studied in England and qualified as a lawyer.

For that matter, his return from the United Kingdom to Nigeria is a great occasion for the natives of Ibuza who reside in Lagos. The elaborate preparations the women of Ibuza make for Lawyer Nweze’s arrival are unprecedented.

They meet him at the Apapa Wharf with great joy and jubilation. The men of Ibuza also set aside a special Sunday to give Lawyer Nweze a memorable welcome

Lawyer Nweze plays a significant role in the novel. This is despite the fact that he is not actively involved in the story.

  • He is a trailblazer

First of all, Lawyer Nweze’s achievement serves as a motivation for the youth of Ibuza to follow in his footsteps. A clear example is how Nweze’s return from the United Kingdom gives birth to Adah’s dream to get an education and travel to the same place.

  • Thus, Lawyer Nweze is not just Adah’s role model. He also contributes to the theme of ambition or dreams in Second Class Citizen.
  • Furthermore, Lawyer Nweze’s story illustrates the high premium that his people place on male education to the detriment of their female counterparts.

This furthers the theme of gender-based discrimination in the novel. Maybe, if Nweze were a female, he wouldn’t have had the opportunity to go to school let alone travel to England to study a prestigious course like Law.

Later, doubts begin to emerge over the actual abilities of Lawyer Nweze as a practising lawyer. Perhaps this society overrates unduly the capabilities of its male children.

  • Contribution to the Development of the Plot

Finally, Lawyer Nweze contributes to the development of the plot of Second Class Citizen. To put it briefly, his triumphant return from England is the source of Adah’s ambition. From then on, this incident becomes the driving force behind all the protagonist’s actions and their consequences leading up to the last chapter of the novel.

10. Oboshi, The River Goddess of Ibuza

So who or what is Oboshi in Second Class Citizen?

In Buchi Emecheta’s novel, Second Class Citizen, Oboshi is the biggest river in Ibuza. But it is not an ordinary river. Oboshi is also the venerable deity of Ibuza. It is a female god that is worshipped with reverence.

Oboshi is feared because she will strike anyone who flouts her rules with leprosy.

When a native of Ibuza behaves well, credit must go to Oboshi. Thus, the people are happy that thanks to Oboshi’s guidance, Lawyer Nweze didn’t go astray. He had made the right decision not to bring a white woman back home.

Oboshi is used to develop the themes of superstition and religion in the novel.

For example, the men of Ibuza believe that Oboshi would have brought the dreaded disease of leprosy upon Nweze had he returned home with a white woman.

Adah’s Attitude Towards Oboshi

Adah’s interesting attitude towards religious matters in general and the claims about Oboshi’s powers in particular is worthy of note here.

Adah has shown much interest in spiritual matters in the novel. Numerous allusions are made to verses in the Christian bible in the narrative. We have also seen her close connection to ‘The Presence’.

Beyond this, Adah questions the potency of Oboshi’s acclaimed powers. She wonders why the river goddess has remained unconcerned while foreign oil companies bring their equipment to degrade the environment including the river.

Later, Adah did not know what came over that river Oboshi, though. Oil was discovered very near her, and she allowed the oilmen to dig into her without cursing them with leprosy. The oilmen were mainly white, which was a surprise. Or perhaps she had long been declared redundant by the greater gods. That would not have surprised Adah, for everybody could be declared redundant these days, even goddesses. If not redundant, then she must have been in a Rip Van Winkle sleep, for she also allowed the Hausa soldiers to come and massacre her sons, and some Ibuza men had married white women without getting leprosy. Only last year, an Ibuza girl graduate had married a white American! So Oboshi was faster than most of her sons and daughters at catching up with the times.

Buchi Emecheta (Second Class Citizen)

Oboshi Plays a Central Role in the Life of Ibuza

When Francis is about to travel to England, his people offer prayers to Oboshi to help him with the following.

  • She should protect Francis from the eyes of evil white girls.
  • Oboshi must help Francis to pass his exams in good time.
  • Also, she must bless him with all the money and other good things in England.
  • Oboshi must protect him from dangerous diseases like the Plague.

Interestingly, Francis appears to have been forgotten by Oboshi as soon as he landed in England.

As for Adah, her disdain for her people’s superstition intensifies. She is at a loss as to how Oboshi can protect Ibuza natives in faraway England.

In a nutshell, the river goddess Oboshi is used to develop the theme of superstition in Second Class Citizen and also to demonstrate Adah’s keen interest in supernatural or spiritual matters. Her sarcastic attitude to Oboshi, and sometimes, the verses in the Christian bible must possibly be a portrait of the author’s personal views on such matters.

12. Mr Cole

Mr Cole in Second Class Citizen is a Sierra Leonean national who lives and works in Lagos.

He is described as being very dark in complexion, huge and tall.

Mr Cole is also Adah’s neighbour.

Mr Cole is a professional teacher. He teaches at the Methodist mission primary school where the 8-year-old Adah absconds one hot afternoon without Ma’s permission.

Mr Cole is a kind man judging by the friendly manner he treats Adah when she suddenly appears in his classroom. He even buys food for Adah and accompanies her to the police station where Ma has been taken for neglecting her parental duties.

13. Mr Eke

Mr Eke is mentioned only once in the novel. He is apparently Francis’s casual friend since Francis never had any real long-term friendships.

It is Adah who uses Mr Eke as an example when she expresses her disappointment at the sort of accommodation Francis has prepared for her and their young children in England.

Listen to her:

Look at your friend Mr Eke, when he knew that his wife was coming with their daughter, he made sure he moved away from this lot.

14. Mr Ojo

Mr Ojo and his wife are co-tenants of the Obis. They are Nigerians who have decided to come to England without their four children. They are among the people who advise Francis and Adah to send their children back to Nigeria or find a child-minder for them.

They make it clear to Adah and Francis that “only first-class citizens lived with their children, not the blacks”

Let’s talk briefly about Mr Devlin a part of this list of characters in Second Class Citizen.

15. Mr Devlin

Mr Devlin in Second Class Citizen is Adah’s Irish co-tenant who comes to her rescue in The Big Fight. He lives in the same house where Adah relocates after moving out on Francis with her children. It is Mr Devlin who saves Adah from danger when Francis violently attacks her in her new room. He has to break Adah’s door in order to rescue her from Francis’s brutal beatings.

16. Mr Okpara

Mr Okpara is the Igbo man that Adah encounters in a public park during one of her many sad moments in London.

In many ways, Mr Okpara is the direct opposite of Francis. He is neatly dressed, fully employed, and has a stable marriage.

Mr Okpara persuades Adah to take him home so they may apologize to her husband for what he believes to be Adah’s offence against him.

Unfortunately, Mr Okpara receives a hostile reception from Francis. His advice to Francis to begin being a responsible husband and father falls on deaf ears.

17. Mr Barking

Though Mr Barking is a minor character in this list of characters in Second Class Citizen, he is worth mentioning.

So who is Mr Barking in Second Class Citizen? Here is a brief answer for you.

Mr Barking is Adah’s reticent ‘big boss’ at Chalk Farm Library. As you will see in this article, Chalk Farm Library is a setting that plays a significant role in Second Class Citizen.

Mr Barking is ‘thin and bad-tempered’ He is always thinking of his daughter who is married to a man he considers to be a worthless fellow.

For this reason, all he appears to care about is how to end his daughter’s marriage. And, indeed, he does not care if this costs him his life.

Thus, in a very small way, Mr Barking helps to develop the theme of problematic marriages in Second Class Citizen.

18. Irene

Irene is, in fact, part of this long list of characters in Second Class Citizen

Who then is Irene in Second Class Citizen?

 In the novel, Irene happens to be a West Indian girl who has a baby for a Nigerian. But this man fails to marry her because he is adamant that the baby is not his.

It is Irene who informs Adah that she can actually live ‘on Assistance’ until her children grow up.

At the time of Dada’s birth, Adah gives three pounds to Irene asking her to post three cards a day after the baby had been born.

Adah asks Irene to send her two big bunches of flowers – one on her arrival with the name “Francis’ attached to it ‘with sentimental words’.

Irene should send the other bunch as soon as she has had “her safe delivery”

Should Adah die in labour, Irene must turn the bunches into a wreath with her children’s names attached. At this stage, Irene cannot help but shed tears.

Thus, Irene’s relationship with Adah helps to reveal the emotional trauma Adah is going through. The troubles she has had to deal with are so overwhelming that she is prepared for early death. So Adah of all people has started looking for ways to pour out her emotions. Irene is the one who helps to make this possible.

 19. Adah’s Headmaster

The headmaster in Second Class Citizen is the head of Adah’s primary school. It is he that announces the list of secondary schools the students could apply to.

Adah smiles to herself when hears the encouraging words of The Presence.

Unfortunately for Adah, the headmaster takes this to mean she is laughing at him.  He, therefore, orders four tough-looking boys to hold her while he administers severe corporal punishment. 

The pain is so intense that Adah has to sink her teeth into Latifu’s back. This episode earns Adah the nickname ‘The Igbo Tigress’.

20. Cynthia

Cynthia is one of Adah’s co-workers at the North Finchley Library in London. She is engaged to be married “and was sure hers was going to work”.

When she notices that Adah is hungry but has nothing to eat, she offers her some food. It is Cynthia who confirms Adah’s fears that Vicky has fallen ill.

21. Babalola

Babalola is a character in Second Class Citizen who migrated from Northern Nigeria to England.

Just like Pa Noble, Babalola’s mission is to study in England for a qualification that will enable him to get a juicy political appointment in the newly independent Nigeria.

And, like Mr Noble, Babalola runs into trouble. He quickly abandons the reason he came to England and takes to a lavish extravagant lifestyle.

Consequently, all his money gets finished and the remittances from Nigeria have stopped coming. Babalola’s friends now avoid him after he has spent all his money to entertain them.

It is in these difficult moments that Babalola meets Janet and the two begin to live together as husband and wife.

Babalola and Janet play a role in helping Adah get Trudy, the disastrous child-minder for Titi and Vicky.

22. Eileen

Eileen is Bill’s wife. Unlike Adah, Eileen is lucky to have a hardworking man for a husband.

She and Bill have a son.

23. Mr Noble (Pa Noble)

Pa Noble is one of the most interesting characters in Second Class Citizen. He is one of those Nigerian civil servants who left their wives, children, and jobs behind to travel to England for further studies. But unfortunately, Mr Noble and many others fail to realize their dreams of going back home to occupy high political positions following Nigeria’s attainment of independence status.

24. Sue

Sue is Mr Noble’s white wife. Sue is much younger than Pa Noble, her husband. She appears not to derive enough sexual satisfaction from her husband. So she flirts openly with Francis when he and Adah go to Mr Noble’s house to look for accommodation.

Mrs Noble is kind enough to give presents to Adah’s children during Christmas. This is at a time the Obis have nothing to celebrate Christmas with.

25. Janet

Janet is a white sixteen-year-old Cockney girl who is pregnant at the time she and Babalola’s paths cross. Her stepfather has kicked her out of his home when she refuses to go to Social Welfare to allow them to take care of her baby when it is born.

Janet is a good friend of Adah’s. She is the one that advises Adah to get a child-minder for her babies.

26. Trudy

One of the most interesting in Buchi Emecheta’s list of characters in Second Class Citizen is Trudy, the child-minder.

Trudy is the child-minder that Adah contracts to take care of Titi and Vicky while she is at work. Unfortunately, Trudy turns out to be a negligent child-minder. Her carelessness nearly cost Vicky his life.

In Second Class Citizen, Trudy is portrayed as dirty, a liar, and a prostitute. She is one of Francis’s numerous mistresses.

Due to her negligence, she loses her job as a child-minder. Miss Stirling, her boss, makes sure her name is struck out of the register of child-minders in Camden Borough, London.

Next in our list of characters in Second Class Citizen is the Beautiful Nurse

27. The Beautiful Nurse

The ‘beautiful nurse with a soft voice’ in Second Class Citizen works at the Royal Free Hospital. This is where Vicky, who has fallen very ill at Trudy’s place, is rushed to in an ambulance.

The beautiful nurse at Royal Free Hospital has been insisting that it is time for Adah to go since Vicky has been admitted. But Adah refuses to go. She says she can only leave her son behind if the hospital staff applies force.

It is then that the beautiful nurse asks Adah if she has other children. Adah says yes but she is ‘only a girl. This surprises the beautiful nurse.

To her, a child is a human being to be appreciated regardless of gender.

The significance of the brief conversation between Adah and the beautiful nurse is this. It is one key motif that helps to develop the theme of gender discrimination in Second Class Citizen.

While Adah is very much conscious of the second-class status of the female child among her people,  the beautiful nurse knows absolutely nothing about that.

But how was she to tell this beautiful creature that in her society she could only be sure of the love of her husband and the loyalty of her parents-in-law by having and keeping alive as many children as possible, and that though a girl may be counted as one child, to her people, a boy was like four children put together. And if the family could give the boy a good university education, his mother would be given the status of a man in her tribe. How was she to explain all that? That her happiness depended so much on her son staying alive?’

Buchi Emecheta (Second Class Citizen)

The theme of gender roles also comes up in the conversation between the beautiful nurse and Adah. Adah tells the nurse she is ‘making another one. This too means nothing to the nurse.

But clearly, Adah’s utterance is hugely significant. 

This is it. In most African societies, the value of a woman is dependent upon the number of children she can ‘make’. This is what Adah is trying to put across.

In essence, Adah has accepted her cultural role as a baby-making machine.

28. Dr Hudson

 She is a surgeon and runs a surgery at the Crescent. It is to her surgery that Adah runs when the baby kicks hard at her womb.

Adah’s walk to the surgery is duck-like: “she padded just like a duck, first to the right then to the left” Already she and Francis had agreed she would have the baby at home.

Adah informs Dr Hudson that she is not having her baby at University College Hospital but at home. She has decided to have this baby in their room at Willes Road.

Surprised, Dr Hudson wants to know why she has changed her mind. But Adah cannot easily explain why she will not give birth in a hospital.

The actual reason for avoiding a hospital is to save six pounds if the baby is delivered at home, in their one-room apartment. Adah believes that saying this to Dr Hudson will lead to questions which she will find difficult to answer.

Adah wonders what she must tell Dr Hudson if she demands to know why her husband cannot go out to work to make up for the six pounds.

“Adah would have to tell the doctor woman that her husband believed in Armageddon. So there was no need for him to exert himself too much in this world”

Indeed, this brief encounter with Dr Hudson is significant in at least two ways. First, it goes to portray Francis as an irresponsible husband.

Secondly, Dr Hudson’s interaction with Adah exposes the extent of the challenges Adah has to contend with in her marriage to Francis.

29. The Dark Indian Doctor

The Indian Doctor in Second Class Citizen is the one to whom Adah goes to have her fourth pregnancy terminated.

So who is the dark Indian Doctor in Second Class Citizen? Below are the salient points to note about the Indian Doctor.

  • He is an elderly man.
  • However, he looks very smallish
  • The Indian doctor practices his profession as a medical doctor in London, England.
  • He has succeeded in London.
  • His wife is also a doctor.
  • Their two sons are students at Cambridge University.
  • The couple is very popular among the black population in Kentish Town.
  • He is against smoking. The Indian doctor believes that smoking is dangerous.

When he gives the pills to Adah, he assures her that ‘they will work’ without categorically stating what he means by that.

So when a disappointed Adah returns later to complain that she didn’t get the results she was looking for, the Indian doctor feigns ignorance. ‘I did not give you the pills to abort the child’, he quips.

This makes Adah very upset.

With this answer coming from the Indian Doctor, Adah makes up her mind to have the baby. However, she angrily tells the doctor that should her child be deficient in any way he will be held responsible.

The Indian Doctor later prescribes a diet for Adah so that in the end, she is able to give birth to Dada without much trouble.

30. The Chinese Doctor

When the Indian doctor refuses to come and see ailing Vicky on Christmas Day, it is the Chinese doctor who comes instead. He has come to examine Vicky’s sudden ‘elephant’ ear.

From his eyes and the shape of his “round head like that of a calabash” Adah determines that he is Chinese. As a matter of fact, he is a second-class citizen just like herself. And, for that reason, he cannot be her superior.

The Chinese doctor examines Vicky, checking his temperature and his fast-enlarging earlobes.

Within a short period of time, he announces that the room is infested with bedbugs. He says Vicky has a bug bite and that it is not a serious matter because his grandmother also suffers from such bites. Then he tells the couple what they need to do.

31. Bill

Bill, the Canadian is one of those characters we cannot afford to ignore in this list of characters in Second Class Citizen.

Here are the key points to remember about Bill in Second Class Citizen.

Bill is a Canadian immigrant who worked as a radio presenter in his home country before moving to London. Now, he works as a librarian in London.

He appears to be very close to Adah. In fact, he is one of Adah’s colleagues at Chalk Farm Library.

Bill has a wife and a son. His wife’s name is Eileen.

He is very tall and handsome.

Bill and Peggy play a major role in Adah’s writing and completion of the manuscript of her first novel, The Bride Price which Francis burns soon after.

32. Peggy

Peggy is Adah’s colleague librarian. Like Bill, the tall and handsome Canadian, Peggy works with Adah at the Chalk Farm Library.

Peggy is described as wearing a funny hairstyle.

Compared to Fay, the mulattress, Peggy is not that beautiful looking. But she and Adah are very close. They enjoy each other’s company a lot.

33. Latifu

Latifu is Adah’s schoolmate. He is ‘the boy who was doing the backing’ while the Headmaster punished Adah with multiple strokes of the cane for something she never did.

When Adah can no longer take the pain, she bit hard and deep into the flesh on Latifu’s back. The incident demonstrates Adah’s determined and strong-headed character. This incident involving Latifu earns her the nickname, ‘Igbo Tigress’

34. The Skinny Man With A Black Bow Tie

The Skinny Man in Second Class Citizen refers to the man who is seen officiating at the bizarre wedding ceremony involving Adah and Francis Obi. He initially refuses to marry the two when they cannot produce a wedding ring.

Adah’s insistence that Ebute-Meta, the place to buy the ring is too far away so he should just marry them that way falls on deaf ears. It is on the following day that the marriage ceremony finally takes place.

35. The Boy With Craw-Craw on His Head

The boy with craw-craw in Second Class Citizen is the primary school boy in Mr Cole’s class that gave the young Adah a bit of his pencil. He grows up to become a lecturer at Lagos City Hospital.

The narrator has not disclosed the actual name of the boy with a craw-craw in Second Class Citizen. So all we know is that he is the Good Samaritan that saves the day for the little determined Adah on the day she steals her way into Mr Cole’s class at the Methodist mission school.

36. Angelina

Both Angelina and Cecilia are minor characters in our list of characters in Second Class Citizen.

Angelina is one of Francis’s four sisters. When Adah becomes part of the Obi family household, she takes over responsibility for paying her school fees. In return, Angelina takes care of Adah’s two children (Titi and Vicky) while she is at work at the American Consulate Library in Lagos.

37. Cecilia

Just like Angelina, Cecilia is Francis’s younger sister. She too helps to take care of Adah’s children.

38. Fay

Fay in Second Class Citizen is a young ‘mulattress’ who refuses to accept the fact that she is black. Fay is described as very beautiful.

Who is Fay in Second Class Citizen?

39. Mrs Konrad

Another important individual in this list of characters in Second Class Citizen is Mrs Konrad.

Mrs Konrad in Second Class Citizen is Adah’s first boss in England. She is a Czech immigrant who works as the chief librarian at the North Finchley library. Mrs Konrad’s other attributes include the following.

She is ‘large’ in size

Mrs Konrad is a very friendly woman.

She is kind too. She is the one who sends gifts to Adah during her stay at the maternity ward of the University Hospital and later at Christmas when she has almost nothing to give to celebrate the season with her little children.

Mrs Konrad does not show much interest in fashion. So she looks out of place among her younger co-workers.

40. Miss Stirling

Miss Stirling in Second Class Citizen is the children’s officer in charge of the Borough of Camden in London. Her office is on Malden Road “in front of Trudy’s registered house”

Trudy,  the child-minder, is thus answerable to her. Miss Stirling later cancels Trudy’s name in the list of registered child-minders when her negligence nearly cost Vicky his life.

41. Titi

Titi is the first child of Francis and Adah Obi. Thus, she is among the list of characters in Second Class Citizen.

Titi is a girl, who, because of her being female, appears not to be of much value in the eyes of Adah’s husband and his parents. As Adah tells the beautiful nurse at the Free Royal hospital where the boy Vicky is on admission, in her Igbo society, it takes as many as four girls like Titi to match the value of a single boy like Vicky.

Francis does not take much notice of her when Titi arrives with her younger brother and their mother in Liverpool.

One memorable incident involving Titi in Second Class Citizen is when she suddenly turns unusually quiet. She later confides in Adah’s friend that she is scared of speaking Yoruba because Francis, her father has threatened to beat her with a belt if she does so. And since she cannot speak English fluently at the time, she has chosen to remain silent most of the time.

42. Vicky

Vicky in Second Class Citizen is the second child of the Obis. He is also their first son.

Vicky is prone to suffering from sudden medical conditions. He is therefore not a very healthy boy. On at least two occasions, Vicky’s health problems scare the life out of Adah, his loving mother.

The first is when he suddenly falls ill under Trudy’s watch. On this occasion, Vicky has to be rushed in an ambulance to the Free Royal Hospital where he is diagnosed with viral meningitis

Then at Christmas, while the family is living in Mr Noble’s house, Vicky suddenly develops a swelling in his ear. The ear begins to grow in size very rapidly. It takes a Chinese doctor to come in and allay Adah’s fears that the cause is a bite from a bedbug.

Francis’s reaction to Vicky’s Health Issues

In the first instance above, Francis cries with Adah. Adah is scared of losing her son knowing how valuable he is to her in-laws and to the survival of her marriage. Francis, on his part, cries like a child. This is because while he knows the value of a son among his people, he is clueless as to what to do to support Adah in such a difficult moment.

On the second occasion that Vicky’s fast-growing ‘elephant’ ears raise an alarm, Francis nearly physically attacks the Indian doctor who is unwilling to come and attend to Vicky. He goes ahead to report the Indian doctor to the authorities.

There is no knowing how Francis would have reacted if it had been Titi, the girl, who has had these same health problems. But one thing is clear, Francis, being the very traditional Igbo male that he is, values Vicky more than Titi.

43. Bubu

Bubu in Second Class Citizen is a very interesting child character. He is the third of Adah’s children and her second son.

Even though Bubu is not an active participant in the events of the narrative, the circumstances surrounding his birth are what make him stand out among his siblings.

44. Dada

Had Adah’s attempt to terminate her fourth pregnancy succeeded, there wouldn’t have been any Dada in Second Class Citizen. As you can see, therefore, Dada is Adah’s fourth child and second daughter.

Compared to the eventful birth of baby Bubu, Dada’s birth is an ordinary affair. Except that Adah has vowed not to experience the humiliation she went through during Bubu’s birth.

So she makes sure she takes care of all her needs before going to the maternity ward. This means Adah has to fake the gifts that she must receive while in the maternity ward with her baby Dada. She is able to pull this through with the help of Irene.

Francis, on his part, does not show much interest in Dada’s birth.

45. Tony

Tony in Second Class Citizen is Janet’s son. He is also Titi’s playmate. Tony is the product of the pregnancy Janet was carrying at the time she and Babalola met in the telephone kiosk.

At the time Janet and Adah become close friends,  Tony has grown into an eighteen-month-old baby boy. He loves to play with Titi, his mother’s friend’s little daughter.

46. The Presence

The Presence in Second Class Citizen is more or less the narrator’s representation of God or a Supreme Being. The Presence serves as Adah’s guardian angel right from the time she was an eight-year-old dreamer up to the end of the novel.

However, it is important to note that the relationship between Adah and The Presence appears to have taken a break somewhere around the time Adah leaves Nigeria for the United Kingdom.

Adah only begins to feel The Presence near her again when her marital problems with the abusive Francis become unbearable.

Adah has always shown a keen interest in spiritual matters and how they affect her life and that of her people.

We have seen her uncharitable attitude toward the way her people relate to Oboshi the River Goddess of Ibuza. But when it comes to The Presence, Adah relies heavily on its still voice to direct her to deal with the challenges in her life.

47. The Police

The Police in Second Class Citizen refers to the officers at the Police Station where Ma is held briefly and tortured. The incident is all about Adah’s secretly running away to school when she is supposed to be at home.

The Police in Second Class Citizen, therefore, arrest Ma for child negligence. They force her to drink a lot of gari and water without sugar.

One significance of The Police in Second Class Citizen is this. The hilarious manner they go about dealing with Ma adds a good measure of humour to the narrative. This is what we call comic relief in literature.

Secondly, the harsh treatment meted out to Ma may be symptomatic of the culture of heavy-handedness and impunity in the Nigerian police service. Buchi Emecheta is probably criticizing the unacceptable manner in which illiterate or ignorant citizens like Ma are manhandled by the police for minor breaches of the law.

48. The Sleek Woman

The Sleek Woman in Second Class Citizen is Adah’s wardmate during her stay at the University College Hospital. The Sleek Woman occupies the Number 11 bed, next to Adah’s, in the maternity ward. 

Note the following points about The Sleek Woman. Note also that the narrative is silent on the actual name of the Sleek Woman in Second Class Citizen.

Though she appears to be a naturally quiet individual, the Sleek Woman enjoys conversations with Adah. The two are on very friendly terms.

The Sleek Woman has a ‘complicated pregnancy’. Her baby is overdue coming.

Her husband is tall and handsome.

Adah envies the Sleek Woman for all the love her husband showers upon her.

This is because Adah’s own condition contrasts with that of the Sleek Woman. In other words, the novelist has used the Sleek Woman in Second Class Citizen to emphasize the seriousness of Adah’s sufferings at the hands of Francis, a negligent and self-centred husband.

49. The Greek Woman

The Greek Woman in Second Class Citizen is another wardmate of Adah’s at the University College Hospital, London, where she has gone to give birth to Bubu, her third child.

She is the occupant of the Number 8 bed near Adah’s

The Greek woman is large.

She loves to talk a lot and does so quite loudly.

The Greek woman already has one child Titi’s age.

She is gorgeous looking and boasts of as many as 10 housecoats.

The Greek woman in Second Class Citizen is a seamstress.

Her beautiful nightdress makes Adah feel bad about the nightdress she has to borrow from the hospital since she has none of her own.

The last in our long list of characters in Second Class Citizen is the Landlady in Hawley Street.

50. The Landlady in Hawley Street

The landlady in Hawley street is a racist Londoner who declines to give the Obis a place in her house due to their black skin colour.

Under intense pressure to vacate their room in Ashdown street, Adah intensifies her search for a new place. This is when she comes into contact with the landlady in Hawley Street.

At first, this white landlady is led to believe that Adah and her husband are white. So she agrees to meet them.

She assures Adah that there is a vacant place for them. But on realizing that Adah and Francis are black, she changes her mind. Now she says there is no vacant room in her house.

In fact, so strong are the racist instincts of this woman that she nearly vomited when she first set her eyes on the black couple.

It is the attitude of this landlady in Hawley Street and her kind that makes African immigrants in England feel like second-class citizens.

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