In this essay, I discuss Flora Nwapa's novel Efuru with an intent to continue Obioma Nnaemeka's critique of the problematic tradition/modernity worldview. Using Efuru as a counterexample, I show the ways in which Nwapa, by narrating the life of a common Igbo woman, enables a reading of women in her culture as active agents of change. Her representation of Igbo women's agency, seen most clearly in the protagonist Efuru's pragmatic resistance to her constraining conditions, is what elevates the text to universal relevance and thus transcends the Euro/Americentric tradition/modernity paradigm. I draw on Edward Said's opposition between vision and narrative to first discuss how Nwapa's dynamic narrative counters an essentialist reading of Igbo cultural tradition and women. Next, using Raymond Williams's idea of practical consciousness, I focus on the cultural implications of Nwapa's narrative. I argue that Efuru's spontaneous resistance to social pressures is indicative of an ongoing cultural change. Finally, I conclude that Efuru transcends the narrow tradition/modernity paradigm because it accurately represents the many challenges facing women in the wider postcolonial world.


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pp. 123-141
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