GIRLS AT WAR
By Chinua Achebe
Chinua Achebe’s short story “Girls at War” is a commentary on gender roles, reflecting the interpersonal struggles that arise when someone does and doesn’t meet the expectations placed on them by society.
Girls at War takes place during the Nigerian War and the main character, Reginald, appears to be a kind of deliveryman, making sure supplies get to where they’re needed.
GIRLS AT WAR
Author: Chinua Achebe
- Straightforward narration. The story is told in a straightforward narration in which the author narrates the events occurring in the story linking them in a cause and effect relationship. Each event that occurs later in the plot of the story seems to be a necessary consequence of the preceding event or earlier situations in the past. However the civil war is treated not only as the main cause that puts the story and the related events in motion but also it leads to the subsequent effects seen in the story.
- Flashback; there is the use of flashback in the story when Nwankwo and Gladys discuss the years back when he had warned her to go back to school and not to join the military because girls were not required. But also the way women, girls and children were so determined to stage a revolution.
- Flashback; there is the use of flashback in the story when Nwankwo and Gladys discuss the years back when he had warned her to go back to school and not to join the military because girls were not required. But also the way women, girls and children were so determined to stage a revolution.
Summary of the Story
The story begins by showing the determination that young men and women have to bear arms to defend their new nation so they go to enlistment centres. Nwankwo is in a hurry driving from Onitsha to Enugu but he has to cross many roadblocks on the way. He gets annoyed as he has to submit to these searches as if he is not one of the big people though intellectually he approves what they are doing. In some roadblocks he passed without a search when he just introduced himself as “Reginald Nwankwo, Ministry of justice”
When he reaches Awka, two constables carrying heavy Mark 4 riffles watches as a girl searched his car ignoring his title as he named it. As she was searching inside his car he looked at her closely and found out that she looked familiar. After the search she asked him whether he recognised her and reminded him that he gave her a lift one day on her way to Enugu when she left school and went to join the militia. Although she was rejected to join the militia she still joined the civil Defence.
Nwankwo on that day saw that women and girls were so committed to make a revolution. They were accompanied with little kids with sticks and bowls on their heads for helmets plus girls from a local secondary school who marched behind a banner “WE ARE IMPREGNABLE”. So on this day at Awka he saw not a talk of revolution but revolution itself in action. He was so impressed by the way Gladys searched his car with determination without making an exception for a man who once gave her a lift.
Eighteen months later when they met for the third time, things had changed dramatically. Many girls had abandoned their duties due to deaths and starvation and many nervous checkpoints had disappeared. Some people were to be sheltered at the refugee camps. Although Nwankwo lived in Owerri, he had to go to Nkwerri in search of relief because Caritas who ran the depot at Owerri had given him just a few heads of stock fish, some tinned meat, and Formula Two – a dreadful American stuff. And Nwankwo suspects that it was just because he was not a Catholic. “But he always had a vague suspicion that not being a Catholic put one at a disadvantage with Caritas”.
He decided to go to another WCC depot at Nkwerri which was run by his old friend to get other items like rice, beans, and excellent cereal called Gabon gari. He was very fortunate because on the previous day, the depot had received large supplies of new stock. He was given more than enough supplies of tins, bags and cartons and loaded his car until the starved crowd that was around the relief centre complained saying “War Can Continue! Meaning the WCC”. They started shouting;
Nwankwo was embarrassed, not by their noise but by the way their bodies were disfigured as a result of starvation and suffering. However sympathetic he was, there was nothing he could do for a crowd. He too had a wife and four children at Ogbu village and they depended on him to provide for them. If at all he got enough supplies, the best he could do was to help his driver Johnson with a wife and six or seven children and his immediate neighbours only.
On his way back a beautiful girl waved for a lift and they picked her only to discover later that she was Gladys. They start a conversation and Gladys informs him that by then he was working in the Fuel Directorate. The way she way dressed in expensive attire made Nwankwo conclude that she was in the keep of a rich man one of those who were getting richer taking advantage of the war.
Gladys says she was going to Owerri to visit her girlfriend and Nwankwo is surprised. Nwankwo prays that they might miss that friend so that he can offer her a bed and breakfast in his house. Suddenly, the driver stops the car as he saw a crowd ahead looking upwards and the three rushed into the bush thinking it was air raids only to find out that they were just two high-flying vultures. Then they continued with their journey.
Gladys was so frightened and Nwankwo used that opportunity to divert her journey claiming that the place she was going (250 Douglas Road) was more dangerous as there are no bunkers in that area. “Nwankwo saw an opportunity and there and took it at once” (p.99). So he drove her straight to his house promising to take her back when the place is safe. He assured her that his family was not at home and nobody else had his family there as well. He promises to take her to a swinging party of his friend, a lieutenant – colonel, who was having a birthday party.
They reached at Owerri and Gladys made herself at home very quickly as if she was Nwankwo’s regular girlfriend. She changed her dresses quickly into a house dress and Nwankwo commented that she had a lovely hairdo. He pulled her to him and kissed her. She never refused because too many girls were simply too easy those days. He drives to the office leaving her at home preparing lunch but he comes back after a short time claiming that he could not stay away too long from his beauty queen.
As they sat down for lunch Nwankwo says that there are people who were trading with the enemy or selling relief to get foreign exchange. He thought that even Augusta’s boyfriend who trades in foreign exchange did the same. Augusta is Gladys girlfriend. As for Nwankwo he said he doesn’t do so because they are fighting a war. And the boys at the war front have no food they drink gari and water once in three days. Also the fact that people are dying every day frustrated him.
The boy alerted them of a plane and they all ran to the bunker of palm stems and read earth. The entire sky was exploding with the clamour of jets and the huge noise of home-made anti-aircraft rockets. They remained in the bunker Gladys clinging to him until they head his boy and another servant saying that there were two of them. She moved closer to him and he began to kiss her and squeeze her breasts. They wanted to make love in the bunker but they feared that there might be crawling things or another plane might pass and someone might run into them. He remembered a certain gentleman who was seen in broad daylight running from his bedroom to the bunker while naked followed by a woman in similar state.
When Nwankwo took her to her friend’s place she was not there and immediately he was impressed and drove away. He thought they have gone to Libreville to shop. He commented; “She will come back on an arms plane loaded with shoes, wigs, pants, bras, cosmetics and what have you, which she will then sell and make thousands of pounds. You girls are really at war, aren’t you?” (p.102)
Nwankwo tells Gladys that he wishes to see her going back to the Gladys who searched him without mercy at the checkpoint not the once she had become. She says that that time has passed and now everyone is struggling for survival.
At the party, things went well, they ate and drank to the fullest. There were two white Red Cross people and one of them drank too much and got drunk. He remembers his friend Charley who died in a crash at the airport bringing a relief. He thought that it was not right for him to die for a stinking place like that and the people he died for, were not worth. He commented about girls that “Even these girls who come here all dolled up and smiling, what are they worth? Don’t I know? A head of stock fish, that’s all, or one American dollar and they are ready to tumble into bed” (p.104)
One of the young officers followed him and gave him three thundering slaps – right! Left! Right! – then pulled him outside. His friend followed him outside and they drove off. The officer came back insulting “Fucking beast!” girls were impressed and rated him a man and a hero. Nwankwo says that he was very drunk but the officer says it is when a man is drunk that he speaks what is on his mind. The officer’s name was Joe.
However, Nwankwo and his friend admitted that what the man had said about the girls was unfortunately the bitter truth only that he was the wrong person to say it. They resumed dancing and Captain Joe came and picked Gladys for a dance. They danced for a long time until Gladys came to ask Nwankwo to dance with her but he refused and allowed her to enjoy herself.
On the way home he said to her that he had refused to dance because he had sworn never to dance as long as the war lasts. He thinks of the innocent pilot who was killed on his way to bring them food and says “But what I am saying is that with people like that getting killed and our own boys suffering and dying at the war fronts I don’t see why we should sit around throwing parties and dancing” (p.105)
He then asked her if she was really willing to leave the next day and promised her that his driver would take her to work on Monday morning. With that assurance she followed him to bed. Before they make love Nwankwo puts on a condom that has been used already because of the scarcity of condoms as a result of the war. The author says ““One of the ingenious economies taught by the war was that a rubber condom could be used over and over again. All you had to do is was wash it out, dry it and shake a lot of talcum powder over it to prevent its stinking; and it was as good as new.” (p.106).
There is a false belief attached to this act that the condoms from Britain could be used more than once as compared to those from Portugal. He says “It had to be the real British thing, though, not some of the cheap stuff they brought in from Lisbon which was about as strong as a dry cocoyam leaf in the harmattan” (ibid).
After having his pleasure he discovered that Gladys was a real prostitute. He believed that she had an army officer who was keeping her. It appeared to him a miracle to see her even remembering her name. he thought that things were so terrible and remembered the drunken Red Cross man and said he would defend him as a man of truth if that incident happened again.
He thought that Gladys was just a mirror reflecting a rotten society with maggots at the centre. He thought that he had a duty to save Gladys since she was in danger of some terrible influences. He thought that Gladys was not going to her girlfriend Augusta as she claimed but she had a man, perhaps one of the traders who trade in foreign currencies and make money by sending young men to risk their lives exchanging looted goods for cigarettes. Or may be one of the contractors who receive the money to supply food to the army but they don’t.
So instead of sending his driver alone to take her home he decided to go and investigate. So he assembled for her half of the supply he had received at the relief centre because he thought that with food in the house at least a girl would be speared some of the temptations. He also thought of arranging with his friend at the WCC to deliver her something every fortnight. Gladys was so thankful that tears came to her eyes when she saw the gifts plus twenty pounds cash.
When they got into the car it refused to start and the driver sought help from neighbours. Finally it started and they drove off. On the way a disabled soldier waved asking for a lift. He ordered the driver to stop the car and pick him. Nwankwo was so sorry for him and promised him that when the war is over they would receive their rewards.
Suddenly, there was a scream and the car stopped and all of them jumped out and started running to the bush. The soldier cried for help and Gladys turned back to go and open the door for him. Then a high whistle descended like a spear through the chaos and exploded smashing up everything. It was followed by two more crashes then silence. Gladys and the disabled soldier had died on the spot and the car was completely smashed.
THE TITLE OF THE STORY
The title of the story “Girls at war” has two levels of meaning.
a. In a direct sense there is a military war. There are girls who joined the military to fight and defend their new nation. Gladys joined the Civil Defence with other girls and women for the same reason, hoping that the war would end in a short time and they would enjoy the fruits of their fight. They were wrong.
b. In a subtle sense there is a war for survival. This is divided into two categories;
§ Prostitution. When the military war takes longer than expected and their dreams do not come true, the girls who were once committed to defending their nation change their priorities. They start another war – engaging in prostitution in order to get food. They sell themselves so cheaply to the soldiers who give them the money for survival. One drunkard comments that even one American dollar is enough to make them sleep with a man.
Even Gladys herself admits this when she says to Nwankwo “that time done pass. Now everybody want survival. They call it number six. You put your number six; I put my number six. Everything alright”(p.103)
§ Petty business: Also some girls decided to engage in petty businesses as Nwankwo comments about Gladys friend;“She will come back on an arms plane loaded with shoes, wigs, pants, bras, cosmetics and what have you, which she will then sell and make thousands of pounds. You girls are really at war, aren’t you?” (p.102)
The setting of the story is Nigeria during the civil war. There are sub-settings which are names of Nigerian towns and villages that that make up the setting of the story. These include; Enugu, Onitsha, Oweri and Nkwerri.
The story has employed various techniques to pass the message across;
§ Monologue; the story is largely told in a monologue style in which case the author takes the role of the narrator and informs us what is happening in the society.
§ Dialogue; to bring the events and characters to life, he has included the dialogues in the story. For example one such a dialogue is recorded in page 94 between Gladys and Nwankwo.
‘Are you satisfied?’ he demanded.
‘Yes, sir. Can I see your pigeonhole?’
‘Sorry to delay you, sir. But you people gave us this job to do.’
This adds livelihood to the story.
§ Point of view. The story is told in an omniscient third person point of view because the author narrates even the thoughts of characters.
The language used is simple and easy to understand. The linguistic variation also reflects the social stratifications in this society.
§ Pidgin English has been used for to represent people of lower class like the driver, houseboy and Gladys. The house boy says for instance “If no to say de ting de kill porson e for sweet for eye”. Those in high class like Nwankwo speak Standard English.
§ Derogatory language has been used to show filthiness in the society. The soldier abused the Red Cross man who had spoken the truth about the terrible situation the society had reached. He calls him “Fucking beast!”
§ The author has employed some literary devices to colour his literary piece. Some of these literary devices are;
§ Gladys. She is used as a symbol of a morally corrupt society. She represents all the other girls who were once committed to their duties but the war turned them into distinguished prostitutes. He says “Gladys was just a mirror reflecting a society that had gone completely rotten and maggoty at the centre” (p.106)
§ Nwankwo. He represents corrupt and selfish leaders. Although Nwankwo pretends to be sympathetic of the entire situation, he too takes advantage of the war for his own selfish interest.
§ Charley’s death. It represents the innocent people who are dying every day at the war front or supplying relief but they have no party in the quarrels.
§ The birthday party. It is used as a symbol of betrayal, moral corruption and extravagance in the society. It is not sensible to think that the soldiers could be throwing parties, dancing and having sex with girls while their fellows at the war fronts have no food and are dying fighting for their nation.
§ The author has used euphemisms in some cases omitting offensive words when he describes the act of having sex in more or less indirect language. For example he says “? A head of stock fish, that’s all, or one American dollar and they are ready to tumble into bed” (p.104). Also in page 105 ‘you want to shell? She asked. And without waiting for an answer said, ‘Go ahead but don’t pour in troops
§ The high whistle descended like a spear…(p.109)
§ His friends clung like drowning men. (p.100)
§ It was clear as daylight to him now that she was kept by some army officer. (p.106)
§ some of the cheap stuff they brought in from Lisbon which was about as strong as a dry cocoyam leaf in the harmattan”
§ Gladys was just a mirror reflecting a society that had gone completely rotten…(p106)
§ Monkey de work, baboon de chop. (p.101)
§ It is when a man is drunk that he speaks what is on his mind. (p104)
§ He is an officer in the Ministry of Justice.
§ He is sympathetic. He sympathises with the civilians who are affected by the war but he has nothing he can do to help them all. He just offers to help a few of them like giving a lift to Gladys and the wounded soldier.
§ He is a womanizer/promiscuous/infidel. He sleeps with Gladys in his house despite the fact that he is married and his wife is in the village.
§ He is an opportunist. He uses his position as a government officer to get the food supply from the relief centres and send it to his family. He also uses Gladys problem and turns it into an opportunity to sleep with her in exchange for food as the author says “Nwankwo saw an opportunity there and took it at once (p.99).
§ He is a betrayer. He betrays his wife by having extramarital affair with Gladys.
§ He is primitive. He is not aware of the dangers of reusing the condoms. So he sleeps with Gladys using a condom that has been used and washed out.
§ She is an officer in the Civil defence. She is among the girls who joined the military in order to defend their new nation.
§ She is courageous. She is advised by Nwankwo not to join the military but she joins the Civil Defence nevertheless. She also shows great courage and determination when she searches the car of the Officer from the Ministry of justice while others in other checkpoints left him to move uninspected.
§ She is sympathetic. She feels sympathetic to the wounded soldier because all rushed to the bush leaving him behind after noticing a threat from air raid planes. They both die of a bomb blast in her struggle to save the wounded soldier.
§ She engages in prostitution. Her dreams and ambitions of defending their nation eventually vanish and the need for food takes over. She betrays her ideals and starts engaging in prostitution in order to get food. (The war for survival).
§ She is an opportunist. She uses the opportunity of being known to Nwankwo to attract material support from him. She reminds him that they had met before, she asks for a lift and eventually they sleep together in which case she gets food in exchange.
§ She is a beautiful girl. The author describes her as “a very beautiful girl as she was dressed in a breasty blue jersey, khaki jeans and canvas shoes with the new style hair plait which gave the girl a defiant look” (p.94)
§ They are Womanisers. They sleep with women and girls and give them the money to buy food. One drunkard suggests that even a head of stock fish or one American dollar is enough to make a girl go to bed with a soldier.
§ They are Opportunists. They use the economic hardships the girls are going through to exploit them morally and sleep with them.
§ They are Betrayers. The soldiers have betrayed the civilians. While the life of the civilians gets harder and harder because of the war, the soldiers are throwing parties. That is the reason Nwankwo refuses to dance. He says “But what I am saying is that with people like that getting killed and our own boys suffering and dying at the war fronts I don’t see why we should sit around throwing parties and dancing” (p.105)
EFFECTS OF THE CIVIL WAR
Chinua Achebe has tried to pinpoint the detrimental effects civil wars can have both in immediate context and in the long run. Due to the prolonged civil wars the people who were once ideal and loyal to their nation and to themselves later betray their commitment and start another war for survival. The following are some of the effects that are discussed in the story.
(a) Moral Decay.
§ Achebe has shown the way civil wars can result into a complete distortion of the once ideal society, into a morally corrupt one. In the story the main character Gladys and her fellow women are portrayed as victims of the war. Initially they were very committed in the civil defence of their new nation but when the military war takes longer than expected and their dreams do not come true, the girls who were once committed to defending their nation change their priorities.
§ They start another war – engaging in prostitution in order to get food. They sell themselves so cheaply to the soldiers who give them the money for survival. One drunken Red Cross man comments that even a head of stock fish or one American dollar is enough to make them sleep with a man. He says “Even these girls who come here all dolled up and smiling, what are they worth? Don’t I know? A head of stock fish, that’s all, or one American dollar and they are ready to tumble into bed” (p.104)
§ As Nwankwo sleeps with Gladys he comes into a conclusion that “Gladys. He thought, was just a mirror reflecting a society that had gone completely rotten and maggoty at the centre” (p.106)
§ One of the detrimental effects of any war among other things is death. Death not only separates someone with their beloved ones but it also leaves painful memories in the minds of the bereaved family or friends and this story is no exception.
§ Two quick cases of death can be recalled from the story; one involved a pilot who was killed flying a plane supplying food. Nwankwo grows melancholic of the death and is head saying “When I think of somebody like that pilot who got killed last night. And he had no hand whatever in the quarrel. All his concern was to bring us food…” (p.105)
§ The second death involved Gladys and the disabled soldier. On their way they were attached and a bomb blast killed both Gladys and the soldier as Gladys tried to help him. This gave s terrible sight to Nwankwo who in turn let out a piercing cry and fell down again.
(c) Destruction of properties.
In any war, especially those involving the war jets dropping the bombs, many properties such as buildings, roads, bridges, cars, etc. are destroyed. In this story one such example is Nwankwo’s car that was completely smashed and was by no means of any use. The author reports “He saw the remains of his car smoking and the entangled remains of the girl and the soldier” (p.109).
(d) Poverty and Starvation
Wars make it hard for people to engage in production activities. This has both immediate and long term repercussions. In the immediate context people suffer from hunger as they cannot get their food routinely. As a result, if at all, they have to be sheltered at the refugee camps and be fed from there or get the food from the relief centre which after all, does not suffice the immediate needs. In the long run the prolonged war may result into serious poverty that forces people to engage in immoral behaviours like prostitution in order to earn a living.
(e) Family separation
§ War may lead to family separation. This can happen either through death, dislocation or by one deliberately sending his family into a safe destination. In this story or rather society some people were separated from their loved ones by death as in the case of the disabled soldier and Gladys who were separated from both Nwankwo and their relatives and the pilot who was separated from his family and friends as the author comments “The man was just upset by his friend’s death” (p.105)
§ In another case Nwankwo was obliged to send his family (wife and four children) to a remote village of Ogbu and he would frequently send them the food he got from relief centres.
§ The war atmosphere creates the state of insecurity both to the civilians and the soldiers at the war fronts. People are living in high tension as a result most people had to take their families to the remote villages where security was guaranteed. Also people in town lived in fear because of the air raid planes. Every now and then they have to flee and hide in the bunkers for safety whenever they notice the sound of the air raid plane.
§ Some unfaithful men use this as an opportunity to get girls for sex. For example Nwankwo used this situation and told Gladys that ‘250 Douglas Road’ where her friend lived was a very terrible place and had no bunkers. So he offered to shelter her and ended up sleeping with her.
§ Another case happened at the party, occasionally a relief plane passed overhead and someone immediately switched off the lights saying it might be the intruder. But it was an excuse to dance in the dark and make the girls giggle.
POSITION OF WOMEN
Women are portrayed in various positions in this story. Some of these positions are;
§ Women are portrayed as courageous.
Women are so courageous as they volunteered to join the military in order to fight the war and defend their new nation. The author uses Gladys as a case in point in that despite the fact that she was rejected that girls were not required in the militia she still went to join the Civil Defence. The author says “He had seen plenty of girls and women marching and demonstrating before now… He didn’t doubt that the girls and the women took themselves seriously, they obviously did”. (p.95)
§ Women are portrayed as prostitutes.
Many women started engaging in prostitution as a solution to their problem of starvation in order to get food. They were selling themselves so cheaply to soldiers as one drunken Red Cross man suggested ““Even these girls who come here all dolled up and smiling, what are they worth? Don’t I know? A head of stock fish, that’s all, or one American dollar and they are ready to tumble into bed” (p.104).
§ Women are portrayed as tools for sexual pleasure.
Many men especially soldiers were using women as tools to satisfy their sexual desires. Nwankwo himself used Gladys for the same reason. But other soldiers were doing the same throwing parties and dancing with girls for enjoyment.
§ Women are portrayed as sympathetic.
Gladys represents women who are sympathetic because when the threat of the air raid occurs all of them (Nwankwo, Johnson, and Gladys) run away to the bush abandoning the car with the wounded soldier inside. Later as he cries for help only Gladys gets back to help him ignoring the advice from Nwankwo to continue running. Both of them die on the scene.
§ One of the repercussions of the war was hunger which led inevitably to starvation. Many people had no way to get their basic needs especially food. As a result, the girls like Gladys who were once committed to fighting and defending their new nation, gave up their dreams and started engaging in prostitution for survival. Worse still, we are informed that men were using condoms more than once because they couldn’t afford to buy new condoms for every act. This is evidently very dangerous as it may expose them to sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV infections. Gladys is a perfect example of these girls as she slept with Mr. Reginald Nwankwo in order to get food in return.
§ The author explains this by saying; “One of the ingenious economies taught by the war was that a rubber condom could be used over and over again. All you had to do is was wash it out, dry it and shake a lot of talcum powder over it to prevent its stinking; and it was as good as new.” (p.106). There is a false belief attached to this act that the condoms from Britain could be used more than once as compared to those from Portugal. He says “It had to be the real British thing, though, not some of the cheap stuff they brought in from Lisbon which was about as strong as a dry cocoyam leaf in the harmattan” (ibid).
§ In the process of making love Nwankwo came to realise that Gladys was a complete prostitute and she had slept with many men before him and possibly as he thought, she was living with some army officer. Achebe says “He had his pleasure but wrote the girl off. He might just as well have slept with a prostitute, he thought. It was clear as daylight to him now that she was kept by some army officer” (ibid) We should fight against prostitution in our societies.
§ Betrayal has also been described in different dimensions; Nwankwo Reginald betrays his wife by sleeping with Gladys outside of wedlock taking advantage of his wife’s absence.
§ The girls have betrayed their commitment and have given in to the desire to save their lives because of the hunger that befell the area as a result of prolonged war. Moreover the author shows that part of this betrayal came from people like Nwankwo who were taking advantage of the war for their own selfish interests. The authors says “And this particular girl too, who had once had such a beautiful faith in the struggle and was betrayed (no doubt about it) by some man like him out of a good time” (p.100)
§ In the story there are many cases of sympathy which teach us or rather remind us to be always ready to open our hands and help those in need of our help. Sympathy is described in these dimensions;
§ Nwankwo is sympathetic. At the relief centre he felt sympathetic to the starving crowd that was there as they saw his boot being loaded and shouted “WCC – meaning – War Can Continue”. He felt embarrassed but the whole situation but he had nothing to do to help the since he too had a family that was dependent on him. However he helped immediate neighbours, and his driver Johnson. The author says “The best he could do – and did do, as a matter of fact –was to make sure that whenever he got sizeable supplies like now he gave over some of it to his driver, Johnson, with a wife and six (or perhaps seven) children and a salary of ten pounds a month ….. In such a situation one could do nothing at all for crowds; at the best one could try to be of some use to one’s immediate neighbours. That was all” (p.97)
§ On the way he picked Gladys giving her a lift and he had not recognised her. Also he gave the lift to the wounded soldier on the way and felt sympathetic towards him but encouraging him that after the war they would receive a reward.
§ Although, he used Gladys’ problem and turned it into opportunity to satisfy his sexual desires (as the author says “He had his pleasure but wrote the girl off”) he still was sympathetic of the whole situation. He saw that the society was completely rotten and girls like Gladys were in danger. He thought that he had a duty to her and thought of how to help her. He thought of going to where she lived and find out the whole situation.
§ Moreover, taking into consideration the situation she was in, he thought that it would be impossible for her to maintain moral standards and resist temptations if she had no food. So he thought of giving her, half of the supplies he took from the relief centre and later arrange a plan to help her from the WCC. The author says “He assembled for her half of the food he had received at the relief centre the day before. Difficult as things were, he thought, a girl who had something to eat would be spared, not all, but some of the temptations” (p.107) and for the future he would arrange with his friend at the WCC to deliver something to her every fortnight.
§ Gladys also showed sympathy to the wounded soldier. When they noticed the danger on the way they all abandoned the car with the disabled soldier inside crying for help. Gladys offered to go and help her and met her dreadful death from a bomb blast that smashed her, the soldier and the car.
NEPOTISM AND SELFISHNESS
§ Nepotism is a very big challenge in many African societies in which case people are treated not on the basis of who they are or what they know but whom they know. In this story nepotism is shown by the way people are treated by being given unfair advantages because they are known to the right people in the government. We see nepotism in the following cases;
§ Nwankwo is not given enough supply at Owerri because he is not a Catholic. Caritas who was in charge of the depot at Owerri seems to favour the Catholics and if you are not one of them you are disadvantaged. The author reports this “But he had a vague suspicion that not being a Catholic put one at a disadvantage with Caritas” (p.96)
§ Nwankwo gets the food from the relief centre because it is run by his friend. Due to hard conditions caused by the war, Nwankwo goes to see his old friend who runs the WCC deport at Nkwerri to get items like rice, beans and cereal which were brought for everyone. Because of their friendship he loaded the boot of Nwankwo’s car to capacity until the starving crowd that was watching him started complaining.
§ Another case is evidenced by Nwankwo himself. As he could not help everybody he chose to help only those closest friends or immediate neighbours. He gave some food supplies to his driver, Johnson, Gladys and his neighbours. Nepotism denies other members of the same society their due services which are taken unfairly by those known to the government officials.
§ The soldiers are selfish because their fellow are dying at the war fronts but they are comfortable throwing parties, taking food from the relief centres leaving the civilians starving and using girls for enjoyment.
§ Hypocrisy is a behaviour which shows that someone does not really believe something that they say they believe or that is the opposite of what they do or say at another time. In this respect we can conclude that Nwankwo is a hypocrite because at the party he refuses to dance when Gladys requests his company claiming that there was no need to dance while the nation was in the middle of a serious war. However, the same man later that evening goes to sleep with Gladys as if the war was over. He is quoted to have said “But what I am saying is that with people like that getting killed and our own boys suffering and dying at the war fronts I don’t see why we should sit around throwing parties and dancing” (p.105).
§ So the hospitality he offered to Gladys is a bit questionable because he might have welcomed and sheltered her for the same reason. Moreover the food supplies he gave her might be taken as a token for the services he received from Gladys that relieved him from the frustrations and melancholy of the war paraphernalia as the author says “By morning he was feeling a little better and more generous in his judgments” (p.106).
§ It is not good to take advantage of someone’s problem for one’s own benefit.
§ Betrayal, selfishness and nepotism are not good as they deny other members of the society their due rights.
§ As much as we can, we should avoid running into wars against each other. Wars have many detrimental effects than benefits.
§ Prostitution is not a solution to one’s problem.
§ Women should be allowed to join the militia. Women are discriminated when it comes to joining the militia but they can sometimes be more instrumental in bringing changes than men.
§ We should fight against hypocrisy in our societies.
§ We should be sympathetic in helping others in need of our help.
§ The story is very relevant because almost everything discussed in the story is prevalent in our various societies in different capacities.
§ In our societies especially in big cities prostitution is rampant.
§ Also selfishness and nepotism have become a way of life. People are treated on the basis of know-whom than know-how.
§ There are many countries that are affected by the civil wars and many people have lost their relatives in the process.