This engaging passage taken from ‘possessing the secret of joy’ depicts the painful life of a vulnerable seventeen year old girl, who is forced to marry a dreadful man much older to her. The writer through this girl’s life beautifully portrays how circumstances and one’s status in society makes one do things they are unwilling to do, making them quite miserable. The girl named Uju, has become a victim of a materialistic and superficial world where the lower class in their desperate attempt to escape chronic poverty sometimes go to such lengths that they agree to trade their livelong happiness with money only to live a comfortable, convenient life. Apart from these themes, other themes of the passage are that what exactly is love? Is it what Ujus mother thinks it is or what uju thinks? And it also highlights the deterministic role of fate in ones life. The title of the story, ‘possessing the secret of joy’ is ironic and quite contradictory to the story itself. Uju doesn’t find happiness by marrying a man richer to her, but instead she is buried deeper and deeper into despair at the thought of marrying someone who is older than her and for whom her love doesn’t exist.
This match however seems perfect to her mother as she claims that only money can get joy for her and for her daughter. ‘Don’t you want to enjoy your life?’ Thus the secret of possessing joy for Uju and her mother seem to be in direct contrast. Her mother thinks that money and wealth is the secret while Uju is convinced that it is love that makes one happy . The reader then wonders at the title that does Uju really possess joy which currently seems like a far-fetched prospect for her? Uju is disgusted by the man she marries and finds everything about him to be repelling. A repulsive simile is used by the author to describe how Uju feels. She analogizes his snore to an airplane’s revving engine- loud and irritating. His personality and his appearance make him extremely repugnant to the reader which makes the reader sympathize with Uju. He was a girl’s worst nightmare, but this nightmare is what an impotent uju is forced to live with her entire life. It is interesting to note that Uju refer to her husband as ‘the man’ not ‘my husband’.
This suggests the lack of love, intimacy, and understanding in their relationship. The word ‘chief’ is also written in a separate line. Alone without any description. Suggesting that describing his character would probably lead to a waste of words as there is no depth of personality in him. He is shallow. Creating one word sentences also makes her point quite impactful. Then in an authorial voice the reader reads his revolting and comic physical description. The author uses repellent analogies and descriptive similes to describe the cheif. “a woman on the verge of delivering quadruplets”, hair sparse and white “like wool that had been haphazardly glued on his head by a child” and huge lips as if “they were implanted with lead that weighed them down”. In simple words the cheif is obeise, has scattered white hair and a huge drooping mouth” he looks extremely unpleasant Through flashbacks, the writer shows us the character of the mother who is portrayed as extremely worldly and materialistic who just wants a rich,secure and contented life for her and her daughter and her ownself and in this hedonistic pursuit she unconsciously sells her own daughter.
It seems as if the mother played the most important role in uniting these people. With the use of rhetorical questions ‘don’t you want to see me in nice clothes? ‘Don’t you want to be a madam? Have a driver? A big house?’ Uju’s mother exhorts her own daughter into marrying someone she doesn’t not love in order to fulfil her own dreams, not realising that while uju might live an extravagant life physically, but she will be destroyed emotionally. She seems to be ecstatic at Uju’s acceptance to marry Chief. Words like ‘whirled’ and ‘ferocity’ explain the euphoric and rapturous enthusiasm she feels at her ‘new-found wealth’. This highlights the desperation she felt of hooking on to the richness, oblivious to her daughter’s diadain and sorrow while she joyously spends her newly acquired money. Ujus mother waltz from one shop to another while through the name of the listed shops like ‘love is blind bakery’ and ‘your one stop tiara shop’ the writer uses the technique of foreshadowing explaining that love is nothing but an illusion and her life is now going to be a gloomy stand still as she is marrying a man as horrible as cheif.
There would be no going back from shackles of her loveless marriage. Uju being a young girl had dreamed of marrying someone she was in love with which is why she argues with her mother ‘but i don’t love him mother, How can i marry someone i don’t love?’’ She hopes that her argument may soften her mother’s heart toward her but it fails to do so as her mother remains adamant, explaining to her that ‘love doesn’t matter, my daughter. There are things more important than love’ the mother although seems to be forcing her own opinion on her, can be seen as the voice of realism, reason and desperation. She has already seen the world and seems to know a lot more about it that her daughter does. She wants her daughter to live the outwardly glorious life she has never had. A dejected Uju seems to have completely submitted to her cruel and merciless fate as she starts crying. Her voice is said by the author to be ‘weightless’, ‘floating like a ghost’ just like her restless, discontented soul. This emphasises Uju’s spiritual nature that longs for fulfilment through love and her mothers worldly soul which solely desires a rich, wealthy life.
The writer makes it seem as if Uju’s words and protests were gone completely unheard, down the drain, ineffectual. Whatever she might have decided, her decision had already been made for her. She is powerless, and her words are completely meaningless. She cannot make a difference in her own life. The author uses the simile that her mother ‘corroded her confidence like acid on paper’. This strong harsh simile is sufficient enough toshow Uju’s helplessnessand how her willpower, her confidence, her dreams and aspirations and her hope of finding perfect love collapses and disintegrates exactly like acid corrodes a piece of dead ,lifeless paper. She finally submits to her cruel, merciless face and says ‘yes. I will marry cheif. I will marry him.’ Uju’ wished she could die’. Its ironic that marriage is stereotyped as the beginning of a new cheerful and loving life for both genders, by the society but this beginning is actually the end for uju and all that she had ever dreamt of .Uju who was to be Chief’s ill-fated wife wished to ‘disappear.
Vanish. Dissolve’. This asyndeton used by the author intensifies the impact of each word for this literary technique effectively helps the reader to understand the despair Uju feels. The tone is definitely descriptive of the different moods of the characters and the reader feels in turn sympathetic for uju, angry at her mother and disgusted by the cheif creating an overall intense and depressing mood in the passage . Uju’s mother after living a harsh life, becomes blind with the glitter and gold, scarifying her very own daughter. This passage depict that this cruel world only respects and values people who have money, completely discarding those who don’t. One cannot blame Uju’s mother for being blinded by the prospect of a better, convenient, respectable life. It is true to a certain extent when ujus mother says ‘poverty is not something to be proud of’. It is human nature to want a more dignified and superior life and She after all wants what is best for her daughter, but in doing so she does not keep in mind her daughter’s happiness which makes the plot heart-breaking and distressing.