Dynamics of Submission in Lola Shoneyin’s The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives

Dynamics of Submission in Lola Shoneyin’s The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives
CLAREP Journal of English and Linguistics (C-JEL)

Author: Ethel Ngozi Okeke
Institution:  Enugu State University of Science and Technology
Email: enoya22@yahoo.com

Author: Abigail Obiageli Eruaga
Institution: University of Benin
Email: abigail.obiageli@yahoo.com


Literature has remained a field of study which touches every aspect of human behaviour, belief and relationship. The hierarchal power structure inherent in the male-female binary finds one of its operational bases in traditional matrimonial institution where relationships are modelled on submission. Here, power relations rest on the foundation of male hegemony that demands submission from the women who are subjected to the man’s authority. This cultural situation is explored by Lola Shoneyin in The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives (2010) (henceforth, The Secret Lives), her first novel. In this novel, Shoneyin appropriates the literary medium to react to societal condition and engages a debate on one of the traditional institutions in Africa. At the centre of the novel is Chief Alao, alias Baba Segi the husband of four complex, wily and skilful women who navigate their patriarchal society with the wisdom and innocence of the Biblical serpent and dove respectively in order to maintain a harmonious marital home as well as ensure their own socio-economic survival in a male dominated society. This essay adopts the Patriarchal ideology and Chinweizu’s “Manipulative Female Power” in his book, The Anatomy of Female Power: A Masulinist Dissection of Matriarchy (1990), and argues that the author interrogates women’s submission in African traditional polygamous institution as a pretentious act that is intended to guarantee their survival and the well-being of those that subsist within the polygamous space. The essay contends that the author unmasks certain assumptions about the sexes, demystifying the revered ethos of power relations in indigenous marital institutions, and concludes that submission in such matrimonial setups is perceived as an act that promotes social cohesion.


submission, polygamy, patriarchy, female power, Lola Shoneyin

Pages: 155-174
ISSN: 2698-654-X
ISBN: 978-3-96203-146-6 (Print)
ISBN: 978-3-96203-245-6 (PDF)
DOI: https://doi.org/10.56907/g3xt00k4