Esi Sekyi is the paradigm of the strong, independent woman. In addition to having a job that pays more than her husband’s job, Esi owns the home in which she lives. She has a master’s degree and genuinely enjoys her career. Advancing within her profession is as much a priority for her as her family. Given the traditional role that women were generally expected to play within the family, Esi’s strong will and independent nature is unique. Esi comes to represent the emergence of a new feminine identity—one that can compete equally with men in terms of financial and personal security. At the same time that Esi may want the freedom to pursue her own career and desires, she still very much wants to love and be loved. What she sees in Ali is the potential to have both the freedom that she desires and the love that she needs. Although Esi tries very hard to live her life according to rational principles, she finds herself feeling devastated and lonely because of her relationship with Ali.
Ali Kondey is the male counterpart to Esi’s character. Attractive, intelligent, and well-educated, Ali is a worldly man. His job as the head of a travel agency suits his wandering personality, which constantly seeks not only new experiences, but new women as well. Ali has grown up in two distinct worlds: his father’s world and the Western world in which he was educated. Like his father, Ali believes he can possess as many women as he wants, on account of his charm and wealth. He takes Esi as a second wife, even though he knows that his first wife and love, Fusena, will never be able to fully accept it. He places limits on Fusena’s ambitions and prevents her from completing her degree. Even after marrying two women, Ali continues to acquire new mistresses, which causes both of his wives to feel abandoned. In a traditional, male-dominated society such as the one in which Ali’s father grew up, such behavior would have been accepted. But Ali lives in a different world. He knows that it may very well be impossible to maintain a marriage with two contemporary women, and yet he tries anyway, because he believes he can purchase whatever he wants.
As Esi’s best friend, Opokuya Dakwa inhabits a space in between the nearly extreme independence that Esi represents and the traditional role expected of a woman in the household. Like Esi, Opokuya has her own career that is personally and financially rewarding. She is educated and clearly has the freedom to pursue her career. At the same time, Opokuya has a large family and a husband. She struggles to manage the demands of her job and family, and it is evident that the two demands take their toll on her emotional well-being. Nonetheless, Opokuya manages to fulfill all of the roles demanded of her by her life. She is at once a dedicated nurse and a dedicated mother and wife, but her life is not easy. She begins her days fighting with her husband. The fact that she rarely wins their morning dispute over the car is frustrating for Opokuya, but also clearly not enough of a problem for her to ever contemplate leaving her husband. In the end, Opokuya is able to resolve her morning disputes with her husband by obtaining her own car, thereby demonstrating her ability to be both an independent, modern woman, and a loving wife.
Fusena’s character and identity as a women change throughout the course of the novel. Before she gets married, she is an intelligent and ambitious young woman. She wants to complete her degree and continue her teaching career. However, once Fusena marries Ali, her world is quickly restricted. She bears one child, and then another. With Ali studying abroad, Fusena is relegated to the home, where she remains until Ali purchases a kiosk for her to operate. Upon hearing of Ali’s decision to remarry, she immediately asks him if the woman he is considering to be his second wife has a university degree. By asking that question, Fusena reveals the degree to which her life’s ambitions have been frustrated and abandoned for the sake of her marriage and children. Despite her ambition and strong will, Fusena is relegated to the role of a dependent housewife.
Oko Sekyi is at once a sympathetic and an abhorrent character in the novel. He loves his wife Esi dearly, not only for her beauty but also for her independence and intelligence. But at the same time, Oko resents her for exactly the same reasons. He is bothered by the comments made by his friends, who are beginning to regard him as less and less of a man because of his wife’s independence from him. Oko’s response to his friends’ ridicule is to rape his wife—an act that leads directly to Esi’s decision to divorce him, given that he does not even apologize. Like all of the characters in the novel, Oko is struggling to understand his relationships in a changing world. Following his divorce, Oko’s mother presents him with a gift: a young girl who can play the role of a compliant and obedient wife. Even though there may very well be some appeal to such a relationship, Oko continues to love his strong-willed ex-wife.
A relatively minor figure in the novel, Kubi Dakwa represents a middle ground between Ali and Oko. Although he still acts as and considers himself to be the head of the house, he is able to maintain a marriage to a woman as strong-willed as Opokuya. He is a selfish character, as evidenced by his reluctance to share the car with his wife and by his attempt to sleep with Esi. At the same time, however, Kubi also clearly accepts his wife’s right to disagree with him.