Nervous Conditions

by: Tsitsi Dangarembga

Nyasha

Highly intelligent, perceptive, and inquisitive, Nyasha is old beyond her years. Like the other female characters in Nervous Conditions, she is complex and multifaceted, and her dual nature reflects her status as the product of two worlds, Africa and England. On one hand she is emotional, passionate, and provocative, while on the other she is rational and profound in her thinking. Nyasha is admired by Tambu for her ability to see conflict and disagreement not as threats but as opportunities to increase her understanding of herself and the world. She uses the various experiences life presents her with as a chance to grow, learn, and improve. Initially, she thrives in her state of unresolved and often warring emotions and feelings, and she sees any inconsistencies in her feelings or her world as opportunities for greater self-development.

Nyasha’s precocious nature and volatile, ungrounded identity eventually take their toll, and isolation and loneliness are her reward for being unconventional and fiercely independent. She is unpopular at the mission school, but this unpopularity is due more to her willfulness than the fact she is the headmaster’s daughter. Her inner resources and resolve are highly developed, but they can sustain her only so far. Over the course of the novel, the elements that define her and the aspects of her personality she most cherishes become the source of her unrest and ultimate breakdown. Nyasha begins to resent her outspoken nature and the constant spirit of resistance she displays, particularly to her father. The transformation leads to self-hatred, a dangerously negative body image that results in an eating disorder, and mental illness. Nyasha becomes a symbolic victim of the pressures to embrace modernity, change, enlightenment, and self-improvement.


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