Throughout the novel, Ali and Esi are constantly traveling the continent and the globe. They are cosmopolitan figures, worldly in their knowledge of life and its variety of opportunities. Esi meets Ali while trying to finalize travel arrangements for work, while Ali has made a life out of traveling and assisting others in doing the same. The constant travel in Ali’s and Esi’s lives serves as a reminder of the degree to which each character is transient. Esi and Ali leave the country, their marriages, and, eventually, each other. From a young age, Ali has been a traveler like his merchant father. He continues this tradition in his profession and in his relationships. He travels from one woman to the next. He treats his wives much the same as he would treat any one of the destinations he frequently visits.


Brief statements that are written to resemble the tone and nature of African proverbs are inserted throughout the narrative. The proverbs serve several important rhetorical functions. They remind the reader of the African context in which the novel is written, and as such, serve as a bridge between African and Western literary traditions. The proverb is a traditional literary device used in African cultures to share wisdom and culture. By incorporating them into her novel, Aidoo is reasserting the value and function of African literary traditions in a genre—the fictional novel—which arose out of Western culture.


Esi and Opokuya’s friendship is the most stable and equitable relationship in the novel. The two women treat each other as equals, and it is evident that they can speak freely and openly to each other in a way that they never do with either one of their husbands. For Esi, her friendship with Opokuya is also the most stable relationship that she has with anyone outside of her family. After leaving Oko and eventually Ali, Opokuya still remains. At the end of the novel, Opokuya’s husband begins to kiss Esi, and in that moment, Esi is reminded of her relationship with Opokuya. The thought is enough to draw her back into reality such that she moves away from Kubi.