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The tiny car that Esi uses to get to and from work each day is barely
functional. It is so decrepit that upon seeing it, Ali says he will drive
Esi home. The car serves as an initial attempt by Ali to enter Esi’s life.
At the same time, Esi’s friend Opokuya engages in a daily struggle with her
husband over who will control the car that day. In Opokuya’s marriage, the
car becomes symbolic of the value placed on women’s work versus that of men.
Despite the numerous needs of the house that Opokuya must tend to every day,
her husband Kubi inevitably controls the car the majority of the time. When
Ali finally buys Esi a car in order to apologize for his absence
and placate Esi, he is inadvertently liberating Opokuya from
having to depend on her husband.
When Ali proposes to Esi, he offers her a wedding band, a symbol of
marriage perhaps original to Western culture that, when incorporated into
Ali’s cultural tradition, is only offered to the first wife of a husband.
Esi is taken aback by the wedding ring, as is her entire family. By bringing
the wedding band into his marriage ceremony, Ali is not only showing his
ability to accept and adapt to Western customs, but he is also demonstrating
his attempt to incorporate those customs into an African context. The
polygamous marriage upon which Ali is about to embark is contrary to the
tradition of marriage symbolized by the wedding band that Ali offers Esi.
Ali’s decision to take a second wife is both an embrace of traditional
African marriages, and a rejection of the standards of Western marriage. As
a result, the wedding band that Ali offers Esi becomes a symbolic bridge
that unites the two traditions.
Each of the characters in the novel is at least partially defined by
his or her career. Esi’s job with the Department of Urban Statistics
highlights her rational personality, while Ali’s job at a travel agency
reminds the reader of his tendency to move from one woman to the next.
Contrary to Esi and Ali are Oko and Opokuya. Both characters work in
professions that demand personal sacrifice—Oko as a teacher and Opokuya as a
nurse. The fact that each character works in a field that reflects his or
her personality demonstrates the substantial role that careers play in
defining identity for the new generation.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Changes: A Love Story!