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The characters of Changes live their lives split
between two poles. They are modern, well-educated figures who nonetheless
try and maintain a strong connection to their traditional cultural roots and
values. Esi, the primary figure in the novel, is the best example of the
tension between modern and traditional values. She is a remarkably
independent woman dedicated to her career as a government official. As such,
she has a hard time accepting the traditional roles defined by her culture
for a woman. She places a higher value on her career and her own personal
fulfillment than on playing the role of a proper wife. This tension leads
directly to her divorce with her first husband, Oko, who wants her to be a
traditional African wife.
At the same time, Esi is also still clearly attached to the values she
learned while growing up. She allows herself to become a second wife to Ali,
and she performs all of the necessary rituals that her culture dictates.
Like Esi, Ali tries to bridge the gap between the world in which his elders
were raised and his own modern lifestyle. The ensuing tension and unofficial
divorce that surround his second marriage highlight the limited degree to
which traditional values can be upheld in modern times.
The title of the novel, Changes: A Love Story,
refers to the numerous personal and cultural
transformations that lie at the heart of the narrative. The changes that
occur throughout the course of the novel take place both at the character
level and at the societal level. At the time of the novel, Ghana had
recently achieved its political independence. The country is changing
politically, economically, and culturally. Similarly, Esi achieves
her own independence from her husband and marriage.
Consequently, she becomes free to pursue her own ambitions without a family
or a husband to restrict her. In a sense, she has transformed herself into a
model of the modern woman: she is not only financially stable but also
completely independent. Esi’s new independence is also symbolic of a larger
change occurring within African societies. As women like Esi have an
increasing number of educational and professional opportunities available to
them, their roles both in the home and in society inevitably change.
They are no longer simply wives and mothers who are dedicated
to their own ambitions.
All of the major characters in the novel are well-educated. Their
education is not only the mark of their place in society but also an ironic
and elusive symbol that signifies both change and stasis at the same time.
The two primary lovers in the novel, Esi and Ali, are also the most highly
educated. Esi holds a master’s degree, and Ali has studied in France and
England. Upon hearing of Ali’s second marriage, the first question that his
wife, Fusena, asks him is whether or not the woman has a university degree.
This question highlights the degree to which education symbolizes progress,
modernity, and independence for the women of the novel.
For Esi, her education enables her to have a well-paying job that can
secure her independence. It is precisely that independence that attracts Ali
to her, and it is the same independence that earns Esi the scorn of her
first husband’s family. Esi’s education sets her apart from traditional
African culture, making her feel alienated from her mother and grandmother,
neither of whom can understand her attitudes towards marriage and work. Ali
is as educated as Esi, and like her, he struggles to balance the two worlds
in which he lives. When Ali proposes to his elders that he take a second
wife, they are shocked. For them, Ali’s education has propelled him into a
new world that does not allow for such actions.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Changes: A Love Story!