In the book Changes: a love story Aidoo handles the issues of the clash between modernity and tradition by exploring the dilemmas that are at the crossroads of tradition and modernity in the society and to achieve these the author depicts women who are engaged in constant conflict with men who refuses to accept changes that are occurring in their daily lives. Aidoo in her book uses characters as well as themes and motifs to reflect the emerging new, highly educated class of men and women who are in constant struggle to gain an understanding of their contemporary identities especially with special conjunction to their ancient traditions. The author critically examine various tensions and the constantly changing dynamics within the next generation of the emerging Africa’s middle class and this is evident through some characters like Ali Kondey and Esi Sekyi. Basically the book explores the complex world that lives of professional working women have undergone drastic changes contrary to the cultural assumptions of the men’s lives that have remained unchanged.
The clash between modernity and tradition
One of the ways in which the author explores the clash that exist between modernity and tradition is the use of Esi of as a character who is a woman working as a government official in the department of urban statistics and drives her own car. Esi is a primary figure in the book and who believes in independence contrary to contemporary assumption held by men and this is evident when she meets Ali Kondeney a charming and handsome man who both gets attracted to each other. As a traditional way of showing affection to a woman Ali offers to drive Esi home after promising her that he will take care of all of her necessary traveling arrangements and this ‘gentleman’ gesture is declined by Esi and the reason she gives is that she has her own car and that she can drive herself and sort out her traveling needs.
This action by Esi is portrayed by the author as the increasing clash between the modernity and tradition especially as it pertains to the independence of women in terms of finance, resources, and perceptions of traditional norms that men still hold to. Traditional men are viewed by the society to be the ones responsible for tasking care of their women’s provisions and this is still held on by many modern men but opposite perception is held my the educated and more independent women of today and this serve to illustrate the clash that exist between modernity and tradition.
Another text in the book change by Aidoo that illustrates and explores the clash beween tradition and modernity is evident when Ogyaanowa the daughter of Esi and Oko listens to her parents fighting in morning while she is having her breakfasts in her bed room. She listens to her father Oko who is complaining about their marriage especially as it regards to the issues that Esi refuses to have another child despite having had only one. Her husband is also very angry about the increased times that she spends at work and he further complains to her that even his friends are starting to laugh at him about the contentious matter. The fighting ends up with Oko having a forced sex with her wife and grabbing the bed sheets and working out without any apologies. Later at work Esi contemplates on what has just happened and regards it as a marital rape a term considered inexistent by the society she comes from.
This illustrates the between modernity and tradition in that traditionally men expects their wives to be submissive to them and that they should willingly accept to have as many children as the husband wishes and this is viewed as acceptable by the society and this is attributed to the value that is traditionally attached to children, the more children one has the more respectable and wealthier he is regarded in the society. This tradition is not held by Esi who has undergone modernization through education and career and views less children as a healthy lifestyle rather than the perceptions held by her husband, society and ancestors and this represents a clash of modernity with tradition. Failing to sire many offspring’s is viewed as not being manly enough that is why the husband was complaining of being a laughing stock among his friends.
Moreover men also expect women to perform their socially designated roles like spending more time at home taking care of the family but all these have changed in the modern times with the genesis of women like Esi becoming a remarkably independent woman who is dedicated to her career as a government official thus finding hard time in accepting the traditional roles that her culture defines for each an every woman. In contrast to her tradition she tends to place a higher value on her career and personal fulfillment rather than on her family as well as playing the roles of traditional proper wife. This clash between modernity and tradition leads to her being divorced with her husbanded who wants her to be a traditional African wife. In addition to that, given the fact that she is able to regard the forceful sexual act with her matrimonial husband as a marital rape portrays her as a modern woman who despite the society not believing in existence of rape with in married couple implies that she has undergone a lot of modernizations especially as regard to rights of women on divorce and participation in making of family decision like the choice to bear more children or not thus she presents the clash that exists in the traditional perceptions and the modern perceptions on family and marriage issues.
Another clash of modernity and tradition is when Esi is discussing with Opokuya on her issues of divorce with her first husband and its evident this is not a traditional concept considering the fact that Esi hopes that her friend will understand her decision of leaving Oko her first husband hence the doubts that Opokuya will misunderstand her reflect her friends adherence to traditional beliefs that are against couples getting divorced the clash in their differing perceptions on the issue if divorce can be considered to be an indication of the clash that exist between modern and traditional perceptions regarding the act of divorce. Another clash of modernity with tradition is also seen when Fusena a nurse by professional and mother keeps up on her career to become a fully dedicated mother especially after Ali’s insistences.
Fusena accepts to be a proper wife because she knows that despite having become modernized through education and attaining her career she was still expected by the traditions of her society to be a traditional wife to her beloved husband who has strong perceptions towards the roles of a wife in a family setup. She abandons her promising job simply because she was convinced to do so and that the traditions mandated her to serve as traditional woman and this shows that modernity clashes with tradition and thus can not go together. And consequently leading to a compromise of the other is one is to be fully implemented.
The clash between traditional and modern ways of family introduction
In addition to that the clash between tradition and modernity is seen when Ali decides to marry Esi and offers her a wedding band. In Ali trying to remain modern while maintaining the traditional norms he becomes torn between the concept of modernity and traditions and this is evident when he takes a coworker to visit the Esi’s family to discuss the impending marriage. This act is seen to be contrary to the proper traditional ways of discussing marriage where only respectable member of the husband to be family is expected to carry out such tasks especially the negotiating.
Following the refusal by the elders of the wife to be to accept the way Ali handles the rituals, he was later prompted to give in to their traditional demands and hence approach a respectable member from his family and Esi’s family which was initially reluctant to push on with the ceremony consequently gave in to his request allowing him to marry their daughter. This incident in the novel is used by the author to handle and explores the clash between the traditional ways of family introduction rituals before marriage and the modern perceptions that the new generation has towards such activities.
Traditional perceptions are held strictly that is why Ali’s request was initially rejected for not adhering to the expected traditions but modern generation disregards the seriousness attached to such traditional rituals. The clash resulting from modernity is even made complicated as Ali a new generation person having studied in England and France consents to conduct his marriage by strictly following the traditional method. After the proper traditional introduction rituals Ali goes back to Esi’s family with his elders resulting to an approval of his marriage. Also during the initial introduction Esis’ mother and grand mother who says “Leave one man, marry another. What is the difference?” are not pleased with the idea of Esi getting divorced with her first husband and choosing to become Ali’s second wife and despite them later allowing her to get married again it clearly shows that traditionally divorce was not accepted in the society but with the increasing modernization it has come to be reluctantly accepted and this clearly portrays the conflict between modernism and tradition as its pertains to marriage and divers.
By Esi accepting to get married to Ali as a second wife shows her acceptance of the contemporary perceptions rearguing polygamy and considering that she is a modern and independent woman she still holds traditional norms which is a clash between modernism and tradition. Despite Esi being in unfulfilling relationship and the one marred with infidelity she opts to still remain attached to values she was taught while growing up and thus allowing herself to remain faithful even after Ali engages in sexual activity with his beautiful and attractive secretary.
Also she Esi allows herself to be married as Ali’s second wife after performing all the traditional rituals pertaining to traditional marriage just as the culture dictates and this shows that she is trying to bridge the gap that exist between modernism and tradition. In addition to that Ali on the same side is also trying to bridge that similar gap by accepting to follow what the elders taught him regarding traditional marriage rituals and his owns modern perception of lifestyle. This ensuing tension complemented with the unofficial divorce that looms on his second marriage between him and Esi serve to highlight the limited degrees to which the traditional values can be fully upheld in the new generation or modern era.
Esi – independent and modern woman
The author of changes: a love story also handles the class of tradition and modernity at the course of the novel through the portrayal of the change that occur in politically, culturally and economically and this she achieves at character and societal level for instance Esi is depicted to have achieved her own independence especially from her marriage and husband contrary to traditional perceptions. Consequently she is rendered free to pursue her personal ambitions without necessarily having to consult her family or even her husband a deed is considered by her society un-traditional. In this sense Esi has been transformed into a models representing a modern woman who is not only stable financially but also completely independent a trait only common with modernity.
The Esis’s new independence serve as a symbol of the larger changes that are occurring within the modern societies where roles and perceptions of life as changed greatly as women like Esi have increased number of education as well as professional opportunities that are available to them while also leading to greater changes in traditional roles both in the family and societal levels and these as made them to no longer be simply wives but more so mothers who are also dedicated to their own ambitions.