This article examines the works of two contemporary Nigerian writers – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus and Lola Shoneyin’s The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives – as Bildungsromane. Through a comparative analysis, it outlines the ways in which contemporary Nigerian women novelists, by proceeding along the well-trodden path of their foremothers, explore the female subjectivity by providing portraits of emerging Nigerian young women who struggle to define themselves beyond the subaltern role patriarchal society has designed for them. By choosing to represent the metamorphosis of young female characters in their writings, Adichie and Shoneyin explore not only gender issues but also the question of identity formation and human rights. These narratives of growth therefore map the process of ‘womaning’ undergone by the protagonists, who, in their journey of self-discovery, acquire an awareness of the dominant social order and value system while refusing to conform to them. Hence,
I argue that the Nigerian variant of the Bildungsroman offers a model of resistance to women’s subjugation by demonstrating that it is possible – whether successfully or unsuccessfully – to claim their rights and assert their position within society.
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Bildungsroman, African womanism, gender roles, human rights, third generation of African women writers