American and Nigerian cultures are alike in some aspects of life, while being dissimilar in others. This idea is exemplified when comparing one’s own experience and knowledge of American culture to the portrayal of Nigerian culture in Buchi Emecheta’s novel, The Wrestling Match.
Both of our societies can be looked at as parallel in how teenagers are typically stereotyped, the rivalry among towns/villages, and the attainment of manhood or maturity through experiences or accomplishments. Contrary to the similarity of the cultures, there are also some basic differences. One of the main distinctions is that we live in a technologically advanced empire while Emecheta shows us that Nigerians are typically a primitive nation. No matter what culture you find teenagers in, they will probably be stereotyped.
This is evident in the novel as well as in our own culture. For example, the Akpei people, neighbors to the nearby Igbuno village, have found that someone has fished and trampled in their stream. This is a bad thing because the vegetation and fish are no longer available. The blame immediately lands upon the Uma aya Biafra, or teenagers of Igbuno. There is no question, it is just assumed that teenagers were involved. Unfortunately, Uche, a teenager from Igbuno, has committed this crime. Also, when the people of Akpei find that someone is stealing from their huts, again without evidence, they surmise that teenagers are to blame.
Lastly, Okei is a teenager who lives in Igbuno and is the novel’s main character. His Uncle Obi Agiliga is convinced that the teenagers of Igbuno are setting a terrible and immoral example for the upcoming generation. How many teenagers in our society have not had an immediate finger of blame pointed at them when something happens or goes wrong? How many of us have not been told what a terrible example we are setting for our younger siblings? Teenagers seem to be synonymous with being rude, obnoxious, difficult, stubborn, and so on. Another similarity of cultures gleaned from Emecheta’s writing is the reaction to rivalry. A very important event in the villages in the novel was the wrestling match which pits the Akpei Uma aya Biafra against the Igbuno Uma aya Baifra.
There is much preparation for the athletes and many people attend. Additionally, at the market, the Akpei people refuse to purchase produce from Josephine Kwutelu and other girls from Igbuno because they are from the competitors’ side. A similar event in the Pennridge Community is the annual Pennridge-Quakertown Football game. It generates quite a rivalry, and much time is spent in preparation, with many people attending. Finally, both Nigerian and American cultures perceive that manhood is dependent upon certain achievements.
The wrestling match symbolizes the coming into manhood of the Nigerian teenager. Working on the farm with your father in Nigeria is also another step toward manhood. In America, a job, the right to vote, graduation from high school, and even owning or driving a car are thought of as indications of manhood or maturity. Although our cultures seem alike in the above ways, they are very different in their technological status. We in America enjoy computers, modems, faxes, video equipment, cellular phones, huge supermarkets, and discount stores.
These conveniences are not restricted to city dwellers or the upper class. Many of them are commonplace. However, in Nigeria, the bulk of the population lives a much more primitive lifestyle without the advantages, privileges, and benefits that these modern conveniences provide. Of course, they also do not have the problems generated by these modern wonders.