The New Tribe by Buchi Emecheta

The New Tribe - Buchi EmechetaIn The New Tribe by Buchi Emecheta we have the theme of change, love, insecurity, identity and acceptance. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises from the beginning of the story that Emecheta may be exploring the theme of change and love. Life changes dramatically for the Arlingtons when Julia arrives at their doorstep. Ginny in particular adapts very well to her new role as a mother while Arthur tends to remain in the background when it comes to the rearing of Julia. However it is noticeable that Arthur becomes stressed by all the documentation he must provide in order for both him and Ginny to become Julia’s adoptive parents. This may be important as it suggests that Arthur (and Ginny) love Julia and will do whatever they have to do in order to become Julia’s adoptive parents. Similarly when it comes to Chester’s arrival, though hesitant at the start. Arthur does go through the same procedure in order to adopt Chester. It is also noticeable that Arthur and Ginny love Chester regardless of the colour of his skin. Ginny is so in love with Chester that she creates a small book for him about Nigeria. Which may be important as Ginny is making sure that Chester when he is old enough to understand will not forget his roots.

Emecheta may also be exploring the theme of insecurity, particularly when it comes to Chester. From a very early age Chester feels as though he doesn’t belong. This insecurity or doubt also manifests itself when Chester goes to school. He does not want to stay in school even going as far as shouting out his wish to go home. Similarly when Ginny tells Chester that ‘your people’ are from the east; Chester again begins to doubt who he is. Which may be important as Emecheta may be suggesting that through the insecurity or doubt that Chester feels he is also beginning to question his identity. No longer is his life as simple as being Arthur and Ginny Arlington’s child. Chester knows he is different. Something he only begins to understand when he questions Arthur when he is older. Chester’s friendship with Ray Miller may also be significant as Emecheta may be using the friendship to highlight just how well-rounded Chester is despite the insecurities he feels. He identifies with Ray in school when Ray arrives to the school and begins to cry. Likewise when Chester grows older Ray is there for him. Neither boy appears to judge the other negatively. It is as though their friendship is solid. Probably the only solid or certain thing that Chester feels he has in his life.

What may also be important about the story is the fact that despite the narrator calling Arthur, Ginny and Julia ‘his family’, Chester believes the recurring dream he has is about his real home. It is as though Chester cannot at times make any type of identification with the Arlingtons being his parents. It is also noticeable that the pressure within the family unit increases after Arthur tells Julia and Chester they are adopted. Despite showing calmness throughout the story there is one occasion in whereby Arthur gets angry. The reader realising that the trigger for Arthur’s anger is not the fact that Chester has laughed at him but in reality Arthur knows the dynamic within the family has changed since both children became aware they were adopted. Though Arthur had hoped that both Chester and Julia would accept the fact they were adopted, without too much difficulty, this has not been the case. Chester has escaped into his dream while Julia has become introverted.

The end of the story is also interesting as Chester for the first time in the story acts with surety or certainty. He knows that he doesn’t wish to play the king in the nativity play and despite Ginny’s wishes stays off stage. This may be important as in many ways Chester is turning his back on his dream. He may have been born in Nigeria but he lives with the Arlingtons now. If anything Chester is accepting who he is. He is the son of Arthur and Ginny Arlington. No longer does he have the doubts that hindered him previously. It may also be symbolically significant that Arthur has bought Ginny a new diary. It is as though he is starting afresh. Nothing has been written as of yet. A new life with independence awaits Arthur. He is not drawn to the past as he had previously been nor is he overly concerned about discovering who he had previously thought he might be (son of a Nigerian mother). If anything Chester not only accepts who his parents are (Arthur and Ginny) but he fully accepts who he is regardless of the fact that he is adopted. Chester at the end of the story no longer has any insecurities about who he is or about belonging. He fully accepts his circumstances.

Cite Post
McManus, Dermot. "The New Tribe by Buchi Emecheta." The Sitting Bee. The Sitting Bee, 15 Aug. 2017. Web.


  • Thanks for the summary! Now I understand the story better.

  • How does it relate the title of new tribe to the story and why did Julian bring the baby to Arthur?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Ntshuxi. The title of the story suggests that Chester has found a new tribe (or family) to live with. As for why Julian brought the baby to Arthur. Arthur is a kind man who works in the Church. Julian probably thought it was more appropriate to bring the baby (Julia) to Arthur than to anybody else.

      • How did Ginny resolve each dilemma?

        • Dermot (Post Author)

          Thanks for the comment Felicia. Ginny through patience and honesty resolved a lot of the issues that she was confronted by. She also wrote a story book for Chester should he ever query where he came from. Similarly when Chester becomes aware that he is adopted Ginny allows him to be himself. To be independent. Something that is noticeable when Chester decides he doesn’t want to play the King in the nativity play again.

      • No Julian brought Julia not Chester.

  • When Chester was dreaming what was he dreaming and hoping for?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Chester was dreaming, or at least he thought he was, about a village in Nigeria. A place where he felt he belonged. A new home for him. Somewhere where Chester felt connected with others who were like him.

  • Why do you think the title is suitable to this story?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Samu. Chester has found a new family or tribe that love him unconditionally. He accepts that he is adopted and he accepts that Ginny and Arthur are his parents. Regardless of the differences in the colour of their skin.

  • There’s two children? or three adopted and their gender? and colour? What things start to make Chester think that he doesn’t belong?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Boyza. There are two adopted children. Julia a white female and Chester a black male. Chester senses he doesn’t belong because he looks different (black) to everyone else he sees.

      • Where does Julian fit in into this whole story, cause only two kids were adopted Chester and Julia. Who is Julian?

        • Dermot (Post Author)

          Thanks for the comment Thato. Julian was the paperboy who found Julia and handed her to Arthur and Ginny.

  • Did Ginny buy Chester a new diary at the end or did Arthur buy a new diary for Ginny?

  • Did the headmaster mean any harm when he said “jokingly to Chester you little devil?”

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Makatla. The headmaster meant no harm. He realised it was Chester’s first day in school.

  • I thank you for the answers to questions. They have helped me understand the story even better.

  • I don’t see where it says Chester bought Ginny a new diary but at last paragraph it talked about Arthur and the new diary.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Suzan. On the last page of the story (Pg180 in Changes). At the top. It says that Chester not only made an elaborate Christmas card but bought Ginny a diary with a pretty cover of roses and violets.

  • Can you please summarize in a simple way so that I can understand.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      A white couple called Ginny and Arthur (Vicar) are given a baby by the local paper boy. They adopt the baby and christen the child Julia. Word of their good news and deed spreads and an adoptive agency ask Ginny and Julian if they will adopt a black baby called Chester. Things run smoothly till Chester begins to question his identity and who his real parents might be. It is by asking questions that Chester develops his own identity and begins to accept who he is. Though he knows he is a different skin colour to Ginny, Julian and Julia. He still accepts them as his family.

  • Thank you, you helped me with this summary.

  • Thanx a lot, you helped me.

  • What does Chester’s dream symbolize? Does it symbolize that one day he will go back to where his roots are and become a king?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Nsina. Chester’s dream symbolizes what he thinks Nigeria is like. However the reality is Chester may be dreaming about the picture book that Ginny made for him. Though the essence of the dream is the same. Chester returning as you suggest to become King of the village where he was born.

  • What happened to everyone in this story at the end?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      As far as I can work out Ginny and Arthur accepted that Chester wanted his independence. That he wished to explore his identity on his terms. As for Julia I think she was just happy that the family were together as one.

  • Where was the setting of the story?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Mdumiseni. Emecheta never mentions the setting but I think the story is set in England.

  • “The Arlingtons were like a good strong tree, under whose branches Chester and Julia sheltered” I think this figure of Speech is a Simile’ Am i right ? And can you tell me whats the meaning of that speech, can you please break it down for me

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Yes it is a simile. It’s meaning is as follows. The Arlingtons are always there for Chester and Julia. They are there to protect them and to help them through life.

  • How is the title of the story relevant to the plot?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Vumile. Chester as the only black child in his family is part of a new tribe (the Arlingtons). Even though Chester exerts his independence near the end of the story which suggests that he wishes to stand on his own two feet at the same time he wishes to be part of the Arlington’s way of life. Something that is noticeable by the fact that Chester buys Ginny a diary as a Christmas present. He is not part of his Nigerian tribe.

  • What is the name of Chester’s friend?

  • What is the point that the writer is trying to show us as readers?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Kgotso. Emecheta may be trying to show the reader the difficulties that someone who is different to those around them encounters. Chester stands out because he is the only black member of his family. He struggles to become independent yet at the same time to also become part of the Arlington’s family. He questions his identity which for anybody is a difficult task. Even more difficult for a child.

  • Thanks for the comments and the summary they are both helpful.

  • What is Chester’s character in the story?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Chester is a young black boy who has been adopted by Ginny and Arthur and is trying to figure out his identity. He knows by his skin colour that he is different to Ginny, Arthur and Julia. He just needs to find out who he is and be comfortable with it.

  • Sorry for lots of question What is the relationship that the Arlingtons have as a family and may I have some examples

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      The Arlingtons are a loving couple who love both Julia and Chester. Something that is noticeable by the fact that even though both Chester and Julia are adopted. Ginny and Arthur love both children as though they were their own. They are involved in both children’s lives. Something that the reader is aware of through Ginny’s involvement with the nativity play. They are also an open family and are prepared to discuss issues as they happen. Particularly when it comes to Chester wondering where he is from.

  • Can u please explained explain the theme of love n change

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Lusani. The Arlingtons (Ginny and Arthur) love both Julia and Chester. Something that can be seen by the fact that they not only adopted both children but they have also been there for both Julia and Chester throughout the story. The theme of change is noticeable by the fact that Ginny and Arthur’s life changes dramatically when they decide to become adoptive parents. The void that may have been in their life is filled. Also Chester goes through change. He becomes more independent of his parents and decides what he wants to do (not participate in nativity play).

  • Thank you. You’ve been helpful.

  • If I may ask Mr Arlington’s reaction when he was told that the second child that they were about to adopt is black could possible tells us about the kind of person he really is.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Mathews. Arthur’s reaction is one of silence. So too is Ginny’s. It is as though they are shocked. Which may be natural. Both Ginny and Arthur may be aware of how difficult it would be to raise a black child in a predominately white community. They might be able for it but the child will incur difficulties. I doubt that Ginny and Arthur themselves are concerned about Chester’s skin colour.

  • Hi Dermot. Just wanna say thank you For all the short stories summaries and also answering our questions..It is all helpful for us when preparing for our exams…I was writing my English paper two today and it was much easier….

    Thanks A lot……

  • Refer to the last line. Identify the figure of speech. Comment on its effectiveness.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      The figure of speech used is a simile which is suggesting that Arthur is rock-solid and dependable. Which Arthur has been throughout the story and Chester believes he will continue to be throughout his life.

  • Refer to paragraph 7 .”he could hardly contain the storm reging inside him”. Identify the figure of speech. Comment on its effectiveness

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      The figure of speech being used is called a metaphor. Which on this occasion is effective considering that the reader is also aware that Arthur’s face is red with rage.

  • Refer to the last paragraph. “He didn’t mean— tell on her. What do we learn about the relationship between Julia and Chester?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Julia is supporting and protecting Chester. She doesn’t want to see him getting into trouble with Arthur just because he laughed.

  • refer to line 14-15″ in chester’s mind —-how has chester gained his independence? to what degree. in your opinion, has chester gained independence?

    • he could hardly contain the storm raging inside him. identify the figure of speech. comment on the effectiveness.

      • Dermot (Post Author)

        The figure of speech being used is called a metaphor. Which on this occasion is effective considering that the reader is also aware that Arthur’s face is red with rage.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Caswell. You appear to be working of an extract. If you give me the first line of the extract I should be able to find it in the story and answer your question.

  • he didnt mean —— tell on her. what do we learn about the relationship between julia n chester?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Julia is supporting and protecting Chester. She doesn’t want to see him getting into trouble with Arthur just because he laughed.

  • Thank you very much for helping me.

  • Why did they name their baby girl Julia? And why did Chester ‘s mother chose the Arlingtons to raise her child?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Ginny and Arthur named the baby Julia because she was brought to them by the paper boy Julian. She is named after him. As for Chester’s mother choosing the Arlingtons. Chester’s mother read an article in the paper about the Arlington’s adopting Julia and thought that they would be good parents for Chester.

  • Did the Arlingtons celebrate the adoption of Julia and Chester? And how did the adopted children transform Ginny and Arthur’s characters. Also Ginny as a mother to adopted children how did she show them love.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      The Arlingtons did not celebrate the adoption of Julia or Chester. They seem to have jumped right into the role of parenthood. Both Ginny and Arthur felt happy that they were parents. Ginny showed love by being there for Julia and Chester. Particularly Chester. Ginny wrote a small book about Nigeria for Chester so that he would know where he came from.

  • What a touching story thank you so much.

  • Hey Dermot

    Here are the questions

    (1 ) what was ginny’s first impressions of Nigeria?

    (2) why did she try to teach Chester about africa?

    (3) do you think this was the right thing to do? give a reason

    (4) discus whether the headmaster meant any harm when he jokingly said “you little devil you started the uproar and now look at you smiling away with your sister ” explain your answer

    (5 ) why did Chester eventually ask about who his parents where?

    (6) did the turning point concerning the role of the 3 wise kings help the family achieve some solution?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Hi Priscilla

      (1) Ginny considered Nigeria to be a country in whereby the Government was dreadful. There was chaos, poverty and violence reigned.

      (2) Ginny thought it was important that Chester should know where he came from. Knowing it would help him with formulating his identity.

      (3) Yes it was the right thing to do. It is important for an individual to know where they come from. Particularly if they are different to those around them. As mentioned above it helps an individual formulate or understand their identity.

      (4) The headmaster was only trying to make Chester feel comfortable on his first day in school. The important thing to remember is that the headmaster said what he said as a joke with no malice intended.

      (5) Chester was beginning to question who he was. He knew he looked different from Ginny and Arthur and as such wanted to know who his birth parents were.

      (6) At first Ginny is upset because Chester wishes to no longer play a role on stage. However she adapts to the fact that Chester has found his independence.

  • Thanks for your answers.

  • 1. Was it easy for the parents to arrange to adopt Julia?

    2. Of the two adopted children whose mother do you think was more responsible?

    3. Why did Ginny make Chester one of 3 wise kings

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      1. Yes the social services were happy with how Julia was being treated by Ginny and Arthur.

      2. Chester’s mother would in my opinion have been more responsible as she tracked Ginny down looking for Ginny to adopt Chester. Whereas Julia had been abandoned and her parents were unknown.

      3. Ginny liked to make the costume for Chester and was proud of him being part of the play. The teacher choose Chester because of his skin colour. Believing that the Kings would have looked like Chester.

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