The New Tribe by Buchi Emecheta
In 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.