An Ex-Mas Feast Summary
Uwem Akpan’s story, “An Ex-Mas Feast” is a story of the struggles that one family goes through to give gifts on their upcoming Christmas season. Akpan introduces the reader to the struggles of the main characters, which directly ties into the details of impoverished town that they live in. Jigana, one of the story’s main characters, starts off as a naïve 8 year old little boy who was anxious to start going to school. In a stark contrast, Maisha, the eldest sister at 12 years old, held her own and prostituted to bring in money for her family. The second oldest, Naema, was closer to Maisha than any of the others, and Maisha gave her tips and tricks of her trade. Akpan begins the story by saying that the family Maisha had never forgiven her parents for not being rich enough to send her to school, and how she avoids them as much as possible. In addition to ignoring them, Akpan describes her actions as that of a “cat that was going feral” (5). Although they are not the main characters, Jigana and Maisha also have a twin brother and sister named Otieno and Atieno, and a baby brother, who they refer to as Baby. Their mother, Mama, seems to be kind of a mess, which could be the result of sleep and alcohol, and their father, Baba, was a lowly pick pocket who could barely provide for his family. However low the parents are, they always push Jigana to go to school, but they do not give him any reasons as to why he should strive to achieve that goal. As the narrator of the story, Jigana states in the beginning that unlike most street families, their family had stayed together, but only until that Ex-mas season. The setting plays a large role in the story, almost as the antagonist because it causes a lot of distress to the family. Their home is hardly what you would call a house; it was a shack with a tarpaulin roof and brown polythene walls and had old dumped cushions for floors and a board as a door. Nairobi, at the time, was having bad weather that caused the whole town to flood with the constant light rain. To make ends meet, the older siblings took turns taking Baby out to the streets to get pity—and money— from the passerby’s. There is much conflict in the story. In the beginning, Mama provokes Maisha by calling her a whore for prostituting to make money, when Maisha is really doing it to earn tuition money for Jigana. Mama’s actions cause Maisha to ignore her for three months, and Mama seems resentful of her. Maisha had a trunk of goodies at the shack; it was filled with things that only she saw, and it was a mystery to everyone else in the family as to what was in it. Although the trunk brought upon feelings of suspense and consolation, it also reassured them that Maisha would return from her trips even after days of being gone. When Mama thinks about the things Maisha buys with her money, like the nice clothes and shoes she needs to sell her body, she gets angry and takes it out on the trunk. In addition to being overtly poor, the family was also in debt to Bwana Marcos Wako and his wife Cecilia, and had been for four years. They had been raided by them before, and they’d taken Baba’s work clothes in the name of debt servicing. As it turns out, Maisha had gone to them and begged for them to drop the debt so that she could use that money to send Jigana to school, and they had agreed. That’s when Mama praised and promised that she would never pound on her trunk and be mad at Maisha for doing what she did. Jigana doesn’t quite understand what Maisha is doing to make the money she’s bringing home to the family. One day, they are out walking on the streets that Maisha often sells her body, and they are joking around and playing as though she is the whore and he is the gentleman. They play act and banter playfully, while she casually runs from car to car, trying to find a suitor. Eventually, Maisha begins to tell Jigana that she must find a real job, and by real job, she meant full time at a...
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