3. Esi was thinking that the whole thing sounded so absolutely lunatic and so ‘contemporary African’ that she would save her sanity probably by not trying to understand it. The only choice left to her was to try and enter into the spirit of it.
After flattering Esi in Chapter 10 with compliments regarding her beauty and intelligence, Ali surprises her by asking for her hand in marriage. He follows this surprise by taking Esi’s hand and slipping a wedding band over it. Esi is astonished that he would do such a thing because wedding bands, when used at all, are supposed to be given only to a man’s first wife. When Esi presses Ali about the purpose and necessity for her to wear a wedding ring, he proudly proclaims that its purpose is to let other men know that she is spoken for. As Esi is well aware, there is something preposterous to Ali’s statement regarding the symbolic intention of a wedding band. Missing from Ali’s perspective is any sense that the wedding band symbolizes commitment and shared love. The only meaning that the wedding band has for Ali is possession. He wants Esi to wear his ring so that no other man will try to take her away from him. For Esi, Ali’s ideas are not only African, they are “contemporary African.” The contemporary nature of Ali’s thoughts lies in his desire to break the tradition of having only one woman wear his ring. Prior to offering Esi his ring, Ali rationalizes both polygamy and the legitimacy of using wedding rings to symbolize marriage. In his willingness to break with tradition, Ali exhibits his unique contemporary African nature, which is riddled with contradictions and complications. She must either blindly accept this fact or reject Ali and his proposal.