Get notes, line-by-line explanation, summary, questions and answers, critical analysis, word meanings, extras, and pdf of the story “The Girl Who Can” by Ama Ata Aidoo, which is part of ICSE Class 10 English (Treasure Chest: A Collection of ICSE Poems and Short Stories). However, the notes should only be treated as references, and changes should be made according to the needs of the students.
The story is narrated by Adjoa, a young 7-year-old girl living in a village in Ghana. Adjoa struggles to express her thoughts and feelings to the adults around her, as they often dismiss or laugh at what she says. The main source of conflict is between Adjoa’s grandmother Nana and her mother. Nana frequently criticised Adjoa’s legs, saying they are too thin and long for a proper woman. In Nana’s view, a woman’s legs should be thick with muscle to support wide childbearing hips. Adjoa’s mother defends Adjoa but does not strongly contradict Nana.
Adjoa wishes she could examine other women’s legs to evaluate Nana’s statements, but is only able to see the legs of girls her own age. Nana also thinks Adjoa attending school is a waste of time, while her mother supports her education. Adjoa enjoys school and the chance to run races with her classmates. One day, Adjoa’s teachers select her to represent her school in a district sports competition. Adjoa is surprised but excited, and goes home to share the news with her family.
At first, Nana and Adjoa’s mother do not believe she will really compete. But when Nana verifies the truth, she starts treating Adjoa differently. She launders Adjoa’s school uniform herself and carefully irons it. During the week of competitions, Nana attends each day, walking behind the schoolchildren. Adjoa wins every race she enters, becoming the district junior champion.
When Adjoa returns to the village with the champion’s cup, Nana carries it proudly on her back to show Adjoa’s mother. Nana has realised that while Adjoa’s legs may be thin, they have their own strength and speed. The experience changes how Nana sees Adjoa and her abilities.
About the author
Ama Ata Aidoo is a trailblazing writer from Ghana who has shed light on the complexities African women face in pursuing identity and fulfilment within patriarchal societies. Born in 1942, Aidoo showed remarkable literary promise even as a young girl. After obtaining a college education in her home country of Ghana, she ventured to the United States for graduate studies.
In 1970, Aidoo made a splashy entrance onto the literary stage with her groundbreaking play The Dilemma of a Ghost, gaining international praise and attention. She went on to serve as Ghana’s Minister of Education, balancing her political and writing careers.
Throughout her illustrious career as a playwright, poet, novelist and short story author, Aidoo has delved into issues of gender, power dynamics and tradition in works like Anowa, Changes and No Sweetness Here. Her writing illuminates the experiences of African women and challenges the restraints placed upon them by society. Aidoo’s body of work has significantly influenced modern African literature and feminist thought. Despite facing criticism for her unflinching portrayals of ingrained patriarchy, Aidoo remains a vital voice speaking to the struggles of African women. Her vibrant stories feature determined female protagonists who take control of their destinies, inspiring women everywhere to defy unjust barriers.
Additional/Extra questions and answers
1. Who are the main characters in the story?
Answer: The main characters in the story are Adjoa, her grandmother Nana, and her mother, referred to as Maami. These characters are central to the unfolding of the narrative and the themes it explores.
2. What is the relationship between Nana and Adjoa?
Answer: Nana is Adjoa’s maternal grandmother. She has a significant influence on Adjoa’s life, particularly in shaping her views on womanhood and societal expectations.
3. Describe the setting of the story.
Answer: The story is set in Hasodzi, a large village in the Central Region of Ghana. The village setting is crucial as it provides a backdrop for the traditional views and generational conflicts that are central to the story.
4. What is the central theme of the story?
Answer: The central theme of the story revolves around generational gaps, societal expectations, and the differing perspectives on what is considered important in life, especially concerning the roles and physical attributes of women.
5. How does Nana feel about Adjoa’s legs?
Answer: Nana feels that Adjoa’s legs are too thin and long to be considered appropriate for a woman. She believes that a woman should have legs with meat on them to support solid hips, which in turn are important for childbearing.
6. What is Adjoa’s achievement in the district games?
Answer: Adjoa excels in the district games, winning every race she participates in for her school. Her exceptional performance earns her the cup for the best all-round junior athlete, making her the pride of her school and family.
7. How does Nana react to Adjoa’s achievement?
Answer: Nana’s reaction to Adjoa’s achievement is a significant turning point in the story. Initially skeptical of Adjoa’s abilities due to her thin legs, Nana becomes visibly pleased when Adjoa wins the district games. She proudly carries the gleaming cup on her back as they return to their village, treating it as a precious item that symbolizes her granddaughter’s accomplishments. This act not only signifies her newfound pride in Adjoa but also marks a shift in her perception of what Adjoa is capable of achieving.
8. What is the significance of the “gleaming cup” in the story?
Answer: The gleaming cup is not just a trophy; it serves as a powerful symbol of Adjoa’s achievements and abilities. It becomes a point of pride for her family, especially for Nana, who initially had reservations about Adjoa’s physical attributes. The cup also represents a challenge to the traditional views held by Nana and others in the village, proving that Adjoa’s thin legs can indeed be useful and successful.
9. How does Adjoa feel about her legs?
Answer: Adjoa feels that her legs are useful and doesn’t understand why her family, particularly Nana, makes such a big deal about them. She believes that her legs have proven their worth through her achievements in the district games.
10. What is the “serious problem” Adjoa mentions?
Answer: The serious problem that Adjoa mentions is her struggle with expressing her thoughts. She feels that she lacks the proper language to articulate what she thinks, which makes it difficult for her to communicate effectively with adults.
11. What is the general attitude of grown-ups towards Adjoa’s thoughts?
Answer: The general attitude of grown-ups towards Adjoa is either dismissive or overly amused. They often do not take her thoughts and opinions seriously, either laughing at her or telling her not to repeat what she has said.
12. Describe the relationship between Adjoa’s mother and Nana.
Answer: The relationship between Adjoa’s mother and Nana is a complex interplay of familial bonds, respect, and differing opinions. While they are bound by family and share a home, their views on Adjoa’s future and womanhood often clash. Nana, representing the older generation, holds traditional views and is vocal about them. On the other hand, Adjoa’s mother, although often silenced by Nana’s strong opinions, tries to advocate for a more progressive future for her daughter, particularly emphasising the importance of education.
13. What are Nana’s views on education?
Answer: Nana is skeptical about the value of education for Adjoa. She believes that it would be a waste of time and doesn’t see how it could benefit her in the traditional role she envisions for her granddaughter.
14. How does Adjoa’s mother feel about education?
Answer: Adjoa’s mother values education highly. She feels that her own lack of education has limited her life in some ways and doesn’t want the same for Adjoa. She believes that education can provide Adjoa with more opportunities and a broader understanding of the world.
15. What does Nana do with Adjoa’s school uniform during the district games week?
Answer: Nana takes special care of Adjoa’s school uniform during the district games week. She washes it herself and goes to the extent of borrowing a charcoal pressing iron to make sure it is perfectly ironed. This act shows a change in her attitude towards Adjoa’s schooling and achievements.
16. How does Adjoa feel about school?
Answer: Adjoa enjoys going to school. She finds it a pleasant experience and doesn’t mind the long walk between her village and the school. School is a place where she feels she can learn and grow, contrary to Nana’s views.
17. What does Nana think about legs that “have meat on them”?
Answer: Nana believes that legs with meat on them are ideal for a woman because they can support solid hips, which are essential for childbearing. She often criticizes Adjoa’s thin legs, suggesting they are not suitable for a woman.
18. How does Adjoa’s mother react to Nana’s comments about Adjoa’s legs?
Answer: Adjoa’s mother tries to defend her daughter’s physical attributes but is often silenced by Nana’s strong opinions. She attempts to counter Nana’s views but usually ends up being overruled.
19. What does Nana do after Adjoa wins the district games?
Answer: After Adjoa’s victory in the district games, Nana proudly carries the gleaming cup on her back as they return to their village. She even shows it to Adjoa’s mother before returning it to the Headmaster, signifying her pride and changed perception of Adjoa.
20. What is Adjoa’s age as mentioned in the story?
Answer: Adjoa is mentioned to be seven years old in the story.
21. What is the significance of the phrase “thin legs can also be useful”?
Answer: The phrase “thin legs can also be useful” serves as a counter-argument to Nana’s initial belief that Adjoa’s thin legs were not suitable for a woman. It signifies that despite societal expectations and traditional beliefs, Adjoa’s thin legs have proven to be useful and capable, especially in her athletic achievements.
22. How does the story portray the generational gap between Nana and Adjoa?
Answer: The story portrays the generational gap through their differing views on education, women’s roles, and physical attributes. While Nana holds traditional views, Adjoa represents a new generation with different perspectives and aspirations.
23. What is the role of the village setting in the story?
Answer: The village setting serves as a backdrop that highlights the traditional and conservative views held by the characters, especially Nana. It provides a context for the generational conflicts and differing perspectives on womanhood and societal roles.
24. How does Adjoa’s achievement affect Nana’s perception of her?
Answer: Adjoa’s achievement in the district games serves as a turning point in Nana’s perception of her. She begins to see the value in Adjoa’s abilities and even takes pride in her achievements, as evidenced by her carrying the gleaming cup on her back.
25. What is the significance of the title “The Girl Who Can”?
Answer: The title “The Girl Who Can” serves as an affirmation of Adjoa’s capabilities and potential. It challenges societal norms and expectations, particularly those concerning the roles and physical attributes of women.
26. How does the story address societal expectations for women?
Answer: The story addresses societal expectations by showcasing the differing views among the characters on what a woman should be like. While Nana holds traditional views on womanhood, Adjoa and her mother represent more progressive perspectives.
27. What does Adjoa’s mother mean when she says she feels “locked into some kind of darkness”?
Answer: When Adjoa’s mother says she feels “locked into some kind of darkness,” she is referring to her own lack of education and how it has limited her understanding of the world. She feels trapped by her ignorance and wants better for her daughter.
28. What is the significance of the “big brass bowl” in the story?
Answer: The big brass bowl is where Nana keeps her old clothes and serves as a symbol of tradition and the past. It represents the old ways of thinking that Nana holds, which are often in conflict with Adjoa’s more progressive views.
29. What does the story reveal about the importance of self-belief?
Answer: The story reveals that self-belief is crucial for overcoming societal expectations and achieving personal success. Adjoa’s self-belief enables her to excel in the district games, thereby changing the perceptions of those around her, including Nana.
1. Who is Adjoa’s grandmother in the story?
A. Maami B. Nana C. Aunty D. Sister
Answer: B. Nana
2. Where is the story set?
A. Accra B. Hasodzi C. Kumasi D. Lagos
Answer: B. Hasodzi
3. What is the central theme of the story?
A. Adventure B. Generational Gap C. Love D. Mystery
Answer: B. Generational Gap
4. What does Nana think of Adjoa’s legs?
A. They are perfect B. They are too thin C. They are too muscular D. They are too short
Answer: B. They are too thin
5. What does Adjoa win in the district games?
A. A medal B. A certificate C. A gleaming cup D. A scholarship
Answer: C. A gleaming cup
6. How does Nana react to Adjoa’s win in the district games?
A. She is indifferent B. She is disappointed C. She is pleased D. She is angry
Answer: C. She is pleased
7. What is Adjoa’s age in the story?
A. 5 B. 7 C. 10 D. 12
Answer: B. 7
8. What does Nana do with Adjoa’s school uniform during the district games week?
A. Burns it B. Sells it C. Washes and irons it D. Hides it
Answer: C. Washes and irons it
9. What does Adjoa’s mother feel about education?
A. It’s a waste of time B. It’s important C. It’s for boys only D. It’s too expensive
Answer: B. It’s important
10. What is the “serious problem” Adjoa mentions?
A. Financial issues B. Lack of food C. Inability to express her thoughts D. Health problems
Answer: C. Inability to express her thoughts
11. What does Nana think about legs that “have meat on them”?
A. They are ugly B. They are ideal for childbirth C. They are weak D. They are irrelevant
Answer: B. They are ideal for childbirth
12. What is the significance of the “big brass bowl” in the story?
A. It holds water B. It holds Nana’s old clothes C. It holds food D. It holds money
Answer: B. It holds Nana’s old clothes
13. What does Adjoa’s mother mean when she says she feels “locked into some kind of darkness”?
A. She is scared of the dark B. She feels ignorant due to lack of education C. She is depressed D. She is blind
Answer: B. She feels ignorant due to lack of education
14. How does Adjoa feel about school?
A. She hates it B. She loves it C. She is indifferent D. She is scared of it
Answer: B. She loves it
15. What is the role of the village setting in the story?
A. It adds suspense B. It adds humor C. It highlights traditional views D. It adds complexity
Answer: C. It highlights traditional views
16. What does the story reveal about the importance of self-belief?
A. It is irrelevant B. It is harmful C. It is crucial D. It is overrated
Answer: C. It is crucial
17. What does Adjoa feel about her legs?
A. She is ashamed of them B. She thinks they are useful C. She wants to change them D. She is indifferent
Answer: B. She thinks they are useful
18. How does Adjoa’s achievement affect Nana’s perception of her?
A. It doesn’t change B. It worsens C. It improves D. It confuses
Answer: C. It improves
19. What is the general attitude of grown-ups towards Adjoa?
A. Respectful B. Dismissive C. Admiring D. Fearful
Answer: B. Dismissive
20. What is the significance of the title “The Girl Who Can”?
A. It signifies Adjoa’s limitations B. It signifies Adjoa’s capabilities C. It signifies Adjoa’s dreams D. It signifies Adjoa’s fears
Answer: B. It signifies Adjoa’s capabilities
21. What does Nana do after Adjoa wins the district games?
A. She leaves the village B. She scolds Adjoa C. She carries the gleaming cup on her back D. She breaks the cup
Answer: C. She carries the gleaming cup on her back
22. What are Nana’s views on education?
A. It’s essential B. It’s a waste of time C. It’s good but not necessary D. It’s only for the rich
Answer: B. It’s a waste of time
23. How does the story portray the generational gap between Nana and Adjoa?
A. Through their similar views B. Through their differing views C. Through their hobbies D. Through their friends
Answer: B. Through their differing views
24. What is Adjoa’s mother’s name in the story?
A. Ama B. Maami C. Efia D. Akua
Answer: B. Maami
25. How does Adjoa’s mother react to Nana’s comments about Adjoa’s legs?
A. She agrees B. She argues C. She ignores D. She laughs
Answer: B. She argues
26. What does the gleaming cup symbolize?
A. Wealth B. Tradition C. Achievement D. Beauty
Answer: C. Achievement
27. What is the “serious problem” Adjoa mentions related to?
A. Physical health B. Mental health C. Communication D. Financial issues
Answer: C. Communication
28. How does Adjoa feel about expressing her thoughts to grown-ups?
A. Confident B. Hesitant C. Indifferent D. Excited
Answer: B. Hesitant
29. What does Nana think about legs that “have meat on them”?
A. They are good for running B. They are good for dancing C. They are good for childbearing D. They are good for swimming
Answer: C. They are good for childbearing
30. What is the significance of the phrase “thin legs can also be useful”?
A. It signifies the need for dieting B. It signifies the need for exercise C. It signifies the usefulness of Adjoa’s legs D. It signifies the uselessness of thick legs
Answer: C. It signifies the usefulness of Adjoa’s legs
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