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The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency: Chapters 19-22 June 18, 2007

Posted by Han in Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Sm.
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Is in The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency a feminist novel? Does the fact that its author is a man complicate such a reading? How well does Alexander McCall Smith represent a woman’s character and consciousness in Mma Ramotswe?

Alexander McCall Smith’s Precious Ramotswe books have been praised for their combination of apparent simplicity with a high degree of sophistication. In what ways does in The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency have the appeal of simple storytelling? In what ways is it sophisticated? What does it suggest about the larger issues of how to live one’s life, how to behave in society, how to be happy?

Mma Ramotswe does not want Africa to change, to become thoroughly modern: “She did not want her people to become like everybody else, soulless, selfish, forgetful of what it means to be an African, or, worse still, ashamed of Africa” [p. 215]. But what aspects of traditional African culture trouble her? How does she regard the traditional African attitude toward women, marriage, family duty, and witchcraft? Is there a contradiction in her relationship to “old” Africa?How appropriate is the ending of the novel?

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1. Michelle - June 29, 2007

Not addressing any of your very well thought out questions, but I had to laugh at the following:

“She felt terribly sorry for people who suffered from constipation, and she knew that there were many who did. There were probably enough of them to form a political party – with a chance of government perhaps – but what would such a party do if it was in power? Nothing, she imagined. It would try to pass legislation, but would fail.”

Agh!!! I’m not usually a potty humor person but I thought it very witty to include that last sentence. Made me laugh out loud when I was reading it in public.

2. Heather - June 29, 2007

Michelle, I did the same thing! That was very funny!


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