Characters in Under the Udala Trees 

Here is a quick peak into the characters in Under The Udala Trees, a book by Chinelo Okparanta.

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Under The Udala Trees is a novel by a Nigerian-American writer, Chinelo Okparanta, published in 2015 and won the 2016 Best Lesbian Novel of Lambda Literary Awards. It is classified as queer literature and historical fiction. 

It tells the story of a girl struggling to come to terms with her sexuality in an environment hostile to homosexual people. She was a lesbian, and the society she was born into gave no room for the association. Her mother constantly rebuked her desire to date a fellow girl and tried to exorcise her of the homosexual spirit through prayers. Eventually, her prayers to change Ijeoma’s sexuality yielded no result as she ran away from her husband back to her – Adaora after growing tired of living with a man she didn’t love. Adaora had to embrace her daughter in her default and reinterpreted the Bible to favor her dear girl.


Characters in Under the Udala Trees


He is Adaora’s husband and Ijeoma’s. He appeared only at the beginning of the story as a critical-thinking man who cared for his family. He is a Christian, likewise his wife. An air raid at the civilian quarters during the Nigerian War killed him, pushing Adaora to the brink. His demise shut Adaora down and plunged her into depression, making her send her daughter—Ijeoma — to live with a schoolmistress in Nnewi as she couldn’t cater to her needs anymore. Ijeoma learned Uzo’s critical ways of thinking, which she used to reinterpret the Bible against the widespread belief the Holy Book was against homosexuality.


She is a young and enthusiastic girl who tried to come to terms with her sexuality in the homophobic environment she found herself. Her father’s death made her heavily reliant on her Christian mother. She found herself being detached from her mother to live with someone else— a school teacher based in Nnewi. She accepted and fell in love with Amina, a Hausa girl living in Nnewi. She brought her home from under the udala tree, and they both worked as maids for the grammar teacher. 

Her dream of being a lesbian was shattered when the schoolteacher caught them making love and sent her back home to Aba, where her mother resides. Her mother tried to rid her of the perceived homosexual spirit through prayers, but Ijeoma, instead, found another love in Ndidi, who was also a schoolteacher. Ndidi introduced her to an underground LGBTQ community. However, the hall the LGBTQ people do gather at night got burnt down by the homophobic mobs, prompting Ndidi to urge the younger Ijeoma to normalize dating men; at the time, Chibundu had come to court her. 

Eventually, Ijeoma accepted to marry Chibundu, whom she didn’t love, but due to her mother’s fierce rebuke, she agreed to marry him to look normal in the eyes of society. She bore a daughter, Chidimma, for Chibundu. After Chibundu learned about her relationship with Ndidi through her unsent letters in her bedroom, he became violent towards her and demanded she bears him a male child. Ijeoma angrily left him after a miscarriage and returned to Aba to live with her mother.


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Ijeoma’s mother and Chidimma’s grandmother – Adaora, found solace in centers for Christian fellowships. She became an ardent Christian after the painful death of her husband— Uzo— which affected her psychologically throughout the novel. She tried to instill her Christian belief in her deviating daughter, although it was more of making her conform to the societal straight norms. She frequently rebuked her daughter’s choice to have romantic relationships with the same gender. After tongue-lashing Ijeoma into marriage, and she eventually returned home to live with her after a few years of marrying her husband, Chibundu, Adaora decided to embrace her daughter the way she was.

The Schoolteacher

She is the woman who Ijeoma was sent to live with after her father died. She is known in the novel as a schoolteacher based in Nnewi. She sent Ijeoma back to Adaora after finding out she was a lesbian.


He is Ijeoma’s husband. He lived in Port Harcourt city, Rivers state. Ijeoma accepted to marry him to soothe the anger of her widowed mother, who reviled her relationships with the same gender. Despite having no disposition to marry a man, she did marry Chibundu and got along to bear him a child, Chidimma. She didn’t stop reaching out to her love interest in Aba. She frequently wrote to Ndidi and stopped after getting no replies from her. She hid the unsent letters away from her husband in her bedroom. When he discovered the unsent letters, the marriage got sour. Chibundu became abusive and threatened her with a machete if she didn’t bear him a male child. Ijeoma found the marriage to a man she was not attracted to unworthy of keeping. She ended it and went to stay with her mother. Adaora accepted her that way and believed she wouldn’t change any longer.


She’s also a schoolteacher but based in Aba. After Ijeoma was sent back home from Nnewi, she began dating Ndidi, who was also a lesbian. Likewise, Ijeoma’s previous relationship with Amina crashed after coming to the limelight, and this one with Ndidi failed as a result of Adaora’s backlash against Ijeoma’s 

relationship with Ndidi.


She’s Ijeoma’s first date and a Hausa girl who also got detached from her parents by the war. Her meeting point with Ijeoma was under the udala tree, and the novel’s title is derived from there. Her relationship with Ijeoma crumbles after the schoolteacher, whom she and Ijeoma served, caught them making love. Ijeoma was sent back home to live with her mother, Adaora.


She is the product of the brief marriage between Chibundu and Ijeoma. She was the only child born into the marriage; when it collapsed after some secrets began to unravel, Ijeoma took her to live with Adaora.


Comments (1)

  1. […] may be pitted directly against each other, as in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, or the main character may be pitted against society as a whole, as in Harper Lee’s To Kill a […]

    February 3, 2024 at 11:13 am

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