The use of characters to symbolize more than just a person in a story is often seen throughout any given piece of literature. Authors use characters to portray problems that may be larger than they appear at first glance. These problems often appear as mental or physical symptoms that the character is facing. Tsitsi Dangarembga uses this tactic in her book, titled Nervous Conditions, to show the displacement of one's true self. This can be seen when analyzing Nyasha and Babamukuru. On the surface it may appear as though Nyasha is simply a character that is struggling with an eating disorder, but if further investigated, it is found that her anorexia is a direct result of western colonization. The colonization of Zimbabwe affects the way that Nyasha acts which in turn causes Babamukuru to act out towards her as he still believes in traditional Shona values.
Having just moved back to Zimbabwe after five years of residing in England, Nyasha has developed a more western way of living and like her father, also strives to be in control. Since her father is being so heavily influenced by traditional ideas, the only thing that she has left to control for herself is eating. Her family notices a significant weight loss and immediately attributes it to stress, though the cause remained unbeknown to them. If only they had known that it was Babamukuru's enforcement of traditional Shona values on Nyasha, who is simply trying to hold on to her five years in England that she loved so much. .
From a distance, Babamukuru may seem like a perfect man, at least that is what Tambu always believed. Though as the novel progresses and a closer view of Babamukuru becomes clear, Tambu sees more of her uncle in action. Due to colonization, Babamukuru felt pressure to be the perfect father, which included being the man of the household and being in control at all times, all the while enforcing gender roles from traditional Shona values onto his children.