Americanah: Analysis of Language and Accents
Americanah– ISU Part 2 (Plot Summary) Pg. 1
- Ifemelu speaks without the fake accent for the first time when taking a train to Aunty Uju’s house. While on the train she meets Blaine, a Black American man, and they spend the trip talking. Blaine gives Ifemelu his phone number, but he never calls her back.
- The chapter is finished when a blog post about American Tribalism. Ifemelu says in her blog that there are four kinds of tribes in America: class, ideology, religion, and race.
- In chapter 18, it returns to the present day. Mariama has a new customer who notices a stack of Nigerian magazines and says that Nigerians are known for being criminals.
- The story again returns to the past. Kimberly introduces Curt and Ifemelu. The two begin to date and Curt tells her he his wealthy and his family has been hoteliers for hundreds of years. Kimberly is happy that the two are dating. Curt tells Ifemelu she is beautiful and he loves her body.
She sometimes thinks of Obinze when they are together, but she tries not to compare them. Ifemelu is happy with Curt who spoils her with money and attention.
- Chapter 19, Graduation is drawing near, but Ifemelu isn’t certain what she wants to do. Curt sets up an interview for her with a company that will help her get a work visa and start the process to get a green card. Ifemelu removes her braids and relaxes her hair. She does well at the interview and wonders if things would have gone so well if she’d gone in with her natural hair.
- Chapter 20 starts with Ifemelu living in Baltimore. Ifemelu has her own apartment, but she spends most of her time at Curt’s. She continues to relax her hair and it begins to fall out of the temples. Wambui convinces her to cut her hair and let it go natural. Ifemelu cuts her hair very short and hates it. She is embarrassed by her hair and calls in sick to work the next day.
- The chapter ends with a blog post titled “Why Dark-Skinned Black Women Both American and Non-American Love Barack Obama.” In the post she says that black men like their women to be lighter skinned, but Obama married a woman who is not light skinned, so women like him.
- Chapter 21 begins on a Sunday morning with a call from Aunty Uju complaining about what Dike wants to wear to church. Uju is certain they will be talked about if he doesn’t dress properly and she’s been telling him to tone it down in school so he doesn’t look so different. Ifemelu convinces Dike to wear the shirt his mother has chosen and says she’ll bring Curt to meet him on the weekend.
- The blog post at the end of the chapter is about how Non-American Blacks become black when they come to America and along with that comes all of the stereotypes and racial issues.
- In Chapter 22, Ifemelu runs into Kayode in a mall. Kayode tells her Obinze asked him to look her up and she feels numb at the mention of Obinze’s name. Kayode tells her Obinze is in England and she feels betrayed to find out there have been changes to his life that she didn’t know about.
- She tells Kayode she is with her boyfriend and walks away. She tells Curt she ran into a friend from high school, but won’t say more. He asks if it was an old boyfriend because she seems upset. She says not, but refuses to explain.
- In Chapter 23, the focus of the novel shifts to Obinze’s past when he lived in London. He is not there legally, so he cannot work.
- Obinze realizes Cleotilde is attracted to him and he asks her for her phone number. The Angolans say he should call them. Obinze gives Cleotilde his number asking if she’d like to get together with him, and she says yes.
- Once in England, Obinze takes a job cleaning bathrooms, but quits when he walks into a stall to find someone has defecated on a toilet lid. He feels like the person who has done this was staging a performance somehow and it makes him feel small.
- Obinze and Ojiugo have a conversation about accents and Obinze wonders if Nigerians are more forgiving of their children raised in England because they have foreign accents.
- Chapter 25 talks about what drew Obinze to be friends with Emenike when they were in high school. Emenike was a sharp boy who was eager to be seen as someone who knew things and was of a higher class than he really was Obinze calls Emenike when he arrives in England, but Emenike puts him off repeatedly saying he is busy with work and travel. Obinze realizes Emenike has changed and will not help him get an NI number so he can work.
- He calls another friend, Iloba, who has always treated Obinze as a kinsman. Iloba puts Obinze in touch with a man named Vincent who agrees to let Obinze use his NI number in exchange for thirty-five percent of his pay.
- In Chapter 26, Obinze is working at various jobs under the name of Vincent. He works a job in a warehouse where Roy Snell, an Englishman, is his boss. Roy treats him kindly and Obinze fits in well with the other workers.
- Obinze realizes that Nigel’s reaction has to do with the man’s accent and that if he had spoken differently, Nigel would have complained about not receiving a tip.
- Chapter 31 shifts back to Ifemelu’s past. She has just broken up with Curt after having cheated on him with a man who lives in her apartment complex. She tells Ginika the relationship just didn’t feel right. Ifemelu tries to reconcile with Curt, but he will not talk to her. She finally accepts the end of the relationship and thinks there must be something wrong with her. She feels like she doesn’t completely know herself.
- In Chapter 32, Aunty Uju tells Ifemelu she has joined African Doctors for Africa and met a man named Kweku who is also a doctor. She says he treats her like a princess and reminds her that Curt treated her that way, too. Kweku also treats Dike well, which makes Ifemelu like him. When Ifemelu tells Dike she has broke up with Curt, he asks her if she’ll be okay and brings her a tray with a banana and a can of peanuts on it.
- Chapter 33 begins by talking about how Ifemelu’s blog has grown. She has gained many readers and is receiving donations from people who want to support the blog. She is also being paid to advertise on her blog. She is immersed in the blog and checks her email often and eagerly. Ifemelu also begins being invited to speak at diversity conferences.
Americanah– ISU Part 2 (Literary Analysis) Pg.3
Books are a symbol of a better life. Obinze is, from the start, a great lover of books. He is particularly fond of American novels as a teen because he aspires to move to America where he believes he will have a better life. Later, when he is living in England as an illegal immigrant, his escape from his bleak reality is found in bookstores where he treats himself to an expensive coffee and sits among the books reading as much as he can. Ifemelu becomes a lover of books, too, after she moves to America and Obinze encourages her to read more American novels to learn more about the culture there. She goes to the library and loves it there where the books are in great shape and have all their pages, unlike the books she had in Nigeria. When Obinze and Ifemelu are reunited in Nigeria, their first meeting takes place at a bookstore called Jazzhole. Ifemelu tells Obinze she’s going there to buy a book and he meets her there where their new journey toward a better life together begins. .
Accents are a symbol of a person’s place in society. Ifemelu first learns this when she registers for her college classes and is treated like she is unintelligent and can’t understand English because of her Nigerian accent. After that, she adopts an American accent for a time. While in England, Obinze clearly sees how people are treated differently based on their accents. He wonders if his cousin and his cousin’s wife are easier on their kids because they have English accents. And, during one delivery for the warehouse he works at, he and Nigel meet a very shabby looking man who speaks with a posh English accent. In spite of his looks, Nigel says the man is a “real gent” and Obinze realizes Nigel reacts to the man in that manner because of the man’s accent.
The American sitcoms that Ifemelu grows up watching symbolize the life she thinks she will have when she moves to America. These shows feature affluent black families and Ifemelu believes that is how Uju is living in America and that is how she will live, too. However, when she arrives in America, Ifemelu discovers that’s not the case at all. Uju is working three jobs to support herself and Dike while she attends school. She is tired and has let her appearance go. Ifemelu is initially unable to find work and lives in poverty, even degrading herself just to pay the rent. She also encounters issues of race that she never saw on the sitcoms. She discovers that Black Americans are often treated as though they are of a lower class than White Americans. In fact, she never identified as Black until she moved to America.
Ifemelu’s blogs represent freedom for her. Through Ifemelu’s blog writing, she is financially secure and free to live a life that is not dependent on a man like Uju’s life with The General or Ranyinudo’s life with Don. The blogs also give her the freedom to express herself and talk about topics that are of interest to her. This freedom is the main reason Ifemelu quits her job at Zoe to start her second blog.
Americanah– ISU Part 1 (Quotation Analysis) Pg. 5
“This was his weekly treat; to visit the bookshop, buy an overpriced caffeinated drink, read as much as he could for free, and become Obinze again.” Narrator (Part 3, Chapter 27 paragraph 1)
In the novel, books are a symbol of a better life. When Obinze is living in England with little money and a fear of being deported, he finds comfort among books and is able to regain something of his old life and dignity there.
“Their union was leached of passion, but there was a new passion, outside of themselves, that united them in intimacy they had never had before, an unfixed, unspoken, intuitive intimacy: Barack Obama. They agreed, without any prodding, without the shadows of obligation or compromise, on Barack Obama.” – Narrator (Part 4, Chapter 40 paragraph 1)
This quote is a foreshadowing of the demise of Ifemelu’s and Blaine’s relationship. After they get back together following the argument about the protest Ifemelu failed to attend, the only thing they truly agree on is that they both want Barack Obama to be elected president. However, the relationship is never the same again, making it easy for Ifemelu to leave Blaine behind when she returns to Nigeria.
“I worry that she will end up like many women in Lagos who define their lives by men they can never truly have, crippled by their culture of dependence, with desperation in their eyes and designer handbags on their wrists.”– Ifemelu (Part 7, Chapter 50 paragraph Part 7, Chapter 50)
This quote comes from a blog post that Ifemelu writes for her blog in Nigeria. It is about Ranyinudo’s relationship with Don, but could just as easily have been said about Aunty Uju when she was with The General. The quote is significant to the theme of the role of women since this is one of the choices Ifemelu could have made for her life.
“At the Abuja airport on his way back to Lagos, he thought of going to the international wing instead, buying a ticket to somewhere improbable, like Malabo. Then he felt a passing self-disgust because he would not, of course, do it; he would instead do what he was expected to do.” – Narrator (Part 7, Chapter 54 paragraph 23)
This quotation shows Obinze’s desire to leave his marriage and change his life, but feeling as though he cannot because he has a responsibility to his wife and daughter. It shows his internal struggle with the direction his life should take.
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Americanah– ISU Part 2 (Plot Summary) Pg. 1 Ifemelu speaks without the fake accent for the first time when taking a train to Aunty Uju’s house. While on the train […]