Race and Gender Inequity in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah

February 11, 2021 by Essay Writer

“The only reason you say that race was not an issue is because you wish it was not. We all wish it was not. But it’s a lie. I came from a country where race was not an issue; I did not think of myself as black and I only became black when I came to America.”

– Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in Americanah

The above lines in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah depict the sufferings that American immigrants have to face in acclimatizing and adjusting to American culture. This statement would imply that several people do not view themselves as blacks until they shift into a cultural territory where their “race” decides the quality of their lives and makes them stand apart in the perspective of others. Americanah examines the hardships of a Nigerian woman, Ifemelu, who shifts to the United States, for higher education. In a quest for her identity, Ifemelu had to face discrimination on the basis of her “race” and gender. In this paper, I aim to explore how “race” and gender pose a major challenge to female African immigrants in the US and how Ifemelu overcomes these hurdles and establishes herself in the American society.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel Americanah predominantly concentrates on the African immigrants and issues related to race. The novel is narrated in the perception of a Nigerian and has endeavoured a fresh and unonventional initiative of writing. The issue of migration is a means through which Adichie presents concerns of race and gender. She discerns that race and gender operate very close to each other in the process of moulding a person’s experience.

Americanah unfolds the story of a young Nigerian woman, Ifemelunamma, who pursuit of higher education migrates to America on a student visa. Ifemelu’s studies at Nsukka University were persistently disturbed by faculty’s strikes under Nigerian government which was infested with corruption. Her aunty Uju who is located in America makes preparations for Ifemelu’s scholarship and the latter leaves for America with high aspirations of receiving qualitative education. Once she sets her foot on the American soil, she faces an alien culture and is encountered with various problems ranging from financial defecits to racism, which ultimately leads to an absolute sense of isolation. In no time, she realizes that she is made to ‘belong’ to the disadvantaged group on account of her skin colour and as she is not as rich as she was earlier. At home (Nigeria), she was unaware of her black colour and it is only after she reaches America she becomes conscious of her blackness.

The novel foregrounds a chain of events of a racist nature which female African immigrants encounter. Ifemelu is one such immigrant who tries to grapple with the situation and tries to be a part of the mainstream society. Nevertheless, over the years, she strikes a fine balance between the cultures by acknowledging a few features of the American culture which she considers essential and simultaneously preserving strong characteristics of African culture.

The novel recounts the story of Ifemelu, the protagonist and her high school friend, Obinze who part ways to diverse lands, America and Britain respectively. Adichie, through Ifemelu, portrays how African women immigrants are forced to take a back seat in a foreign land, either because of their blackness or being a woman. Ifemelu exhibits toughness of character while overpowering these challenges, eventually emerging self-independent. Obinze, on the contrary, experiences racism where whites are dominant making him an unsolicited visitor. Obinze decides to return home when caught by the authorities as an illegal immigrant rather than utilizing the services of a lawyer to plead with in his case. Finally, both of them return to Nigeria. Obinze, in search of greener pastures lands in Britain but ironically he achieves success in his motherland, Nigeria. At this point, Adichie drives home the point that the kind of success one aspires to achieve in America can be achieved in Nigeria too.

The characters in the novel migrate to prosperous countries with a hope of better prospects but as soon as they land their first confrontation is with racism. Unlike in America, Africans in Africa do not undergo racism. The immigrants find it an unusual experience which takes the form of repression. There are several episodes in the novel where the Africans experience racism in America. Gender plays a crucial role when one thinks of self-identity. Ifemelu as an African-American has to face several challenges. In the beginning, Ifemelu stays with her Aunty Uju and her son, Dike at Brooklyn. Ifemelu has migrated to America on a student visa and her aunty gives her a fake identity card so that she can search for work. Her school friend, back at home, Ginika, introduces her to American culture and its racial politics. In an attempt to secure a job, Ifemelu adopts American accent. She changes her hairstyle so as to suit the dominant culture. In the end, she retains her black culture and at the same time transforming herself to suit to American culture.

As a female immigrant, she has to face money constraints, which finally result in total estrangement from herself and others. At first, she fails to secure a job and when she fails to pay her rent in time, she falls back on sexual confrontation with a white man. As a consequence, she becomes desolate as she has neither accomplished in life nor her boyfriend Obinze’s anticipation. This mortifying encounter affects their relationship as she distances herself from Obinze, her roommates and the external world. This isolation is the result of the pressure she undergoes due to limited financial resources. Ginika helps her to secure a job of a babysitter at the house of a rich, broad-minded white woman, Kimberley, benevolent and warm. Ifemelu and Kimberley get along very well with each other.

Ifemelu starts seeing Kimberley’s cousin, Curt, an affluent attractive white man. They go on several trips and he helps her in securing a job and a green card. “She was lighter and leaner; she was Curt’s girl friend, a role she slipped into as into a favourite, flattering dress.”( )Though Ifemelu is free, when she is introduced by Curt to his family and friends, she observes biased remarks which imply feelings of dominance on the part of white women. In fact, their relationship is ideal but his white privilege is always a source of constant bewilderment and concealed embarrassment that reminds her of the dissimilarities between them.

After she is separated with Curt, she is disheartened again. She questions herself if ‘race’ is one of the reasons that affected her relationship with Curt. She launches a blog: “Raceteenth or Various Observations about American Blacks (Those Formerly Known As Negroes) by a Non-American Black”. In a short span of time, this blog gains popularity and finds a large number of followers. The blog carries several posts that portray the experiences of African immigrants in the US. Her blog is a platform where she renders her opinions of ‘race’ candidly. The blog serves double purpose – Ifemelu is able to convey her emotions without any inhibitions; guide others who are in a similar position by sharing her experiences. Furthermore, this blog is the best option for Adichie to come up with some of the most pertinent observations in the novel; by merging Ifemelu’s critiques on affected superiority and discrimination with her experiences as an immigrant, she succeeds in passing a fierce criticism on the contemporary society.

Americanah is a comprehensive and absorbing tale of immigrant encounter. Adichie depicts the opposition that African women confront as immigrants and also portrays the experience of African men-women immigrants. In the US, the term ‘black’ refers to everyone with darker skin, regardless of the country they come from. It is an intrinsically racist expression that rates people on the basis of the shade of their skin – light and dark. Ifemelu condemns the absurdity of the idea, devoid of any sense besides that which is earmarked in the social context.

The novel also displays an undisputed anxiety between Africans and African Americans. At home, Ifemelu never had an awareness of race which is not the case in America. It was not an obstacle in Nigeria, and only when it became a hindrance, she observed its presence. She becomes aware of race and earns a livelihood by contributing articles on it, nonetheless, she is not worried about America’s racial history as African Americans. During the initial years of her stay in America, Ifemelu is depressed as her identity is threatened which is an outcome of a social construct that conflictingly opposes and highlights race.

Economic victimization is another issue experienced by female immigrants as a consequence of systematized racism. Laws pertaining to immigrants are rigorous in America. If an immigrant is found without authentic documents, he or she is stamped – an illegal immigrant and in turn results in deportation. In a bid to escape from the eyes of the law, a majority of immigrants settle in menial jobs in miserable conditions. Halima, Alisha and Mariam, the three African women braiders in the novel are victims of financial oppression. They are denied of minimum comforts; their homes are located in areas where they are neither socially nor economically decent. When Ifemelu wished to get her hair braided, she had to travel by taxi for a long distance from the posh white-owned outskirts of Princeton to Trenton which she explains as “a part of the city that had graffiti, dank buildings and no white people.” (9)

In the meantime, Obinze migrates to England and puts up with his friends but fails to secure a decent job, and his visa lapses. He hires an identity card and obtains low-grade, unskilled work. He is amiable with his boss and fellow worker, but sent back as an illegal immigrant. Obinze borrows money from his childhood friend, Emenike, who becomes wealthy in England, and pays for a green-card wedding with Cleotilde. However, on the day of marriage, Obinze is arrested and sent back to Nigeria. In Nigeria, Obinze flourishes in real estate business and is married to the charming Kosi and has a daughter.

The uniqueness of Americanah lies in the fact that Ifemelu decides to return to Nigeria after spending thirteen years in the US not because she could not establish herself, but for a strong desire to return home. With Ifemelu’s intentional return to Nigeria, she prefers to be recognized as an ‘Americanah’ rather as an American, as her friend commented, “next time we see you, you will be a serious Americanah” (100). For several migrants, the term “American” specifies the most favoured guardianship of the nationality of that vast world power nation that many immigrants crave to earn, while Americanah stands for a recognition built on earlier encounter of living in America.

On their return to Nigeria, both Obinze and Ifemelu meet every day and revive their love for each other. They spend a few weeks happily but part ways when Obinze’s marriage looms a shadow on their relationship. Obinze attempts for a judicial separation from Kosi but she refuses to leave him. After seven months, he is at the doorstep of Ifemelu, declaring that he is separating from Kosi and wishes to stay with Ifemelu. She allows him in and starts a new life together there.

Adichie’s Americanah provides an external view on what it means to be black in America and hence provides a perception of race and gender. Adichie’s external viewpoint provides Americanah a genuine and novel standpoint. She seeks to present an account of the experience of black immigrant women in the US and to unfasten the twofold colonization that black women suffer from.

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Themes And Characters in Americanah Novel

February 11, 2021 by Essay Writer

In the book Americanah, Ifemelu, the main character decides to write a blog strictly dealing with race in America. There are several purposes of this blog, some of which include: addressing typical stereotypes and clichés that transpire blacks, while also trying to fight back and give these people a voice, and lastly this blog acts as an escape for Ifemelu. She can speak how she wants, without trying to sound “American” or be polite for others ignorance. Although, I personally feel that some of her blogs are a tad repetitive, they offer much insight on who she is as a character, and also reveals how dynamic she is throughout her experiences. Ifemelu’s initial posts reveal her situations in America, however, she also starts writing again once she reaches Africa. Ifemelu grows a lot through her experiences in America, whether or not it is good or bad change, audiences are right there to experience it all through her blog.

One of the initial blog posts located on page 227 of the text was titled “Understanding America for the Non-American Black: America Tribalism”. In this post, Ifemelu was setting the tone for her blog, she explained situations of classifying in America. She stated how there are four distinct tribes, these are class, ideology, religion, and race. This post reveals a lot about her place in America to audiences. Ifemelu is very realistic and rational in this posting. Much of what she claimed was very true, and I know this personally, being a foreigner in America. I especially liked what she claimed when she stated: “There’s a ladder of racial hierarchy in America. White is always on top, specifically white Angelo-Saxon Protestant, otherwise known as WASP, and American black is o the bottom, and what’s in the middle depends on time and place”. Through this quote, audiences make several realizations of what Ifemelu has already experiences and came to terms with while being in America for a short term. She knows, that no matter how educated, brilliant, or hard working she is, she will always be on the bottom. We can make generalizations from the text on how others look at her, and how they have treated her thus far. In this post, Ifemelu doesn’t necessary become angered by these situations, rather informed. Her tone is somewhat subtle and understanding. It’s almost as if she is happy that she discovered these tribes early on, so that she could comprehend how things go in America. As well as distinguishing who is who and who is nothing.

Another blog post which brings light to Ifemelu’s place in America, and who she is as a Nigerian woman living in America comes up on page 264 of the text. In this post, titled “Why Dark-Skinned Black Women-Both American and Non-American- Love Barrack Obama”, we learn about Ifemelu’s political standpoints or at least subjective opinions regarding why these women want Obama in the White House. Through her explanations of what ‘black women’ like, she is really speaking about herself as well. Since she is evidently explaining her own opinions and rationalizations. Much about her character is revealed in this short passage. She initially begins to explain the similarities between Nigeria and America, and how all blacks want to claim other nationalities, instead of just being claimed as black. Audiences can sense a tad of annoyance as she writes this. I feel this is because she feels that no one wants to claim their blackness, not even blacks. But Ifemelu, she is different, although she does change her hair and become more Americanized, she never once tried to throw away her identity of blackness. Even when the cab driver mistakes her from being from another area, she proudly tells him the truth that she is from Nigeria. Unlike most blacks, Ifemelu is proud to be black.

Through this post Ifemelu also shines light into her political spectrum in this post. She reveals that black American women don’t necessary like Obama because he would make a fit leader for this country, rather that he is black and can make changes for the black communities. Initially, Ifemelu did not even like Obama, she preferred Hillary. However, I feel with this post, she too fell victim for this mentality of what he can do for black Americans, rather the entire country as a whole. Many people voted for Obama just because he was black, and America wanted a black president more than they wanted someone who was proper for the job. In many ways, this reveals a lot about America, especially regarding our current president as well. It’s not always about credentials and qualifications, rather than the people want what they want anymore. Ifemelu learned this quite early in her transformation.

The last blog post I wish to analyze would be the one on page 273. Ifemelu labels this post as “To my Fellow Non-American Blacks: In America, you are Black, Baby”. This post was very similar to the one above speaking about Obama. Many black non-Americans want to claim themselves as anything else, other than what they really are. However, whether you are mixed or not in America, you will always be black. A sense of dissatisfaction arises from Ifemelu in this blog post. Audiences can tell that she feels sort of sadden by these realities. She wants to be unique amongst the black community, however, they are all thought to be the same. No matter what she does or where she is from, she will just be black in the eyes of white Americans. She also makes a valid point regarding how she never thought of herself as black until she came to America. Many can most likely relate to this feeling. In America, you’re either black, or your white, that’s it, there’s nothing more, Ifemelu feels very limited because of this, which is certainly revealed in this post especially. If racism didn’t exist, her blog would be filled with emptiness.

There are several themes to be found in these three blog posts, as well as others that followed. A theme of racism is certainly easy for any audience member to pick up. However, another very important one would be disassociation. Disassociation means to disconnect something. I feel that white Americans try to disconnect blacks from their heritage, as well as blacks try to disassociate from being black as well. We can see this through the comments Ifemelu makes towards such cases. Especially when she states that America sees blacks only as black, because of their skin color. They can never be anything else more than simply black. This point is also made when she states that blacks want to say that they are something other than black. An example is when she claims that they are mixed with Native American. We can see that these people have been oppressed so long, that they desire to be anything but the lowest end of the totem pole, which is black, as Ifemelu stated in the quote I listed above.

Another major theme of Ifemelu’s blog is identity. Many other non-American blacks can identify with her blog, as many of her friends congratulated and connected to her posts. Not only is her identity revealed in such posts, but so is the identity of many others who are facing similar struggles. Through these posts, Ifemelu, when talking about non-American blacks, is eternally speaking about herself, although this is not easily deciphered at first. She reveals bits and pieces of who she is and who she wants to be. She is somewhat lost in her identity, which we can also discover through her posts. At one point she didn’t like Obama, then she liked him. She is unsure of who she is and how much of herself she should alter in the sake of fitting in in America.

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Relationship Between Characters in Americanah, a Novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

February 11, 2021 by Essay Writer

In my opinion, her relationship with Obinze not only affected Ifemelu towards the end of the novel, but throughout the entire relationship regarding her coming of age. Obinze made Ifemelu feel different than most characters, unlike her other relationships, Obinze was her only true love in the novel. With him, she felt secure, appreciated, and cared for. However, Obinze towards the end of the novel already has settled down with a family. In my opinion, this made Ifemelu desire him more, and secretly brought upon jealous feelings. These feelings surfaced especially when Obinze claimed that he was happy to laugh again and enjoy himself in Ifemelu’s presence. After he made this comment, Ifemelu thought about how his wife must be incapable of such, and thought about these ideas for longer than necessary.

We can tell at this point, that she regrets ignoring Obinze, and that she wishes she was his wife and so forth. These jealous feelings and realizations somewhat hinder her coming of age in my opinion. Because, when someone truly loves another, they should not be jealous. Although, one could certainly argue that Obinze is not genuinely happy, rather content with his wife. Deep down, it is logical to believe, that he would much rather be with Ifemelu as well. He certainly appears to be spending much more time, and enjoying himself way more with Ifemelu. I feel that towards the end of the novel, when the two reconnect, Ifemelu takes a few steps back because of Obinze. She quits her job, and doesn’t seem to be herself entirely. She isn’t as concerned with the things she once was, such as her family, who she contacts less towards the end. Her health concerns vanish, and her mind is as fluttered.

Her overall return to Nigeria certainly plays a role in Ifemelu’s coming of age as well. Not only mentally, but physically too. Obinze and many other commented on how her beauty and body has changed, she filled out her womanly body when returning. But most noteworthy, was her change in mental state. In America, Ifemelu was so concerned with how she looked, and pleasing others, however, this all changed when she entered back to Nigeria. When family and friends would comment on her body, she appeared to be disturbed, and ignored their comments. Ifemelu learned that the way she looks is not as important as who she is. Another example of this idea, is when she is thinking about her aunt who works for the magazine company. When she meets Ifemelu she claimed that she was prettier than she had imagined. And Ifemelu thought that being pretty may have been a qualification for the job or something. Ifemelu was not concerned with her looks quite as much as she was in America. Whether she felt less inclined to or not, being back home and all. We can see her coming of age through this aspect significantly.

Ifemelu was not worried about pleasing others as much when she came back, she was more concerned about pleasing herself, and doing what she really wanted. We see this is several aspects, especially when she leaves her job, despite her aunt being mad or judgmental about it. While working there, she tried very hard to represent stories that interested her, rather than the rest, although she was no permitted to do so, she at least put forth some effort. The only person she really tries to please is Obinze. She does this in several ways, whether it be her trying to lose weight before they meet, or her not asking for his help with finding her a flat. She also claimed she needed no money for investments from him. She does all this to appear as an independent woman, when, she probably could have taken some money for help. In a sense, Obinze isn’t negatively affecting her maturity, or coming of age, however, she does. Her deep love for Obinze sort of dazes her and sets her back from accomplishing what she wants. However, in a sense I think it also strengthens and empowers her as well. This is true, because love can work wonders on people and encourage them to be the best versions of themselves.

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Question Of Personal Identity In Americanah Novel

November 2, 2020 by Essay Writer

An Exodus to Personal Identity: Exploring America’s Identity Subjugation in Americanah

How does one define his or her own identity? In Chimamanda Adichie’s novel Americanah, Adichie writes the story of Ifemelu, a Nigerian young woman, who moves to America in search of a brighter future than her life in Nsukka. In this realistic portrayal of the Nigerian immigrant Ifemelu, Adichie uses Ifemelu’s trajectory throughout the novel to criticize how American society subjugates an individual’s identity by defining personal identity through the perceptions of other people other than herself. With this criticism, Adichie first explores significant struggles within Nigerian identity through Ifemelu’s early childhood and teenage life then moves on to explore Ifemelu’s first critical years finding herself in America, next builds Ifemelu’s unique and strong American-African identity when becoming a blogger, and at last concludes her message by returning Ifemelu to her roots in Nigeria where she finally finds peace in her own identity.

Building an identity conflict within Ifemelu’s early age in Nigeria, Adichie creates Ifemelu’s mother an independent personality then dismantles it to religious subjugation. Growing up “in the shadow of her mother’s hair,” Ifemelu identified her mother by her unique African braided hair that “sprang free and full, flowing like a celebration” (49). Describing freedom in her mother’s hair, Adichie builds physical characteristics representative of an independent personality unique like a “crown of glory” (49). Despite building a strong character, her mother’s braided hair changes one day when her mother arrives home and “chops off all her hair, [leaving it] on the floor like dead grass” (50). A shocking moment for Ifemelu, Adichie portrays this scene to compare the “chopping” of her mother’s hair to the murder of her own identity. Her mother explains the reasoning behind her impetuous actions in a melodramatic fashion: “I am saved. Mrs. Ojo ministered to me this afternoon during the children’s break and I received Christ. Old things have passed away and all things have become new. Praise God,” followed by the narrator declaring, “her mother’s words were not hers, [speaking] them too rigidly, with a demeanor that belonged to someone else” (50). Describing the sudden change in religion, Adichie criticizes the fraudulent tone in the mother’s words to demonstrate the influence of a superior authority made her “mother’s essence take flight” (50). As result of this transformation powered by Nigeria’s religious influence, Adichie begins portraying identity conflict within Ifemelu’s narrative that would progressively develop throughout her novel.

Notwithstanding her mother’s identity conflict, Adichie depicts independence within Ifemelu’s personal identity in Nigeria when describing Ifemelu’s relationship with Obinze. When first meeting each other in their youth, Obinze describes Ifemelu “like the kind of person who will do something because [she] wants to, and not because everyone else is doing it” (73). Creating this bonding relationship between Obinze and Ifemelu early in the novel, Adichie begins planting Ifemelu’s authentic identity by describing her as a person who acts voluntarily rather than manipulated by another person or ideology; therefore, her authenticity grows in her relationship with Obinze making “her like herself” and feel “at ease” (73). Additionally, Adichie continues building Ifemelu’s independent identity describing her relationship with Obinze “seem natural” where she could feel comfortable “[talking] to him about odd things” (73). Building trust in her relationship with Obinze, Adichie contrast Ifemelu’s identity conflict involving her mother to her experience with Obinze to demonstrate how Ifemelu begins developing a strong identity at the start of her life in Nigeria.

However, once in America, Ifemelu begins to experience a different perception of identity struggle when recognizing American society present feign people and culture different from her expectations. During Ifemelu’s first day in America, the narrator describes Ifemelu starring at “matte” buildings, cars, and signboards, which revealed a “high-shine gloss” covering the “mundane things in America” (127). Adichie’s description of “high-shine gloss” describes the narrator’s point of view in portraying the physical aspects of America as a phony figurative depiction of its society that covered its flaws in its pretended culture. Likewise, Adichie reveals America’s feigned identity when Aunty Uju answers a phone call mispronouncing her Igbo last name in an American accent. After the phone call Ifemelu challenges Uju’s mispronunciation: “Is that how you pronounce your name now?” in which Uju responds blaming American people: “It’s what they call me now” (128). With Uju’s accent “emerged a new persona, apologetic and self-abasing,” described the narrator signifying Adichie’s purpose in demonstrating how Uju lost her own identity when “America had subdued her” (135). As result, Ifemelu discovers the perplexing identity subjugation that would soon enslave her identity while living in America.

After discovering Aunty Uju’s subtle change of identity, a white American, Cristina Tomas, begins subjugating Ifemelu’s Nigerian identity. Registering into college in Trenton, Cristina Thomas unintentionally belittles Ifemelu talking to her in an exaggerated slow manner: “Yes. Now. Are. You. An. International. Student?” (163). Creating a pause between every word, Adichie makes Tomas exaggerate her slow tone to demonstrate how American society’s categorization makes immigrants like Ifemelu feel inadequate as “a small child, lazy-limbed and drooling” (163). Thus, with Tomas’ immigrant categorization, Adichie demonstrates how Ifemelu “shrinks like a dried leaf” knowing she had spoken English all her life to be considered an incoherent individual to American society. (164) As quick and simple as Tomas’ categorization, Ifemelu likewise begins practicing an American accent to avoid future encounters with other white Americans who might diminish her personality; therefore, in this process of transforming her Nigerian accent to an American accent, Ifemelu begins subjugating her personal identity under the influence of white American culture. (164)

Once Ifemelu masters her American accent, Ifemelu realizes the pretentious value of her faked American identity. After living a year in America, Ifemelu had perfected her American accent “watching of friends and newscasters, the blurring of the t, the creamy roll of the r, the sentences starting with ‘so,’ and the sliding response of ‘oh really’…” (213). Creating an aura of American characteristics that helped Ifemelu achieve her perfect American accent, Adichie makes mastering the American accent an ultimate hardworking skill. After having a conversation with a foreign call center man, the caller compliments Ifemelu of her perfect American accent: “You sound American,” but Ifemelu was baffled as to why it was an achievement to sound American. (215) While Ifemelu had accomplished to achieve her ultimate American personality having won over people like “Cristina Tomas, [who] shrunk her like a small, defeated animal,” she now realized that her American accent was just “a pitch of voice and a way of being that was not hers” (216). Deciding to give up her pretentious American accent, the narrator describes Ifemelu: “This was truly her; this was the voice with which she would speak if she were woken up from a deep sleep during an earthquake.” (216) Building back Ifemelu’s unique personality, Adichie achieves now to portray Ifemelu begin shaping her own American-African identity.

As result of accepting her new American-African identity, Adichie begins to build a strong voice for Ifemelu shaping her into race blogger. Beginning to find social activism in her life, Ifemelu speaks in a race dialogue: “The only reason you say that race was not an issue is because you wish it was not. We all wish it was not. But it’s a lie. I came from a country where race was not an issue; I did not think of myself as black and I only became black when I came to America.” (359) Creating a bold tone in Ifemelu’s activism, Adichie now has build an Ifemelu that has recognized who she is in the American world and the important significance she has in inspiring American people. Thus, Ifemelu begins writing in her blog: “Dear Non-American Black, when you make the choice to come to America, you become black. Stop arguing. Stop saying I’m Jamaican or I’m Ghanaian. America doesn’t care” (273). Making this statement in one of her blogs, Adichie suggests Ifemelu has now accepted her black identity in America and has now called other non-American blacks to understand the ideology of America’s pretentious identity to categorize immigrants.

Moving back to Nigeria, Adichie finalizes her novel creating an ambivalent identity for Ifemelu by leaving behind her American self and creating her own distinguished character. Away from the American ideology that defined her, Ifemelu felt “she was at peace,” beginning a new blog, discovering her old hometown, and finally “spinning herself fully into being ” (586). With this depiction Adichie portrays Ifemelu at the epitome of her own personality no longer facing pressure from an influencing society that cause her damage. When her American ex-boyfriend asked her if she still blogs about race, she declines explaining how “race doesn’t really work here feeling like she got off the plane in Lagos and stopped being black” (586). Ifemelu’s recognition of the irrelevance of race in Nigeria nourishes Adichie’s purpose in finishing her novel by leaving Ifemelu continue her life without worrying about what her identity presents to society.

Through the depiction of Ifemelu’s trajectory, Adichie takes a stab at common aspects of American society that belittle certain minorities in the nation. While most Americans think the fight for black and female oppression had ended with the Civil Rights Movement and the passing of the 19th Amendment, Adichie brings to life the subtle oppressive characteristics that still today subjugate minority identities in our nation. In the long run, Adichie offers the moral message consisting of living true to oneself despite society’s pressure to change your identity.

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Gender, Race And Culture Issues In Americanah Novel

November 2, 2020 by Essay Writer

A Literary Analysis Of Americanah

When examining the collision of cultures within Americanah, it is important to take into consideration that race and culture are not the only factors that play into social interaction. As readers compare the experiences that Ifemelu and Obinze, in America and the U.K. It is important to remember that gender may play a major role in their interactions. And so combining race and making a differentiation between gender one can examine the similarities and differences between immigrants in America and the UK.

The first major similarity between their experiences abroad is evident right away as both Ifemelu and Obinze find help from people they once knew and they both start their foreign experiences very poor. They both struggle to find work because of their lack of citizenship. Ifemelu is legally in America, but she is not legally allowed to work because she is on a student visa. Obinze is in the United Kingdom illegally after his first six months there. Both of them acquire the documentation of another person, however and this is another difference in their experience Ifemelu was able to find work and make money without the use of her assumed name and Social Security number. Obinze was barely able to find legitimate work even with a fake SN number. This may imply that in America there are more opportunities for illegal or “under the table” work for illegal immigrants. Ifemelu truly did hit the lottery in terms of “under the table” work. Her work paid her enough money that she could move out of her apartment with her roommates that didn’t understand her, and she could start sending more money home to her parents. Obinze on the other hand was forced to give forty percent of his earnings to the man who gave him his fake work identity. Ifemelu was also blessed enough to have had a rich successful man fall in love with her.

Ifemelu’s life in America was improved drastically by the romantic relationship with her long time boyfriend Curt. The financial stability and the doors that were opened through Ifemelu’s relationship with Curt. Having solid relationships is one reason why Ifemelu was so much more successful in the United States than Obinze was in England. Ifemelu had Curt who got her a job and took her on weekend trips to Europe. Ifemelu had Dike and her Aunt Uju. Ifemelu also had Kinika in Baltimore to help her out. While Obinze had his cousin Nicholas, Nicholas really did not understand his struggles. Obinze struggled to find a legal way to stay in the UK.

Everytime someone helped Obinze it came at a cost. When Obinze got a fake identity he was forced to give up 40% of his income jut to be able to work. Even when Eminike gave Obinze money it came at the cost of his dignity and pride. Obinze received little charity. This is true in both accounts although the prices Ifemelu pays are more subtle. Ifemelu gets a job under the table but she is still working. Whatever she received from her relationship with Curt was at the cost of the loneliness she felt when she was with him. And the sexual based work she did for the tennis coach came at the cost of her peace of mind and her relationship with Obinze.

Ultimately the most marked similarly between their experiences are evidenced through the interactions with friends of friends. When we see natives of the lands they live in we see a generalized and gross misunderstanding of the Nigerian culture. People outside of the surrounding countries in Africa just do not understand the culture. Even the friends of a person who grew up in Nigeria, Eminike’s British friends, do not understand the struggles of Africans.

The most marked difference between their experiences stems from their treatment as a man or woman of color. Ifemelu was able to get a solid job under the table and was able to start a relationship with an attractive successful man, all as a black woman. But as a black man Obinze struggled to find any job and had no outlet or prospect to get good under the table work. Despite the fact that Ifemelu found success in America and Obinze was deported as an illegal immigrant their too experiences are not entirely different when considering the interactions of culture.

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Gender Inequality And Class Privileges In Americanah

November 2, 2020 by Essay Writer

The New Boy and his Mother

The great Abraham Lincoln once said “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” This is an extremely powerful quote that states all men are created equal and is relatable to many issues in modern society. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie author of critically acclaimed novel Americanah exhibits many issues of gender inequality and class privileges. Many characters of the novel face many difficulties in their life but none no matter the odds allows it to define them. In this essay I will connect issues of class and gender to the novel Americanah and to everyday life.

Throughout history, many individuals have faced several difficulties regarding one’s gender. In the novel Americanah many characters face great hardships because of their gender. The protagonist, Ifemelu, faces difficulties because she is a women everyday. Ifemelu faces difficulty when she gets her hair braided. The braider, Aisha begins to quarrel Ifemelu about her life and context. When Ifemelu discusses her great success in America and her plan to move back to Nigeria, Aisha is immediately surprised because she is a women. Gender inequality is prevalent all around the world. Obinze’s mother, a very intelligent professor was victimized by a male coworker. Obinze explained to Ifemelu what happened that day “‘She was on a committee and they discovered that this professor had misused funds and my mother accused him publicly and he got angry and slapped her and said he could not take a women talking to him like that. So my mother got up and locked the door of the conference room and put the key in her bra.’” (Adichie 71) Obinze’s mother was assaulted because she was a women and called out her coworker. This was a horrific event happened to Obinze’s mother but she did not let it define her. She stuck to her guns and made she the man apologized for him appalling actions. This event is a prime example of how in society has made it acceptable for men to take advantage of woman in Nigeria. Women in all around the world face difficulties everyday due to their gender. Recently, in a NBA game Chris Paul received a technical foul for his gesture to a female referee. After the game Chris Paul said according to The Washington Post “If that’s the case, then this might not be for her.” which raised many concerns of Chris Paul being considered a sexist. Whether the call was right or wrong the referee was just doing her job. It is unacceptable for someone to call her out of her skill. This just shows that women fight everyday to gain equality in sports, workplace and in everyday life.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie shows in his novel Americanah the way the world has become extremely materialistic. The social class a person belongs to is very important in todays society. In Americanah, issues of class privileges is prevalent throughout the novel . The protagonist, Ifemelu shows class privileges when she visited Aunty Ujus new house in Dolphin Estate when she says “She wanted to live there. It would impress her friends; she imagined them sitting in the small room just off the living room, which Aunty Uju called the TV room, watching program on satellite.” (Adichie 90) This shows how in Nigeria what you have is important for your social status. Ifemelu is a young girl and she finds herself embarrassed to show her friends her small home. Throughout the novel class issues become more and more evident. People around the world face class privileges everyday especially in America because of their inability to prosper due to their class. In a later time in Ifemelu’s life in America she encountered class issues when she took a taxi to get her hair braided. “She hoped her driver would not be Nigerian, because he, once he heard her accent, would either be aggressively eager to tell her that he had a master’s degree, the taxi was a second job, and his daughter was on the dean’s list at Rutgers” (Adichie 10) This quote is very powerful and shows inequality not only in America but in Nigeria as well. In Nigeria many people obtain degrees at universities and then venture to America to pursue a better life. These Nigerian degrees are not worth the same amount in America. This causes Nigerians to be put into a lower social class because they do not receive the same opportunities in America. Everyone may have been created equal but sadly not everyone receives equal opportunities. In modern society every person has goals and aspiration but due to issues of gender and class inequality it may be more difficult for some people to achieve such goals.

Throughout history, all men and women have not been treated equally. Even today many people continue to fight for equality. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie exhibits many issues of gender and class throughout the novel that millions of people everyday are trying to overcome. These people do not let these things define them, they use these event to drive them and propel themselves past the nay sayers. Every man, woman and child should be able to do what they aspire to do no matter what circumstances they are born in to.

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Depiction Of Main Characters Of Americanah Novel

November 2, 2020 by Essay Writer

With every story there is a plot and within that plot characters whom we can relate and identify with. In Chimanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah, the main characters are a female, Ifemelu, and a male, Obinze, who are both from Nigeria. Throughout the novel we follow these two characters, their travels abroad, and ultimately back to Nigeria. Both characters have their own struggles but I feel that there is a difference in how Ifemelu and Obinze are represented. Obinze, in my opinion, gets proper representation while Ifemelu’s character seems more conflicted. In Americanah Ifemelu, and other females, are represented as a dependent on her circumstances and the men around them.

Aunty Uju. The prime and first example of females in our novel being represented in the form of dependence is Ifemelu’s Aunty Uju. Aunty Uju appears to have the perfect lifestyle as a doctor in Nigeria, living in a nice home, with nice belongings, and socializes with the higher social classes in Nigeria. Aunty Uju carries on a relationship with a character referred to as “The General”. The General is a married man and Aunty Uju is his mistress. One could argue that Aunty Uju is a doctor in Nigeria, so not all of her success comes from The General. However, even Aunty Uju gives this credit to The General, “The hospital has no doctor vacancy, but The General made them create one for me” (93). This goes to show that even her occupation was dependent on her relationship with The General. She gets most of the nice things that we see early in the novel from The General. She even goes to say to Ifemelu, “You know, we live in an ass-licking economy. The biggest problem in this country is not corruption. The problem is that there are many qualified people who are not where they are supposed to be because they won’t lick anybody’s ass, or they don’t know which ass to lick or they don’t know how to lick an ass. I’m lucky to be licking the right ass” (93). I found this pretty funny, but true, and it only emphasizes her dependence on The General. Once The General dies we see Aunty Uju’s world turned around almost instantly. Aunty Uju is forced out of her home and flees the country to the United States where she can start a new life with her son, Dike. When Ifemelu arrives to America she finds that Aunty Uju’s lifestyle is completely opposite of what it used to be. She is working three jobs, taking exams to become a doctor again, and her living conditions are poor compared to that in Nigeria. Aunty Uju is in a place of desperation working three jobs, paying the bills, so when Ifemelu arrives she uses Ifemelu to watch Dike during the day to save her babysitting expenses. Aunty Uju meets a man, Bartholomew. Ifemelu feels that Aunty Uju is outside his social class, but Aunty Uju is in such a state of desperation that she ends up in a relationship with his where she moves to Massachusetts with him. She ends up staying in a relationship with him until she realizes that she no longer needs Bartholomew, and that she was in fact paying some his bills. If I had to sum up Aunty Uju in one sentence it would be, in her own words, “You do what you have to do if you want to succeed” (146). We can see that Ifemelu does indeed do what she has to do following the advice from Aunty Uju.

Ifemelu. Our main character, Ifemelu, is not without flaws but I feel that her life events are dependent upon her circumstances and the other characters around her. It is hard to identify with what Ifemelu truly values. Throughout our novel Ifemelu has a relationship with three men: Obinze, Curt, and Blaine. Her character seems to change with two of the three people she dates and in between these men based on her circumstances. Ifemelu seems like a strong character up until the point where she is in America and has to pay for her college debt and rent. She has a hard time finding a job and has to resort to “massaging” a coach. This is the first point at which we see Ifemelu break from her normal character and do something that we did not see coming. After being pressured for money she goes to the coach where she, “placed her hand between his legs, she had curled and moved her fingers” (190). From this we can imply that she gave the coach a hand-job. Following this she is really conflicted with herself and everyone around her. It is at this point she stops contacting Obinze goes through a state of depression. I felt that Ifemelu compromised on her values and molded to the circumstances to do what needed to be done, like Aunty Uju had told her. Following her state of depression, she runs into Blaine on a train. She is attracted to him but loses contact with him because Blaine is in a relationship and ignores her calls. Ifemelu meets Curt, a rich white man, who is Kimberly’s cousin. Initially Ifemelu was not even attracted to him, the text states, “She began to like him because he liked her” (237). I find this shallow, but we see Ifemelu change in her relationship with Curt. Good things started to happen to her, Curt’s positive attitude seemed to bleed over into her life. Like Aunty Uju’s situation, Curt was able to get Ifemelu a job through his dad’s relations with public relations. This shows her dependence on Curt and her good fortunes are dependent on another character. Ifemelu ended up sabotaging her relationship with him but she even states that she, “stumbled around, trying to remember the person she was before Curt… She no longer knew who she had been then, what she disliked, wanted” (370). I think the following sentences are extremely important because it shows that Ifemelu herself states that her identity was built off of those around her. She gets into a relationship with Blaine after meeting him at a social event. Her identity starts to shift and she got a gym pass, starting letting him read and recommend changes to her blogs, she even changed her diet based on Blaine’s beliefs. Blaine was more of a man of action where Ifemelu was more of a woman of words. Blaine believed in standing for what you believe in. Ifemelu lied to Blaine and didn’t show up to a protest. Once Blaine found out that she was at a lunch instead of the protest they had an argument which ended up being the demise of their relationship. I feel that Ifemelu lacks a moral compass. She doesn’t get that lying to your partner is a big deal. This changes the passion in their relationship. I feel that Blaine’s passion for President Obama gave something for Ifemelu to be interested in, and kept their relationship alive based off this shared interest. Once she graduated Princeton she broke off her relationship and moved back to Nigeria. As a reader it becomes hard to identify with Ifemelu because it seems she lies very easily to keep people interested. When Pyrie offers to host Ifemelu a wedding Ifemelu responds, “Thank you, but I thing Blaine will prefer a governor-free event” (492). I don’t understand why Ifemelu cannot just identify with herself, and constantly needs a man involved in her life. Obinze seems to be the only character she can be transparent with; it is as if they are operating on the same frequency. When she finally meets Obinze they are a week into seeing each other again before they start having a relationship. Their relationship hits a friction point when Obinze goes to Abuja alone so he can think things over. At this point Ifemelu calls him a “fucking coward” and breaks contact with him. It isn’t until Obinze confesses to his wife and friends his intentions with Ifemelu and informs Ifemelu of everything that she finally accepts him back into her life. This is where the end of the novel leaves us but it goes to show that she is mainly a character of circumstance and of the relationship with the men in her life.

Throughout Americana we see Ifemelu and other female characters represented by circumstance or on the men they are in relationships with. Aunty Uju is the prime example of the female’s dependence, in this novel, on men and a victim of circumstance. Ifemelu follows suit with Aunty Uju in her relationship with Curt putting her dependence on a man. She doesn’t appear to have any true feelings for Curt or Blaine during their relationships but we see that she loses her identity with those relationships. It isn’t until she comes back to Nigeria that she starts doing things for herself and taking a stance for her character.

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What is an American?

November 2, 2020 by Essay Writer

What is an American? To Be an American it means that to induce marriage and love. Participating in marriage and having a wedding may be a ritual practiced by most Americans throughout all centuries. Love and Lust is simply a part of an everyday American life. Rather its sensible love or unhealthy love, or simply lust. Some type of romantic play falls in line at one point or another. Americans can and will fight for love, and fight for who they’ll love. In “A Farewell to arms”, Lieutenant Frederic Henry is a young American ambulance driver serving within the Italian army throughout world war. Even after acquiring injuries, and ruined from WW1, lieutenant Henry can’t keep his eyes off Catherine. Wouldn’t one suppose with all that’s on his everyday schedule as well as War, and injury? One may not have time for love. But No, being the American Frederic Henry is he is infatuated. Frederic says, ”God is aware of I had not needed to fall in love with her. I had not wanted to fall in love with anyone. however, God is aware I had”. Henry states that he did not wish to fall in love with anyone, however, he did anyway.

Well, One should apprehend that an American is susceptible to catching feelings for somebody in any romantic manner is sort of a guarantee. Either if it’s online, or in your existence, like college, work, Etc. Love is an Americans method of being financially supported, and ones sexual, and emotional desires met. This identifying feature is some things most foreign or “non-American” can notice regarding America. Its something permanently placed upon in our desoxyribonucleic acid. What is an American? Wealth and Materialism. Cash may be a large inducement in America. Everything in America in revolves around currency. Rather it’s taxes or education. Acquiring Cash in an Americans life can virtually cause problems. Rather it’s feeding a baby, or paying for rent, or paying for taxes, or gas for an automotive, or insurance for an automotive.

Therefore as an American, one may spend years and years, and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars simply to induce an education degree. Then get employment and work additional, for currency. In “The Great Gatsby”, Tom and Daisy’s movements are supported by their cash. At the start of the novel, they move to trendy East Egg, once on the move between “wherever individuals contend polo and were wealthy along,” and are ready to terribly quickly obtain and leave at the end of the book after the murders, because of the protection their cash provides. Daisy, for her part, solely begins her affair with Gatsby once an awfully elaborated show of his wealth is shown, therefore the mansion tour. She even breaks down in tears once Gatsby shows off his preposterously expensive set of colored shirts, crying that she’s “never seen such stunning shirts” before.

Therefore shows what one will do to own material wealth or be around it. This shows however ignorant an American is often generally. I mean having an affair with one simply to be around his wealth… very American like. The no different text represents an American better than “The Great Gatsby”. Nothing represents an American more than the working class. In keeping with Bureau of Labor Statistics. Americans work more than anyone within the industrial world. More than the English, more than the French, far more than the Germans or Norwegians. Even, recently, more than the Japanese. And Americans take less vacation, work longer days, and retire later, too. Rather it’s blue-collared, or Doctoring. Working may be a must, and a necessity to live in America. Everything revolves around currency, however, to amass that currency you need to work. In Nickel and Dimed: Ehrenreich tries to work out whether or not it’s present potential for an individual to live on a minimum-wage in America. Taking jobs as a server, a maid in an exceedingly cleanup service and a Walmart sales worker, the author summarizes and reflects on her work, her relationships with fellow employees, and her money struggles in every state of affairs.

A seasoned journalist, Ehrenreich is conscious of the constraints of her experiment and therefore the implications of her experiential analysis ways and reflects on these problems within the text. The author is forthcoming regarding her strategies and supplements her experiences with bookish analysis on her places of employment, the economy, and therefore the rising value of living in America. Ehrenreich spends years on this project. Also, dedicates her life to this project. So it’s very trustworthy. So what you ask. Materialistic wealth is in high demand in America. It is in high demand because who wants to have a life based on the setting of Nickel and Dimed. In Alan Jackson’s working-class song he uses a line ”But there’s nothing wrong with a hard hat and a hammer, Kind of glue that sticks this world together, Hands of steel and cradle of the Promised Land, God bless the working man”. The promised land (America), is cradled by the working class. Which means without the working class America wouldn’t be America. It would be a pile of a dump like the middle-east. Where representing and worshiping their god is more important than anything. Nothing describes an American more than these words.Immigrants and Immigration. Almost 2 percent of “Americans”, were not originally from America. So clear the color white, the English language, and American or soul food, and the religion Christianity from your head for a little bit.

The united states of America are the land of the free. The home of the brave. The land of the immigrants. America was founded upon Immigrants. America is known for being culturally diverse, and different because of immigrants. Without them we would be like any other country, dull and cultureless, People love America for the variety of our cultural elements. Immigrants are much needed and wanted in America. Don’t let trump fool you, he needs immigrants as much as he needs his tanning lotion, and golf, and Twitter. In Paul Wellman’s PDF it states “At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the forces of globalization are rapidly creating a new world. International trade is steadily expanding, while national borders are losing their significance. People, ideas, and goods traverse the globe at an ever-accelerating pace. In the world of the future, the United States will stand out as a shining example. While rigid nationalism continues to hold back many countries, Americans can take pride in a heritage that promotes openness, tolerance, and diversity.

Compared to our chief economic rivals in Japan and Western Europe, the UnitedStates is poised to compete in the international marketplace. American movies, music, fashion, and brand names are attractive to people throughout the world because they symbolize a culture that embraces and celebrates many cultures. Immigration puts our country in touch with the tastes and preferences of consumers worldwide and gives U.S. companies an edge in opening export markets. From its earliest days, the United States has been a land of opportunity for people outside our borders. Each wave of immigrants has contributed to the United States’ greatness and enriched our society. Today, immigrants are still coming. This latest generation of immigrants contains the best and brightest from a rich variety of cultures and regions. Even those lacking a formal education are driven by a strong sense of initiative and an unshakable work ethic. They have come because they believe the United States is the land of opportunity. They recognize that the theUnited States rewards hard work and ability like no other country in the world. In the end, the talents, ambitions, and dreams they bring will benefit all Americans. Keeping our doors opens the world know that the United States remains a country that looks forward to tomorrow.”, America advances the opportunity to change more than any other country in the world. To Be An American you are not perfect. You must make mistakes. You must sin. You must display certain behaviors to be propounded upon. In The Minister’s Black Veil Without a doubt, the most important symbol is the black veil itself. To the townspeople, Hooper’s veil is a clear sign that he is trying to show for he has sinned.

Thus, Hopper paraphrases he intends the veil to be a symbol of mankind’s general sinfulness, not any specific wrongdoing. their own, and don’t want to acknowledge it. Hooper’s black veil also represents bravery, and it symbolizes Americans. As Americans we were born to sin, it’s in our blood. Another special meaning of being American is to come together in times of struggle and also in times of celebration. Events such as the moon landing, and the JFK assassination, and 911. Brung us Americans down in the dumps, and on the edge of our feet. But one thing’s for sure. When we get knocked down we come together as a nation and stand right back up. Because Americans are strong and brave, and prideful and patriotic. To be an American it means to be successful. The first flight in 1903 performed by the wright brother themselves were Americans. Many inventors around the world were working on controlled, powered, manned flight projects, but the Wright brothers from Ohio were the first to make it a reality. Unfortunately, they also invented the airplane crash fatality. First shown to the world in 1973 by American television and radio manufacturer, Motorola, the cell phone has become a worldwide device that makes communications in most civilized places oh so easy. It is hard to even remember what teenagers did before this invention. Other things it means to be an American being PoliticalBeing spoiledBeing culturally diverse now that we have finished our journey into America.

Think, Do you have a better understanding of what it means to be an American? Did you learn something new? Being an American is more than just being a citizen. It’s among other things such as belonging to American culture. Movies, television shows, and sports create heroes, a language, and references for Americans. Be proud to be an American, just know you could be somewhere else right now. Somewhere where water and shelter are not heard of. Somewhere where you wife cant drive. Somewhere where you can vote, or choose who is your president. Somewhere where you have no amendments or a constitution. Somewhere where you can’t drink or smoke a little weed once in a while. So stop complaining about and be proud of who you are. An American.

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Prejudice in Americanah and The Scarlet Letter

May 17, 2019 by Essay Writer

Prejudice or alienation is almost always a theme, whether a prominent one or a minor one, within a work of literature. Art is about the human condition, and the human condition only significant because of struggle; a blessed life does not make a story. The novels Americanah by Chimamanda Adichie and The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne both explore the theme of prejudice. Americanah does so with a direct approach, using the protagonist’s blog to specifically explore the prejudice of racism in America. The Scarlet Letter does so subtly, by giving Hester, the oppressed character, a humble and accepting nature, which arouses the sympathy of the audience. However, while both novels utilize different intensities when addressing prejudice, they share some of the same methods of arguing against prejudice. In the novels Americanah by Chimamanda Adichie and The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, both authors use irony and character development to oppose the barriers of prejudice: racism in Americanah and intolerance of fornication in The Scarlet Letter.

Both novels use irony to expose the faulty logic behind the types of prejudice. In Americanah, Ifemelu’s blog discusses the wariness of immigrant Africans in being associated with the general African-American community: “admit it – you say ‘I’m not black’ only because you know black is at the bottom of America’s race ladder. And you want none of that” (Adichie 273). The irony is that individuals with darker skin see the way others with the same appearance are treated, and so sub-consciously reject the identity to avoid being treated with prejudice. The “black” identity is immediately recognized as one to be avoided, as society has rejected it. The existence of this repulsion with being associated based on skin color is overwhelming proof of the ridiculous discrimination based off of appearance. Adichie intentionally shows this idea to enlighten the readers of the realness of racism in America.

In The Scarlet Letter, there is irony in the treatment of Hester, who is a publically announced fornicator in a Puritan community. Hester treats all those around her with kindness, and rejects any self-indulgence. However, the community refuses to acknowledge her kindness in light of the poor stigma surrounding ‘sexual immorality’: “Every gesture, every word, and even the silence of those who she came in contact… expressed, that she was banished, and as much alone as if she inhabited another sphere” (Hawthorne 277). Even “The poor… whom she sought out to be the objects of her bounty, often reviled the hand that was stretched forth to succor them” (Hawthorne 278). She is completely isolated and suffers intense humiliation constantly because the Puritan community functions on a system of hierarchy and superiority, as Hawthorne quietly argues with poignant situational irony.

Moreover, both novels use character development to reflect a growth of character, in terms of recognizing and overcoming prejudice. In Americanah, Ifemelu discusses the social responsibilities of being “black” in America, explaining: “When you watch television and hear that a ‘racist slur’ was used, you must immediately become offended… Even though you would like to be able to decide for yourself how offended to be, or whether to be offended at all, you must nevertheless be very offended” (Adichie 274). Ifemelu shows an understanding of the racial tensions in America, and although she may miss the specific significance of racist activity, she recognizes it is her responsibility as a fellow black American to reject any of such activity. This is in contrast to her previous ignorance in regards to racial slurs, in the occasion which Ifemelu does not understand why the lady in the store refuses to describe the store girl as “black”. Throughout her experience and education of American culture, Ifemelu grows more aware of the sensitivity of race, therefore growing as a character. In The Scarlet Letter, the Puritan community eventually forgets its bitterness towards Hester, and “in the lapse of the toilsome, thoughtful, and self-devoted years that made up Hester’s life, the scarlet letter ceased to be a stigma which attracted the world’s scorn and bitterness, and became a type of something to be sorrowed over, and looked upon with awe, yet with reverence too” (Hawthorne 281). While this is not because the community has a change of opinion regarding the unforgiveable sin of fornication, it shows a softening of heart and a recognition of kindness on the part of the community. Hawthorne shows the first step towards shifting prejudice: a change in heart.

Though taken from strikingly different eras, Americanah and The Scarlet Letter both effectively argue against the illogic of prejudice. Novels, by nature, are designed to remove the readers from their own bias and enable them to see a different perspective. Taking advantage of this, the two authors show the reader that a prejudiced society is not hopeless, as a broadening of perspective enables the growth of a community.

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The Power of The White Ideal

March 29, 2019 by Essay Writer

In Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, navigating the American establishment as an African immigrant is a constant struggle for Ifemelu and others like her. Ifemelu soon starts to experience that the power in America is held not by the few, but by the collective mass of white Americans, who by virtue of being seen as the norm get to dictate the dominant culture. The mechanism in which white Americans power is exercised is not through dramatic moments but through everyday interactions. White America exacts crippling pressure on Africans to conform to a European standard of beauty as well as a disregard for understanding individual immigrants stories– instead applying a generalized idea of the African immigrant as a whole to everyone. Ifemelu and others face an immense pressure in their everyday lives to conform to the message of a non-ethnic, white outwards presentation. Many immigrants give in and change themselves to be acceptable to the white standard, but Ifemelu goes through multiple personal battles to not sterilize herself– keeping essential features of her as a person intact.

One way in which the non-ethnic, white ideal is enforced is through the inadvertent policing of foreign, in particular African, accents by ordinary white Americans. One of Ifemelu’s first sobering interactions on an American campus comes while attempting to register for classes. The student directing her, Cristina Tomas, speaks so condescendingly towards her that Ifemelu thinks she has an illness. It’s not until Ifemelu’s second exchange with her that she comes to the realization that, “Christina Tomas was speaking like that because of her, her foreign accent, and she felt for a moment like a small child, lazy-limbed and drooling (163). When Ifemelu tells her she speaks English, Tomas replies: “I bet you do. I just don’t know how well” (163). Through infantilizing Ifemelu based purely on her foreign accent, Tomas is indirectly communicating that any accent she deems “foreign” –that is, not white– is less educated and inferior. Humiliated, Ifemelu “shrinks like a dried leaf” (164). Even though her voice had been a source of confidence for Ifemelu ever since she “led debate society in secondary school” (164) and had thought of American accents as “inchoate” (164), Ifemelu is humiliated by Christina Tomas’s judgment of her accent. Unthinkingly, Tomas is able to assert her power over Ifemelu through the security that comes from considering yourself the norm– as a nondescript white girl she doesn’t think twice about the effects of her words. The pressure to conform to the accent of the rank-and-file white American is readily acknowledged by Ifemelu’s peers in the African Students Association. After Ifemelu firsts joins the ASA, her fellow member Mwombeki gives a spiel about how to adapt to life in America as an immigrant from Africa. Included in his speech is the statement that, “Very soon you will start to adopt an American accent, because you don’t want customer service people on the phone to keep asking you ‘What? What?’” (172). It is recognized by these young immigrants that a phase in their adjustment to America includes reaching the point where they’re so exhausted by being the “other” that they’d rather acquiesce to the anonymous voice over the phone than keep an important marker of their home culture. Not only will Africans assume an American accent, but as Mwombeki states, they will also “… start to admire Africans who have perfect American accents…” (172). The sway of the white culture in America is so much so that not only do foreigners feel the compulsion to make their accents more palatable to the average American, but doing so convincingly is seen as praiseworthy. Ifemelu herself buys into the mindset that sounding like a white American is not only easier but preferable to her natural accent. She only realizes the problematic nature of her and her fellow African students’ attitude when a young telemarketer tells her she “sounds totally American” (215) upon learning that Ifemelu grew up in Nigeria. Ifemelu wonders, “Why was it a compliment, an accomplishment, to sound American? She had won; Cristina Tomas, pallid-face Cristina Tomas under whose gaze she had shrunk like a small, defeated animal, would speak to her normally now” (215). Ifemelu is wrestling with the idea that her accent being deemed “American” should equate to a “win” because Christina Tomas, the original judge of her accent, would now not speak down to her. But, as Ifemelu notes, it isn’t a true victory because to attain it she had had to take on “a pitch of voice and a way of being that was not hers” (216). Ifemelu almost plays right into one of the key mechanisms of the power structure in America that disguises assimilation (in this case, one’s accent) as a positive. In reality, when Ifemelu and her peers give up their accents they give up part of themselves– one step in the process of making their identities as “pallid” as Cristina Tomas’, a representation of bland, conformist white America.

Another way in which a white image is imposed as the ideal is through the discouragement of natural hair in the workplace, so much so that black women not only submit themselves to painful procedures in the hair salon, but deride natural hair themselves. When Aunty Uju gets the letter in the mail notifying her that she is now a licensed medical professional, after her initial happiness, she immediately expresses to Ifemelu her intention to relax her hair because “they will think you are unprofessional” (146). Ifemelu is mystified, asking, “So there are no doctors with braided hair in America?” (146) But later, when Ruth, the career counselor, tells her to straighten her hair before an interview a less naive Ifemelu doesn’t bat an eye and gets her hair relaxed in a salon. When the hairdresser irons the ends, Ifemelu experiences a piercing sense of loss from “the smell of burning, of something organic dying which should not have died…” (251). The hairdresser, downplaying Ifemelu’s physical burns, excitedly says, Wow, girl, you’ve got the white-girl swing!” (251) Ifemelu is sacrificing the vibrancy and soul of her hair, an essential aspect of many African women’s identity, for a lifeless “white-girl swing”– just because of the unwritten rule that states that natural hair is unprofessional. Just as Ifemelu’s once-dynamic natural hair is restrained into falling rigidly down her back, so too does the stringent European beauty standard limit the freedom of expression of women with ethnic hair. The notion of white hair being attractive and business-like is not only forced on Ifemelu and other African women, but is internalized and enforced by these women– the ones who are being repressed. After being told by white society that it was undesirable, Ifemelu is one of a number of women who have been empowered by going natural with their hair, learning to love her hair through the supportive, affirming members of sites like But Ifemelu and her fellow proud wearers of natural hair in America face both subtle and overt judgments of their choice from members of their communities. When Ifemelu brings Curt, her white boyfriend, with her to visit Aunty Uju, Uju remarks to her niece, “he really likes you…even with your hair like that” (269). When Ifemelu points out that Uju would probably be “admiring my hair now” if “every magazine you opened and every film you watched had beautiful women with hair like jute” (269), Uju replies, “I am just saying what is true” (269). Aunty Uju is inadvertently aiding the enforcement of the harmful belief in the superiority of European hair– she truly believes that Ifemelu’s natural hair makes her less desirable. Aunty Uju is not merely commenting on the social standing of natural hair, she genuinely believes in its inherent ugliness, saying: “there is something scruffy and untidy about natural hair” (269). Women like the hairdresser and Aunty Uju have absorbed the sometimes implicit, but frequently explicit attitude of white culture that black hair is not only physically unattractive, but representative of unsavory character traits. The existence of the ideal of European hair, coupled with its imposition not only by white people, but by the very population which it is oppressing, combines to create a culture of self-repression that even captures Ifemelu.

The influence afforded to the white people around Ifemelu by the collective thinking that they are average allows them to generalize about Ifemelu’s personal story (as well as other African immigrants,) causing Ifemelu to feel emotionally abused. Overwhelmed from yet another failure to secure a job that she was more than qualified for and faced with being late with her rent yet again, Ifemelu’s frustration comes to a head when she tells off her roommate Elena for allowing her dog to eat her bacon. Elena responds with a smirk on her face, “you better not kill my dog with voodoo” (187). Ifemelu, feeling “acid in her veins,” almost hits Elena before retreating to her room, curling up on her bed, and contemplating what she had almost done. She realizes that she had not wanted to slap her roommate because of the lost bacon “but because she was at war with the world, and woke up each day feeling bruised, imagining a horde of faceless people who were all against her” (187). Elena’s thoughtless use of an offensive stereotype is the last straw for Ifemelu who has been experiencing the pokes of many small microaggressions since landing in the United States–leaving her “bruised.” The constant barrage of white people in Ifemelu’s life asking her and her fellow members of the African Students Association, “How bad is AIDS in your country” and telling her, “it’s so sad that people live on less than a dollar a day in Africa” (170)– essentially assuming that is her story– leaves Ifemelu feeling as if she’s not valued. One day, before the bacon incident, a “credit card preapproval, with her name correctly spelled and elegantly italicized” comes in the mail; Ifemelu feels “a little less invisible, a little more present. Somebody knew her” (162). Ifemelu feels so unnoticed and lonely from the white Americans lack of interest in her life that just for her name to be acknowledged means something to her. People like Elena who don’t even try to get to know Ifemelu and just lump her into their preconceived and ignorant notions of an African immigrant are exercising power obtained merely from being not the “other.” Ifemelu feels as if she is not being seen as an individual, that the “horde of faceless people who were all against her” are looking inward to their own preconceived notions and reflecting outwards their ill will.

The power of the ordinary white American is shown through the understated enforcement of the American accent and the degradement of the African accent. Ifemelu is mortified when Cristina Tomas judges her based on her accent, and despite disliking American accents, adopts one. Ifemelu is not alone– her peers in the African Students Association say that they themselves get so tired repeating themselves that they take on fake American accents. But the sway of the prevailing idea of the superiority of the American accent is so much so that students look up to people with flawless fake accents. Ifemelu reclaims some of the power she has given up by faking an accent when she reverts back to her Nigerian accent– by speaking in her own voice she is recovering a piece of herself that she had lost by conforming to the authority of white mainstream society. Just as Ifemelu loses part of her identity when she changes her accent so to does she cede part of herself when she relaxes her hair. The iron relaxing her hair burns away a living part of herself–all in service of reaching the American beauty standard of European hair. And just as Africans admire a well executed American accent, they themselves value the white ideal for appearance, and enforce it themselves as seen through Aunty Uju’s surprise that Curt would find Ifemelu’s natural hair attractive. By going natural, Ifemelu again regains the power she relinquishes when she relaxed her hair. The inconsiderate stereotyping of Ifemelu’s life by her white peers makes her feel as if she isn’t viewed as her own person leading to her depressed and volatile emotional state. The sense of security gained attained through feeling absolutely normal allows the white masses to attempt to bend to their will African immigrants, leaving people like Ifemelu battling to keep intact vital parts of their identities.

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