Gender, Race And Culture Issues In Americanah Novel
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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