Themes And Characters in Americanah Novel
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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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: […]