The novel Americanah is an inspiring and outstanding work by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The story begins with a love attraction between two individuals Ifemelu, a Nigerian teenager, and Obinze, a rich boy. They happened to learn in the same school and had developed a love bonding between each other just like a common teenage lover. But soon they both are separated when Ifemelu got an opportunity to attend a university in the United States. So, she left her homeland Nigeria in a hope of a better place, and comfortable and standard life but her dreams did not seem to come true because of several reasons as described from a social and emotional lens throughout the novel.
The central theme of the novel revolves around the romantic story of these two main characters. However, there are several other important themes such as identity and cultural criticism which can be easily perceived as the story continues and different characters with their unique characteristics emerge. The following analysis is based on the love relationship to define love from the perspective of different communities and identify which are the most important themes of the novel.
As mentioned earlier, identity is one of the most prominent themes that the novel stands on. Therefore, Chimamanda Ngozi has highlighted the racial identification and the associated treatments that people have to face in the United States. For example, on page 273, Ifemelu says, “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” (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 2017). Therefore, to avoid this stigma on her personality, Ifemelu changes her Nigerian accent and changes her hairstyle. Moreover, she used to make a braid like other African American girls but later she straightens them and dyes them like American girls. She also uses a fake identity card when she goes for a job. While talking about this complex identity, the author has also beautifully symbolized her community.
On the other side, Obinze also happened to leave Nigeria for England where he faces different cultural forces. When his visa expires, he is compelled to take other people’s identities in order to work. Finally, he decides to marry the British-born native so as to become a legal citizen but unfortunately, he is caught and deported back to Nigeria. Many secondary characters, apart from these two, also contribute to this theme, such as Emenike, who totally changes his personality to become a culturally rich British citizen. Overall, the novel’s circumstances and characteristics reflect the many factors working on establishing the identity of someone: cultural, ethnic, and economic ones, as well as personal will and preference.
Based on Americanah, love is not just a physical relationship with each other or any emotional attachment between two individuals. Along with these notions, it also talks about the love of oneself, a person’s identity, his culture, and his way of living. A community is a people of similar interests belonging to similar cultures and identities. A community requires love, freedom, and harmony, and yes to shape the love we prefer our race and color and so the definition of love varies from community to community. Similarly, in the novel, we see different characters having a different lifestyles and so they use the emotion of love according to their taste and preferences.
Generally, the feeling of love is characterized by a strong and positive emotional attachment that is strong enough to give sacrifices and I completely agree with this idea. However, my existing idea of love after reading the novel has not changed although I have improved my understanding of love based on cultural and ethnic differences. And as depicted in the novel, the love relationship should be freed from any materialistic benefits that also impact the beauty of this relationship.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. (2017). Americanah. Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial ; Literatura Random House.