Americanah Book Analysis Essay

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature.  This 56-page guide for “Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 55 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Belonging/Alienation and America vs. Nigeria.

Plot Overview

Ifemelu, a Nigerian woman who has lived in the US for thirteen years, goes to a hair braiding salon in Trenton, New Jersey to have her hair braided in preparation for her return to Nigeria. The narrative flashes back and forth between her afternoon in the braiding salon, her childhood and adolescence in Nigeria, and her adult years in America.

Ifemelu grows up in Lagos, Nigeria with a religious mother and a patient, occasionally unemployed father. Her closest confidante is Aunty Uju, her father’s younger sister. In secondary school, Ifemelu meets Obinze, a kind, handsome boy with whom she quickly falls in love. They spend all their time together and know that their love is meant to be. Meanwhile, Aunty Uju pursues a relationship with a married general, who gives her a son, Dike, before dying under suspicious circumstances. Uju is threatened by The General’s surviving relatives and so flees to America with her son. Ifemelu and Obinze attend the same university, but constant teacher strikes and general instability cause Ifemelu to leave for America to study. She lives with Uju in Brooklyn, then in Philadelphia, slowly adapting to American culture. During a grueling job search, she is sexually exploited by a prospective employer. Though she and Obinze have been in constant contact, she now cuts him off completely, ashamed to tell him what has happened to her. She finds work as a nanny and begins a relationship with the cousin of her employer, a wealthy young white man named Curt. She and Curt date for a time, but she is frustrated by his inability to understand her racial struggles and cheats on him. They break up.

Meanwhile, Obinze moves to London and works illegally, as his visa has expired. He attempts to arrange a sham marriage and gain citizenship, but is caught just before his wedding and deported to Nigeria, where he becomes the employee of a rich man called Chief, who manages to make Obinze very wealthy, as well. Obinze meets and marries a dutiful woman named Kosi, who gives him a daughter. Yet, he constantly thinks of Ifemelu.

In America, bored with her public relations job, Ifemelu quits and starts a blog devoted to race in America, explaining her unique perspective as a non-American black person discovering race for the first time. Her blog becomes popular, and she accepts many invitations to speak at conferences and events. At one such conference, she meets Blaine, a black professor at Yale she had met years earlier on a train. They begin a relationship, bonding over Obama’s presidency. She receives a prestigious fellowship at Princeton, and moves there. Eventually, she decides to move back to Nigeria and breaks up with a bewildered Blaine. She contacts Obinze to tell him she will be coming home.

At the braiding salon, Ifemelu receives a call from Aunty Uju, informing her that Dike, now a teenager struggling with his American/African identity, has attempted suicide. She and Obinze begin regular communications, and after some time spent assisting Uju and Dike, Ifemelu returns to Lagos, rents an apartment in a good neighborhood, and gets a job at a local women’s magazine. She and Obinze meet in person for the first time in years, and she reveals to him what happened in America, confessing to the sexual exploitation she endured and explaining her silence. They begin an affair. She quickly grows bored with her job at the magazine and quits, starting a new blog aimed at those in Lagos who once lived abroad in America or the UK. Though she and Obinze enjoy their time together, she is jealous of his wife, while he feels guilty, as though he has shirked his responsibilities. She calls him a coward, and they do not speak for months. Obinze tries to tell his wife, Kosi, that he wants a divorce, but she shuts him down, and his closest friends also advise him against breaking up his family. Seven months after their last conversation, Obinze appears at Ifemelu’s door, telling her he has left Kosi and wants to be with her. She lets him in.

Americanah Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, is the story of young lovers Ifemelu and Obinze who meet as teenagers growing up in Nigeria. They form an instant bond, but when Ifemelu moves to America, Obinze is unable to go with her. He eventually moves to England where he stays as an illegal immigrant. The two are separated by distance, time, and Ifemelu’s silence due to a traumatic experience. While their lives are separate, they face many of the same hardships as they encounter issues of race for the first time and seek to find their identities.

As the novel begins, Ifemelu is in America and preparing to return to Nigeria after 15 years. She is having her hair braided at Mariama African Hair Braiding in preparation for her trip. While she is there, Ifemelu’s story is told in a series of flashbacks.

Ifemelu grows up in Nigeria with her mother and father. Her mother is a religious woman and her father is an intelligent man who regrets never having had the opportunity to pursue an education. Also in Ifemelu’s life as a girl is her Aunty Uju, an intelligent woman who dreams of being a doctor, but chooses instead to be the mistress of a wealthy man called The General who pays for Uju’s elaborate lifestyle leaving her completely dependent on him.

While in high school, Ifemelu meets Obinze and the two begin dating. They decide to attend the same college in Nigeria, but when constant faculty strikes threaten Ifemelu’s educational future, she decides to move to America where Aunty Uju and her son Dike fled to after The General’s death. Obinze plans to go to America when he finishes college, but is unable to because of travel restrictions due to terrorism.

Ifemelu lives with Aunty Uju during her first summer in America and forms a close bond with Dike. That summer she begins to see how different America is from Nigeria and from what she had expected from watching American television shows.

When Ifemelu leaves for college Aunty Uju arranges for her to use the identity of a friend so that she can find work since she is not able to legally work under her student visa. Ifemelu applies for many different kinds of jobs, but is unable to find work. Finally, when she is running out of money, she takes a job that requires her to degrade herself. Afterward, she is so ashamed that she is unable to talk to Obinze and the two lose contact.

Ifemelu is eventually hired to be a nanny for Kimberly, a wealthy white woman. Ifemelu meets Kimberly’s brother, Curt, and they begin a romantic relationship. She is happy with Curt and he treats her well, but it is during this time that she begins to encounter challenges due to her race and immigrant status. For a time, Ifemelu tries to blend in by taking on an American accent.

Meanwhile, Aunty Uju has graduated from college and is now a doctor. She marries Bartholomew who is lazy and indifferent toward Dike. Dike struggles with his identity and is one of the only black students in his school, making him feel singled out. Uju does not tell Dike about his true heritage, instead telling him that he has her last name because she was a second wife. She does not want him to identify with Black American teenagers.

Curt helps Ifemelu to get a job in communications when she graduates from college and the company she works for helps her to get her citizenship papers. When she begins the interview process for the job, Ifemelu relaxes her hair to increase her chances of getting the job. This eventually leads to her cutting off her damaged hair and reclaiming her natural hair and is the start of her desire to write her own blog about her observations on race in America.

While Ifemelu is in America, Obinze travels to England with his mother and stays there illegally. He, too, is forced to take on another identity to get a job there. He pays to have a marriage to a citizen arranged so that he can obtain his papers, but is deported before the marriage can take place. When he returns to Nigera, he begins working for a Chief and becomes a wealthy businessman.

Back in America, Ifemelu breaks up with Curt and begins dating Blaine who is a Black American. Blaine holds himself to a high standard and expects the same from Ifemelu. The two break up for a time when she fails to attend a protest he has arranged. When they reconcile, the only thing they have in common is the desire to see Obama elected president. The relationship ends for good when Ifemelu returns to Nigeria.

Ifemelu emails Obinze and tells him she is returning to Nigeria, but Dike’s suicide attempt delays her return. When she finally gets there, she takes a job at a magazine, but isn’t happy there. This leads her to start a new blog about the important issues she sees around her in Nigeria.

Ifemelu and Obinze reunite and Obinze must make a decision about whether or not to leave his wife, Kosi, and his daughter to be with Ifemelu. He finally decides to end his marriage and the novel ends with Obinze arriving at Ifemelu’s apartment to tell her this.

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