A situation, state, or idea is artificial when it has been created unnaturally, and therefore seems unnecessary or insincere. Thus, in many ways, the term “artificial” can be applied to Henrik Ibsen’s play A Doll’s House, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s short stories “Jumping Monkey Hill” and “The Arrangers of Marriage” from her short story collection “The Thing Around Your Neck”. Although the texts involve different settings, time periods, and characters, both Ibsen and Adichie use the term to criticize how artificiality can be damaging, highlight how appearances can be deceiving and reveal how it exists in the ways one presents themselves. Therefore, within the different stories, themes, and ideas conveyed by Ibsen and Adichie, the term “artificial” can be applied in many ways.
Both Ibsen and Adichie apply the term “artificial” when revealing the damaging effects of enforcing false images of a person, culture, or idea. In Jumping Monkey Hill, in-authenticity is represented by the unnatural perception of Africa, which has been constructed by Western views and stereotypes. Throughout the short story, Adichie characterizes the main antagonist, Edward, as an arrogant white man, intent on enforcing the single story of Africa as a regressive and helpless third world country. This is evident through the ways in which Edward seeks to undermine true experiences of real African writers by enforcing artificial narratives, as seen in his ironic response to a story written by one of the African characters, “there was something terribly passé about it when one considered all the other things happening in Zimbabwe under the horrible Mugabe”. Although it is in fact “a real story of real people”, the use of the term “passé” has the effect of excluding diversity among African experiences, illustrating how such false perceptions can be harmful to its natural image.
Similarly, in A Doll’s House, Ibsen demonstrates the negative effects of enforcing insincerity through the downfall of Nora and Torvald’s relationship. However, while Adichie predominantly employs characterization and irony to convey these ideas, Ibsen uses the Christmas tree to symbolize Nora’s role as serving a decorative purpose for her husband. This highlighted in one of many parallels, where Nora tells the maid to “hide the Christmas tree” because “the children mustn’t see it till this evening when it’s decorated”. In the same way, no one is to see Nora in her dress until the evening of the Tarantella. This is significant because although Nora pretends to be an obedient wife to her generous husband, it signifies Nora as merely a source of entertainment for Torvald, causing the reader to question the authenticity of their relationship. Therefore, through the use of different stylistic features, Ibsen and Adichie convey similar ideas concerning the ways that artificial images can be harmful.
Ibsen and Adichie also portray the term “artificial” by emphasizing the unreliability of appearances. In The Arrangers of Marriage, false perception takes the form of “the American dream”, a notion which has been fabricated by the media and idolized by the characters in this short story. When Chinaza is given the opportunity to live in the US at the beginning of the short story, the value attributed to this idea is exemplified by her family’s response “a doctor in America! It is like we won a lottery for you!” Adichie’s use of a hyperbole highlights the great expectations that this notion has been held upon, due to the fact that it has been artificially constructed. However, as the story progresses, and the harsh realities of the immigrant experience become apparent, Chinaza becomes increasingly disillusioned with “the American dream”, which suggests that relying on false appearances can be problematic. Whereas ín A Doll’s House, Ibsen portrays the unreliability of appearances through the characterization of Nora.