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Essay on The Thing round Your Neck: Analysis of Immigrant Experiences Status in America

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Undervaluing a woman’s body as valuable possession is itself patriarchal domination. This commodification of women causes anxiety in conjugal life. It is noticed by Author that “the husband expects the wife to requirements of a wife, a mother, a housekeeper, and above business commodity - all rolled into one.” Ivp 259. By excuse or compromise, women subject themselves to patriarchy. The mindset calls to explain victimhood as fate or necessity as they prefer to understand it as “caused by habit or tradition or your own need to be a victim.” (33 Atwood). Nkem finds herself locked into her role as a victim. She is incapable of taking action to help herself. On Monday of Last Week is one such story that describes the emotional detachment of the young immigrant spouse Kamara and her fascination with a black American Tracy. Kamara is finally able to join Tobechi after six years dispirited by the stagnating unprosperous life in Nigeria. Though she makes her living through a teaching job, she wants to live and spend time with her beloved, she meets in the university.

A hasty marriage before Tobechi leaves America upsets Kamara as she finds herself in the pressure of making a good family with all its opulence: a well-earning husband, children, and a house. On the other hand, Tobechi, who is gradually procuring the American style of living, becomes more and more materialistic. After six long years of living like Americans, he becomes what Kamara says “that he was somebody she did not know at all.” (85). Saddened and irritated by her over husband's strangely funny American accent and sluggish attitude, she desperately wants to get out somehow from the apartment to break the boredom of her uninteresting life. The first step of stepping on the ladder of the American dream is adapting to the English language, and attempting for a perfect American accent.

Kamara is able to notice the change in her partner: “Now, she wondered if it was even the same Tobechi, this person who seemed so eager, so theatrical, and who, most worrying of all, had begun to talk in the false accent that made her want to slap his face.” 85. Their overwhelming dreams about their future in America become futile since both of them try hard to manage their living. They eventually get tired and bored and they are only left with a baggage of expectations and dreams in the closed space. She finds it refreshing to be praised by her employer Tracy, an artist who employs Kamara as a babysitter. Kamara takes the best efforts to shape her body to appear as a model for the artist Tracy, who admires her figure and well-formed teeth. Her inclination towards Tracy can be aroused from the dissatisfaction and failed expectations about their marriage is the reason for entrapment that locks Kamara in Position Two as expressed in the lines, “There were emotions she wanted to hold in the palm of her hand that were simply no longer there.” (Adichie 85).

Kamara begins to search for the ways of distractions that will sustain her uniqueness, and deliberately needs a job for not to be affected by her man’s ignominy. She even compromises her “scratched dignity” to attend any job as “She wanted the job, any job; she wanted a reason to leave the apartment every day.” (79). Though women like Kamara have the good educational status they obtain from Nigeria, they cannot enter as easily into any sufficient paying job like the whites. There are relatively very less chances for women to survive as an immigrant than men. While Tobechi grows more acquisitive and money-minded like the other Nigerian men living in America, Kamara observes their desiccating relationship with discomfort. She is unable to share the same happiness of Tobechi for being promoted as manager at Burger King, or share the same eagerness of him to buy a big European-modelled house in main Lane. Nigerian women’s needs and expectations contrast to that of their partners: “She said nothing. Because it was not where they lived that mattered her, it was what they had become.” (83).

The passion for imitating the American way of living changes their life drastically, forcing them to imitate and always try to acquire the real American status. They are eventually drawn to a hard reality that it is not so easy to become rich, as it requires hard physical and mental labor. Financial success will always be a dangling question when one is striving to fulfill even the basic needs of life like food and paying rent for a house. Nevertheless, the black men who come from African nations still try to make an identity as American citizens to boast about their sophisticated life to his own native people for getting their awe. Tobechi’s promising reply to Kamara seemingly gives an air of hope which faded over years of time showing the hopelessness: America was about hard work, they both knew, and one would make it if one was prepared to work hard. Tobechi would get to America and find a job and work for two years and get a green card and send for her. but two years passed, then four…Tobechi was driving a taxi in Philadelphia for a Nigerian man who cheated all his drivers because none of them had papers. (83) There is not a small improvement in their life even after years of toiling work. The failure to achieve any material success pushes them into a search for space only to contemplate over their condition. This further becomes the characteristic feature of Position Two.

The couple loses their happy soul intimacies while striving for money as their attempts turn out to be futile. It is even more depressing for Kamara when she finds she could not conceive. She gets irritated by the Americans, who are obsessed about healthy parenting: it came with having too much food: a sated belly gave Americans time to worry that their child might have a rare disease that they had just read about, made them think they had the right to protect their child from disappointment and want and failure. A sated belly gave Americans the luxury of praising themselves for being good parents, as if caring for one’s child were the exception rather than the rule. (82) Through Kamara Adichie sharply criticizes the rich white Americans’ lavish spending of money, while the immigrants find it hard to make a living. Men like Tobechi fail to make out their promise for their wives of acquiring wealth and a good living in America. They cannot satisfy them physically or even emotionally as they provide no moral support during living in the immigrant nation. Their overwhelmed ambition to assimilate to America begets inequitable relationships with their women with the undertone of patriarchy. As Atwood uses, Kamara is “spiritually mutilated.” (29) after she moved with her husband in America. It is the “poverty of blackness on one side and the weight of womanhood on the other.” that strangles her physical and emotional well-being. (126 Pramod), as Kamara’s Aunty often reminds her that “a woman’s time passes quickly.” (84), insists on moving to the next stage to try for a baby.

The advice intimates Kamara to aspire for a child to keep herself intact preventing (before) fading away to nothingness “if that did not shake her out of her dismay at least it would give her something to care about.” (86). The need of a child is desperate for her as the way she needs a distraction from the idle routine of their life. “she flushed one [contraceptive] pill down the toilet each day and wondered how he could not see the greyness that clouded her days, the hard things that had slipped in between them.” (86). Her psychological angst is revealed at many times when she begins to channel her emotions to Lucy’s admiring comments on her. She is loaded with threats of isolation and feels entrapped into a life of emptiness, where she is of no importance to anyone. Her immediate urge to have a child is aggravated by the caution of losing her own self too like him losing his identity. Kamara’s embitterment towards Tobechi and her depression makes her to seek attention Some contain crippled successes (the character does more than survive, but is mutilated in the process).” (28). They lose their human vitality and can’t enjoy the hardware goodies they get in return 172.

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The Thing Around Your Neck talks about the story of Akunna’s search and realization of identity from her exclusive immigrant experiences status in America. As in many other immigrant stories, she too realizes the deceptive, persuading desire to achieve the American dream, only when it is too late to contemplate. She expels herself from the sexually abusive Uncle, who explains America as “give and take” to enjoy advantages. (Adichie 117). Like all the other women seeking escape from reality, she too moves away from the abusive Uncle to find a waitress job that further introduces a relationship with a young white man, proposing marriage. Her hope to settle into a good American life gradually fades away facing the “condescending” behavior of the man who loved her. (Adichie 120). Pondering over the reality back in the homeland of Nigeria, where her family suffers from poverty, she plans to return leaving the boyfriend to his own prejudices about Africa. Akunna seems to be in self-deception while she builds hopes to live a better life in the cottage with the white American boyfriend. But, at the end, she moves to the pessimistic Position Two, conscious of the hard-bare-reality that chokes her neck: the plight of her mother’s suffering in Nigeria.

Akunna moves to America hoping for a prosperous life which is commonly imagined by African people who intend to move to the country. Unemployment and poverty push the educated youth and jobless men to seek opportunities to earn in America. The lack of economic strength in Nigeria reflects in the increasing number of immigrants to the USA. Like all other immigrants, Akunna is in desperate need to earn for her poor family. She shows up a common misguided preconception about going to America: “Right after you won the American visa lottery, they told you: In a month, you will have a big car. Soon, big house…” (115). The hope of what might appear as repudiating one’s background to move further for a better future is defied later by the hard reality that pushes to nowhere in the unknown land. Nevertheless, Akunna cannot be blamed of the sexual abuse attempted by her uncle, it makes a point that the negative cultural impact is expressed by him residing years in America. Akunna’s decision of moving away from her uncle’s home is an act of rebellion that seeks immediate escape that really causes bewilderment. The consequences she faces are the impression of Position Two spatial and psychological entrapment. “You ended up in Connecticut, in another little town, because it was the last stop of the Greyhound bus you got on.” (117).

She could move no known place or seek no original identity. She “ended up” as similar to Atwood’s analysis on a book “that described a circle…the route taken by Canadian fictional characters in their unsuccessful efforts to escape from their families.” 146 She could expect nothing from the new land she is in. Atwood talks about a similar situation of immigrants of Canada: “The lack of expectations is a common characteristic of protagonists in Canadian “immigrant” fiction. The characters don’t think they are coming to a promised land; as a rule, they come to get away from bad conditions somewhere else, but they are not traveling towards anything. No Statue of Liberty or Golden Doors await them. When they do have expectations, these are purely material.” (167). Akunna manages to find a low-paid job in a restaurant, staying in a poorly furnished room. She cannot pursue her education as there is no community college that charges low fees compared to the universities.

The responsibility to feed her family is primary and she cannot negotiate her willingness or choice as it is her necessity to bear the burden of poverty. In his analysis of the African immigrant woman in the US, Takougang notes how aspirations for the American Dream have pushed African women, including Nigerian women “at the forefront of economic opportunities in the United States”; these women “who have traditionally been in the background of most traditional African family structure... are playing important economic roles in maintaining the family structure both for the family members who are still in Africa and those in the United States…” (Nigerian women ivp 255) Akunna begins to realize that her lack of fortune is the cause of her victimhood, from which she could find no escape in a country far away from home. She cannot afford to buy anything beyond her survival. She does not write letters because she feels she has nothing to write about. While rich white men like Akunna’a boyfriend spend money for voluntary visits to countries for relaxation, people like Akunna, move away from her homeland needing money desperately for survival. The narration below shows Akunna’s view of life that constitutes the idea of Position Two: “He said he had taken a couple of years off to discover himself and travel, mostly to Africa and Asia.

You asked him where he ended up finding himself and he laughed. You did not laugh. You did not know that people could simply choose not to go to school, that people could dictate to life. You were used to accepting what life gave, writing down what life dictated.” (121). This explains the need of her passive acceptance of victimhood in a totally different environment that contrasts to that of her homeland. She could never be fully happy with her boyfriend as she feels no emotional or psychological satisfaction in their relationship. She does not want to maintain a relationship that has no basis of understanding at all. The difference of culture and economy separates her from him. She cannot drop her Nigerian identity for a new relationship that is congested with compromises consequently between two opposite cultures. She runs away from her uncle to preserve her self-respect and do the same from her boyfriend too for she begins to experience a vague worry about whether she deserves his relationship. The imagery signifies the dejected, fruitless survival story of Akunna: “your fortune cookie had two strips of paper. Both of them were blank.” (121). Elusive fear occupies her mind about her hopeless future blurred by negative thoughts. Even the sudden extreme happiness and wealth threaten her even there is no call for victimization occurs.

She feels she is captivated inside the capsized new life. Atwood’s description of Position Two suits her status quo: “Sometimes the fear of these obstacles becomes itself the obstacle, and a character is paralyzed by terror (either of what he thinks is threatening him from the outside, or of elements in his own nature that threaten him from within). It may even be life itself that he fears, and you have a moderately vicious circle.” (28). One could see the psychological strain that Akunna cannot wholly enjoy being with her white boyfriend who is more affectionate but careless and uninterested with all the wealth he possesses. It becomes an ironic situation for her as she has been accustomed with poverty back in Nigeria and now she finds comfort and sophistication in his happy life of new richness that she is afraid to lose. The current situation shows her inability to dwell on the happiness out of her excruciating guilt of having a home to feed, bringing her unnameable cry: “you said nothing, although you thought a lot was wrong. Later, in the shower, you started to cry. You watched the water dilute your tears and you didn’t know why you were crying.” (126). Akunna fears for her life that would only push her into a sense of guilt of selfishness for avoiding the harsh reality of the poverty in her family over preferring the wealthy, sophisticated life of his boyfriend offers her.

Her reply for her boyfriend at the end suggests that she prefers the former with all its inadequacies, but only with the satisfaction of being true to herself. Her physical displacement to Nigeria implies the return to the roots, though it causes self-mutilation in terms of survival in the home country. The main character in The Arrangers of Marriage receives a shock soon after she moves to America with her “new husband”, who has got a green card through a fake marriage, waiting for a legal divorce. Thwarted by the statement that her new husband married her out of his selfish motivations, expecting a light-skinned quiet Nigerian virgin, she loses hope. Her Position Two entrapment can be understood through the threatening reply of her husband who points her helpless situation when he is inquired about him hiding his previous marriage: “it wouldn’t have made a difference… Were you going to say no to people who have taken care of you since your parents died?... Besides, with the way things are messed up back home, what would you have done?... Aren’t people with master’s degrees roaming the streets, jobless?” (Adichie 185). Marriage and divorce is common among immigrants who want to settle in America with a green card. Back in Africa, it is a ritual among many, and it's bound by tradition and culture but not without the constraints of patriarchal dominance. Marriage means so much for the wifehood and motherhood of African women to cherish and respect all through her life. It is an unwritten rule for women to preserve and hold the values of marriage by adapting and adjusting to her husband in a pleasing way. To earn the privileged name of a doctor’s wife in America, she has to preserve her given role, even though it turns out to be emotionally, and psychologically abusive. Attracted by the benefits of sophisticated life, many Nigerian women prefer to go to the US through marriage. In an article about intimate partner violence, the Author writes, “the potential wife is likely to be resident in Nigeria and by way of arranged marriage, she immigrates to the US to join a husband she neither dated nor hardly knows.” 256 ipv AOM.

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Essay on The Thing round Your Neck: Analysis of Immigrant Experiences Status in America. (2022, December 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 8, 2023, from
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