In Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, she writes about Ifemelu, a Nigerian woman who comes to the United States for a better future. The story continues to discuss identity and how Ifemelu and Obinze find their place in the world. Because of their life experiences, identity is also connected to racial identity for both of these characters. Adichie presents a common theme in the story that our search for who we are is fuelled by a need to find a place in a world where we belong.
Hair is one very important Ifemelu’s understanding of Nigeria and America as it can show someone’s social and individual identity. When a white woman touches her hair and says” why don’t you have a relaxer? How do you comb it.”( Adichie 23), ifemelu was quick about saying something. She doesn’t let those kinds of comments come at her without a response. She then responds by saying “ I like my hair just the way God made it.”( Adichie 23) Back in Nigeria, ifemelu would always braid her hair. However, when she comes to America she discovers that she should fix her hair by making it straighter.. The author symbolizes the fact that ifemelu straightening her makes her look more like a white woman. She tries to change who she is and tries to fit in with the rest of the world.
To feel less like an outcast, Ifemelu starts faking an American accent. A couple of years go by and ifemelu has perfected her American accent by now as she learns when a young male telemarketer calls her. He is surprised that she is Nigerian, as she sounds “totally American.”( Adichie 200) When she closes the phone, she then starts to feel ashamed of this. She has forgotten her roots and that she is and always will be Nigerian and she can’t just throw that away. Ifemelu decided to stop faking the accent. “ she had perfected it from carefully watching friends and newscasters. The blurring of the t, the creamy roll of the r, the sentences starting with so, and the sliding response of oh really, but the accent creaked with consciousness, it was an act of will.”( Adichie 212) The way Adichie investigates identity through accent here is intriguing on the grounds that it features how the very way we talk is imperative. We may all communicate in English yet the manner in which we articulate words prompts certain recognitions and biases. Accents decide the manner in which others see you and how we see ourselves.
In Obinze’s first couple of months in England, he finds a job as a janitor and makes money by cleaning toilets. There was this woman that came from Ghana that worked at the same company as him, however, she would always overlook Obinze and would only be nice and to the white workers that were there. “ She ignored his friendly gestures, saying only good evening as formally as she could, but she was friendly to the white woman who cleaned the offices upstairs.”( Adichie 292) Adichie shows the troublesome battles confronting an African migrant to Europe, as the accomplished and refined Obinze is compelled to go as far as the most humble of occupations just to survive. Obinze perceives that each outsider, regardless of their group in their nation of origin, needs to develop another personality when they move to a new environment. Obinize has a relatively hard time adapting to a new identity in England. His visa expires and he is forced to take on other identities to find work. “Everywhere there is a fear of immigrants, and Obinze feels invisible and worthless.”( Adichie 315) Obinze’s time in England isn’t as great as Ifemelu’s in America. This area centers around the subject of identity, as Obinze feels unseeable as an undocumented immigrant. He is finally caught and is sent back to Nigeria having to give up on his American dream.
A sense of belonging comes from a sense of identity. The book switches back and forth between two stories, just as in the over a significant time span, yet the composing is so impeccable this all works flawlessly. In any case, more than all else, ‘Americanah’ is a book about existence and expectation. Love and lament. Bigotry, equality, and most importantly, identity. Venturing out from home and returning. It is a book that states significant and clever facts. It is a book to be valued.