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Similarities Of Themes In Americanah And Lost Continent

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Both Americanah and The lost continent are novels where the main protagonists travel to America and tell anecdotes of their separate experiences while there and the struggles they have at times with their identities. It also shows the very contrasting experiences both have when navigating America due to factors like gender and race. In this essay, I will be analysing the similarities and differences in the rekindling of their identities as they return home reminiscing on their past at times ironically.

Adichie and Bryson use Irony a lot throughout the novels especially when the narrators are reflecting on the past. Bryson particularly uses a lot of obvious ironies when discussing his experiences with his home town and the people there. This is showed when he says at the beginning of the book ‘Eventually I grew up and moved to England’ and then he later writes ‘And now when I came home it was to a foreign country, full of serial murders and sports teams in the wrong towns.’ Although he makes humour out of the situation when he describes the changes being ‘sports teams in the wrong towns’, this could be a subtle metaphor for the significant changes that have happened since he had been gone, such as the development in urbanisation and modernisation that had occurred ‘no more milk bottles delivered to the doorstep’ and the changes in the places he had vacationed to as a child in general. These changes could be what makes him feel like he is in a ‘foreign country’ and make it difficult when he reminisces over his childhood to identify it with the Des Moines he left. It is ironic because he was so desperate to leave when he could that when he moved to England and came back that he found his country in a way unrecognisable. Particularly with the anecdotes of his vacations where he talks a lot about his father whose death is what makes Bryson want to return home in the first place.

Similarly, Adichie also shows how Ifemelu experienced a change in life in Lagos on her return when her friend Ranyinudo was telling her about the wedding she had just attended where she says, ‘All the bridesmaids had to wait outside because our dresses were indecent.’ This makes Ifemelu question if it was like this when she was living in Lagos. It says in the novel ‘she was no longer sure what was new in Lagos and what was new in herself’ This shows Ifemelu contemplating on whether there were changes in Lagos between tradition and westernisation or if the change has been in herself since she left for America. This relates to earlier in the book when in Baltimore Ifemelu meets an Ethiopian taxi driver who says she doesn’t seem like an African as ‘her blouse is too tight’ and that America is ‘corrupting her’ which angers her. This further reinforces the change in Lagos and Ifemelu herself on her views on tradition and westernisation. The changes in her identity coming back to Lagos is also shown when she snaps at the tile man doing work in her house. It says ‘She surprised herself. Where had that come from, the false bravado.’ This action made her think back to a memory of her aunty Uju ‘A memory came to her, undiminished after so many years’ This presents how coming back to Lagos has allowed her to remember memories of her past that she wouldn’t otherwise have thought of. When she later told Ranyinudo about what had happened she says, ‘you are no longer behaving like an Americanah!’ This puts into perspective just how much Ifemelu had changed that even her friend had thought she had lost her real self as when she was younger she was much more outspoken but America had changed that. While living in America Ifemelu also puts on an American accent for a lot of her time to adapt and in a way fit into the lifestyle there. However, after on the phone with a boy from a call centre It then later says ‘And despite herself, Ifemelu felt pleased to hear this’ In a way we see Ifemelu being more connected with her different sides of her identity as she is ‘pleased’ that she isn’t acting so much like an ‘Americanah!’

Death is also shown in both books to be somewhat of a driving force for both Bryson and Ifemelu to return home. However, it is more significant in the lost continent as Bryson throughout the book tells anecdotes of his father and their family vacations where he describes him in detail so that the reader can get a strong sense of his character like when he writes ‘His idea of holiday heaven was a museum without an admission charge’ which summarises well what all the family vacations were like. We also notice that Bryson doesn’t talk about his mother as much or describe her in as much detail. This may be because his father’s death is the main reason for his return to America. Bryson writes quite early on in the book in chapter one ‘when you have reached the middle of your life and your father has recently died and it dawns on you that when he went he took some of you with him.’ He says that his father died he took some part of him this could show him struggling with his identity when his father died because of the grief and the nostalgia of the past that was he was feeling which motivated him to return home to reminisce over this and the memory of his father.

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Similarly, before Ifemelu leaves to return for Nigeria she experiences two accounts with death of those around her the first one being Obinze’s mother. She discovers her death through emails between Obinze who she hasn’t spoken to in many years he tells her how she hadn’t liked his new wealth and was also disappointed about the education system in Nigeria. Finding out this news makes Ifemelu upset as she says like aunty Uju ‘she treated me like a person with an opinion that mattered.’ Comparing Obinzes mother to Auty Uju is significant as she is probably one of the closest people to Ifemelu so she is saying that his mother meant a lot to her growing up in Nigeria. Around this time Ifemelu’s cousin Dike also tries to commit suicide which is quite shocking for the reader as he is also shown to be outgoing and charismatic. However, soon Ifemelu realises that like herself at one point Dike may have been unhappy because he was struggling with his identity as he was confused and divided due to the racial issues that he experiences growing up in America. Later, on his birthday the two of them are in Miami for Dikes birthday where he tells Ifemelu she should no longer postpone her trip to Nigeria because he is better now and she agrees. she also offers to show him around Nigeria if he wants to visit when she is there. Both of these encounters of death help encourage Ifemelu to go back home to see Obinze and also because later Dike joins her in Lagos where he is able to see where he lived as a child which I think helps him and Ifemelu in a way to heal from their struggles with their identity in America.

On the contrary, both texts have some differences when discussing race. Adichie goes more in-depth in her novel talking about racial political issues within America as a running theme from the very beginning. She does this particularly through the blog which Ifemelu writes called “Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks by a Non-American Black”. Some of the titles of the blog posts include ‘A Michelle Obama shout out plus hair as race metaphor’, ‘Travelling while black’ and ‘What academics mean by white privilege’. I think that the blog is what helped Ifemelu stay in touch with her identity as a non-American black as she could give her perspective on what she has experienced and that it was an outlet for her to talk about how race became an issue for her in America. However, outside of her blog, Adichie shows the subtle and sometimes obvious racism that all the significant characters in the novel like Dike, Aunty Uju, Obinze and Ifemelu herself faced when adapting to a new country. Some examples of this are when in London Obinze scraps his knee and is made fun of by being called a ‘Knee – grow ‘. Also, when Aunty Uju had patients who were ‘refusing to have her as their doctor’. We also see Ifemelu struggle within her relationships with Blaine and particularly with Curt because of race. I think that all of these characters experience some type of hopelessness while living in America and London because of racial issues.

Bryson also discusses race in his book but not as often and in a different way because travelling through America is not an issue for him compared to Ifemelu who writes a blog post titled ‘Travelling while black’ where she talked about how difficult it can be to travel as a black person in certain areas around the world. Bryson talks about one memory he had when he was a child in Washington on vacation when he saw a black man who killed ‘He was a black man and he was lying among a crowd of legs’ he then later goes on to say, ‘It seemed such a strange thing to do, to stop someone’s life because you found him disagreeable’. This shows the contrast in how racism is shown in both books as both share their experience witnessing and receiving racism. Bryson also talks about the change in racism in the south of America especially in Mississippi where he sees ‘blacks and whites’ living in harmony’ which he hadn’t seen as a child. Overall, Bryson talks about the change it racism he has seen upon his return to America which is the only change he really appreciates in the whole novel. Whereas, Adichie addresses the ongoing issue of racism in America and other parts of the world through the blog posts and the anecdote from different characters.

In conclusion, the way in which Bryson and Adichie use irony and anecdotal memories are similar. As they both struggle with their identities in a way through the changes they have faced as people and the changes in America and Lagos. America changes more in the way of urban development which Bryson doesn’t like whereas Lagos changes more in terms of everyday life there. However, in contrast both novels discuss the issues of racism in America as Bryson shares Anecdotes of the racism he saw as a child and how upon returning there has been some change in that. On the other hand, Adichie shows the racism that still happens in America through the experiences of different characters. Also, Adiche makes Race an ongoing theme throughout the novel from the very beginning till the end which Bryson does not. Both writers narrate their novels in different ways, Bryson only has one narrative voice throughout the whole book which is himself. Whereas, Adichie uses several different character’s perspectives and also uses a blog post.

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Similarities Of Themes In Americanah And Lost Continent. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved November 29, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/similarities-of-themes-in-americanah-and-lost-continent/
“Similarities Of Themes In Americanah And Lost Continent.” Edubirdie, 17 Feb. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/similarities-of-themes-in-americanah-and-lost-continent/
Similarities Of Themes In Americanah And Lost Continent. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/similarities-of-themes-in-americanah-and-lost-continent/> [Accessed 29 Nov. 2022].
Similarities Of Themes In Americanah And Lost Continent [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Feb 17 [cited 2022 Nov 29]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/similarities-of-themes-in-americanah-and-lost-continent/
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