Americanah

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Americanah Chapter 21 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
One day Aunty Uju calls Ifemelu, upset that Dike won’t wear the shirt she wants him to wear for church (a shirt Bartholomew bought for him). Ifemelu talks to Dike and tells him to humor his mother, who is still anxious because she is in unfamiliar territory. That weekend Ifemelu visits them and brings Curt. Aunty Uju and Ifemelu’s college friends are all charmed by him, though Ifemelu finds his solicitousness somewhat unappealing. Dike ignores him until Curt offers to play basketball with him.
Even years later, Aunty Uju still feels like she is living in a strange and unfriendly land, and so she clings to any kind of familiarity she can, even when it is of the inferior kind, like Bartholomew himself. To Aunty Uju and Ifemelu’s African friends, Ifemelu’s relationship with Curt seems like the pinnacle of success in America.
Themes
Identity Theme Icon
Romantic Love Theme Icon
Separation vs. Connection Theme Icon
Aunty Uju compliments Ifemelu about making Curt like her, even with her hair “like that.” Uju complains that Dike has written an essay about “not knowing what he is.” Ifemelu says that she should respect his feelings, but Uju says that he is being taught to have issues and be conflicted about his identity. She also complains about Bartholomew, who wants Uju to cook for him and give him her salary, and about the racist people she has to deal with. She blames the former Nigerian leaders for ruining her country, but never mentions The General.
Aunty Uju has at least assimilated enough American culture to consider Ifemelu’s hair as unattractive and unprofessional. A rich, handsome white man like Curt is like a trophy for Ifemelu among her family and friends. We get more hints that Dike is depressed and struggling with his identity, but Aunty Uju, who is still totally Nigerian, remains disconnected from his American “issues.”
Themes
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Romantic Love Theme Icon
Separation vs. Connection Theme Icon
Cultural Criticism Theme Icon
Curt and Dike come in, and Ifemelu can see that Dike is now charmed by Curt as well. They soon go back out to play more basketball. Aunty Uju tells Ifemelu that Curt “holds her like an egg,” and she agrees. She feels fragile and precious with him. Later that night she holds his hand and feels proud to be with him, and to belong to him.
Ifemelu doesn’t treat Curt like a “trophy boyfriend,” but she does recognize that she seems somehow more special because of Curt, and she likes the feeling. She feels a real romantic connection with Curt by now.
Themes
Romantic Love Theme Icon
Separation vs. Connection Theme Icon
One morning Aunty Uju has a fight with Bartholomew about him always leaving toothpaste in the sink. He says he is busy with work, but she reminds him that she works too, and that she is paying for his car. This seems to be the last straw, and Uju tells Ifemelu that she is leaving with Dike to move to a town named Willow. Dike seems pleased.
Bartholomew has the sense of male entitlement that Adichie has criticized in many Nigerian men, but here in America he has nothing to back up his arrogance—Aunty Uju is the one making all the money and supporting him.
Themes
Romantic Love Theme Icon
Separation vs. Connection Theme Icon
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There is another post from Ifemelu’s blog. She says that no matter how much a Non-American Black might try to say that they’re Jamaican or Ghanaian, not “black,” America will always consider them black. Even if you weren’t considered black in your home country, you become black when you come to America. And part of this is learning to be offended by certain things, to support other black people, and to realize that when a black person commits a crime or does something wrong, you are somehow implicated in their guilt. But she advises not to be bitter when talking about racism to white liberals, or they won’t be sympathetic. She says don’t even bother talking about racism to white conservatives, as they will accuse you of racism.
This post encapsulates an important part of Ifemelu’s experience and the themes of race and identity in the novel. Ifemelu didn’t consider herself “black” when she lived in Nigeria, but only Nigerian or Igbo. In America, however, the outside force of racist society reduces everyone of a certain skin color to “black,” no matter their nationality or origins. Adichie doesn’t even deal with conservative Americans in this book, as she assumes that most wouldn’t be receptive to her arguments.
Themes
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Cultural Criticism Theme Icon