Americanah

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Americanah Chapter 42 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Obinze checks his email obsessively, but it takes four days for Ifemelu to respond. Obinze looks up more things about Blaine, and is disappointed to find himself interested by the articles Blaine has written. Ifemelu sends Obinze a short email, and Obinze responds by telling her about his mother’s death. His mother had been somehow disappointed by his extravagant new wealth, and the state of academia in Nigeria made her more and more sad, which made Obinze sad as well. She died at home in her bed. Her funeral devolved into a fight about the caterers stealing the meat.
Obinze’s narrative is now in the present as well now, as the two protagonists slowly work towards bridging the distance between them. Adichie doesn’t give us as many details of Obinze’s life after England, but here she explains how the tragic distance between Obinze and his mother never truly disappeared. Obinze’s mother could relate to his dreams of America and academia, but not to his new identity as a Nigerian “big man.”
Themes
Identity Theme Icon
Romantic Love Theme Icon
Separation vs. Connection Theme Icon
Cultural Criticism Theme Icon
Ifemelu writes back an hour later. She says she is crying, and that Obinze’s mother was the only adult other than Aunty Uju “who treated me like a person with an opinion that mattered.” She says she is going through some pain right now too, and is with Aunty Uju and Dike. She asks Obinze to give her his phone number.
Before this, Ifemelu and Obinze’s emails had been relatively short and guarded, but they both let down their defenses and connect over their shared grief for Obinze’s mother’s death.
Themes
Romantic Love Theme Icon
Separation vs. Connection Theme Icon
The email makes Obinze feel better, and he hopes that Ifemelu has broken up with Blaine. He tries to imagine how America might have changed her. He sends her a short but intimate email, but then immediately regrets it. Many days pass and he realizes she isn’t going to respond. Obinze starts sending her more emails, telling her the story of his time in England, and he realizes it is the first time he has really reflected on it.
Obinze is still basically acting like a smitten teenager when it comes to Ifemelu—obsessively checking for messages from her, jealously researching her boyfriends, and hoping that she is single again. Obinze has felt incomplete without Ifemelu, and hasn’t had anyone to really discuss England with.
Themes
Romantic Love Theme Icon
Separation vs. Connection Theme Icon
Finally Ifemelu replies, apologizing for her silence. She says that Dike attempted suicide, and she has become depressed again, but is spending lots of time watching movies with Dike. Obinze reads the email and is shocked, as he can only remember Dike as a toddler. Obinze wishes he could go to Ifemelu right now, but realizes how absurd that is.
This discussion of the recent crises in their lives makes the two characters feel suddenly close again. Ifemelu’s depression is a recurring problem for her, a medical condition rather than a circumstantial coincidence.
Themes
Identity Theme Icon
Romantic Love Theme Icon
Separation vs. Connection Theme Icon
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Obinze’s wife, Kosi, interrupts his thoughts. She thinks he is distracted by work. They are driving to a school to visit it with Kosi’s friends Jonathon and Isioma, to see if it would be a good school for Buchi, Obinze’s daughter. Obinze has only met Jonathon and Isioma once. He thought Isioma was interesting, but she constantly downplayed her own intelligence to avoid bruising Jonathon’s ego.
In these last sections Adichie moves away from America and England and turns her critical eye back on Nigeria, and no longer through the somewhat naïve lens of Ifemelu’s youthful memories. Jonathon is another example of a rich Nigerian man expecting to have his ego flattered.
Themes
Identity Theme Icon
Romantic Love Theme Icon
Separation vs. Connection Theme Icon
Cultural Criticism Theme Icon
At the school Obinze, Kosi, Jonathon, and Isioma talk with the headmistress. She declares that many “high-level expatriates” send their children there, and knows how impressive this will sound to most Nigerians. Later they watch the children put on a Christmas play, where there is fake snow on the stage. Isioma asks why they are teaching the children that there has to be snow for it to really be Christmas. Kosi can tell that Obinze is distracted.
There is an obvious distance between Obinze and Kosi, even though their marriage has no visible strife. In the culture of the Nigerian wealthy, the West is always considered superior, and so expatriates are seen as more cultured or prestigious than those who simply stay in Nigeria, and even Christmas pageants are snowy.
Themes
Identity Theme Icon
Romantic Love Theme Icon
Separation vs. Connection Theme Icon
Cultural Criticism Theme Icon
At home Obinze reads all the posts from Ifemelu’s blog. He is surprised by the slangy American voice in her writing, and cringes when he reads posts about her boyfriends. He reads one about “Professor Hunk” (Blaine) being stopped by the police and searched for drugs. Blaine said he had a high school teacher who told him to focus on getting a sports scholarship, because “black people are physically inclined and white people are intellectually inclined.” Blaine had then spent years proving her wrong. Reading Ifemelu’s posts makes Obinze sad, as she has experienced so much without him that she sometimes seems unrecognizable.
Obinze feels disconnected from Kosi and still very close to Ifemelu, despite their years of silence, so some of his idealism is disappointed to learn how much Ifemelu has changed in his absence, and how she seems to have a whole and complete identity of her own without him. Adichie focuses less on racism in America for the rest of the novel, but still includes sporadic passages like this blog post about Blaine’s personal history with prejudice and alienation.
Themes
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Romantic Love Theme Icon
Separation vs. Connection Theme Icon
Cultural Criticism Theme Icon