Americanah

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Americanah Chapter 6 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Aunty Uju, meanwhile, spends all her free time focused on The General. She avoids the sun and uses special creams to make her skin seem lighter than normal. Ifemelu visits her new house and is amazed at its extravagance. Ifemelu doesn’t want to leave, and she asks her parents if she can stay with Aunty Uju during the week. Ifemelu’s mother thinks it’s a good idea, but her father says she can only visit after school and on weekends; she cannot live there. One day Aunty Uju brings Ifemelu’s family’s house an extra TV that The General had bought over. Ifemelu’s mother is ecstatic, but her father looks disapproving.
Aunty Uju was an independent woman similar to Obinze’s mother, but her love for The General starts to change her into a more traditional woman of Lagos—concerned mostly with her beauty and pleasing her man. Ifemelu’s mother has totally denied the reality of Aunty Uju’s relationship with The General, so she supports it wholeheartedly, while Ifemelu’s father accepts reality but disapproves of his sister’s relationship.
Themes
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Romantic Love Theme Icon
Separation vs. Connection Theme Icon
Cultural Criticism Theme Icon
The landlord comes again, asking for two years worth of rent. Ifemelu’s father says he has asked his wealthy relative for a loan. Ifemelu knows he won’t ask Aunty Uju for money, but he wouldn’t reject it if she offered it. Ifemelu tells Aunty Uju what happened, and Uju says she will ask The General for the money. Ifemelu is shocked that Uju doesn’t have the money herself. Uju says that The General never gives her money, but only buys things for her. He likes it when she has to ask him for things instead of buying them herself. Ifemelu feels suddenly frightened for her.
We fully see the inequality in the relationships between Big Men like The General and women like Aunty Uju. The General enjoys being the one with all the power, dispensing favors and buying things for Aunty Uju without giving her any financial autonomy of her own.
Themes
Romantic Love Theme Icon
Cultural Criticism Theme Icon
The next weekend Aunty Uju takes Ifemelu to her upper-class hair salon, and says that The General gave her the money. Ifemelu comments on how the hairdressers flatter and compliment Aunty Uju, and Uju laughs and says that they live in an “ass-licking economy,” where everyone is supposed to grovel before people richer than they are and ask for favors. She says she is just “lucky to be licking the right ass.”
Aunty Uju has become changed and partially blinded by her love for The General, but she still sees the truth about the society she is living in now—it is the same thing Obinze will notice about Chief, how everyone is expected to flatter the rich without shame. Aunty Uju knows she is lucky, and she enjoys her good luck.
Themes
Cultural Criticism Theme Icon
Aunty Uju is still infatuated with The General, even though she recognizes that he is physically unappealing. She can see that Ifemelu is worried about her after finding out that she doesn’t have any money, but Aunty Uju assures her that she will slowly make The General “change.” Aunty Uju gives Ifemelu’s father the rent money, and he thanks her, but neither looks each other in the face.
Aunty Uju sees clearly how people grovel before the rich and how flattery wins favors, but she is disconnected from reality regarding The General. He has a wife, but Aunty Uju prefers not to think about her—just like Ifemelu’s mother prefers not to think about the true nature of Aunty Uju’s relationship.
Themes
Romantic Love Theme Icon
Separation vs. Connection Theme Icon
Cultural Criticism Theme Icon
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One night Ifemelu meets The General at Aunty Uju’s house, and is surprised by his “gleeful coarseness.” He always gives Uju the gossip about scandals among powerful people, and talks at length without allowing any interruptions, but Uju seems to find his boorish manner endearing. Ifemelu cannot understand why Aunty Uju likes him so much. One day there is a report of a military coup. Aunty Uju has a panic attack until The General calls her and says that he is fine, and the coup has failed.
Adichie shows many unhealthy or unequal romantic relationships throughout the book, and one of these is Aunty Uju’s infatuation with The General. The General acts like a typical Big Man, expecting everyone to pay always attention to and admire everything he says.
Themes
Romantic Love Theme Icon
Separation vs. Connection Theme Icon
Cultural Criticism Theme Icon
There is a holiday, and The General is supposed to spend it with Aunty Uju instead of his wife. Aunty Uju spends a long time preparing for his visit, but then he calls at the last minute and says he cannot come. Aunty Uju immediately starts putting away the food she was cooking, and then yells at her servant when the soup spills. Ifemelu says that Uju should be angry at The General, not the servant. Uju is enraged and slaps Ifemelu. Then Uju goes up to her room and doesn’t come out.
Aunty Uju has truly been changed by this relationship, and her violent outburst severs some of the close connection she shared with Ifemelu. Earlier Uju was the one giving Ifemelu advice, but now Ifemelu feels like the more mature one in this situation.
Themes
Romantic Love Theme Icon
Separation vs. Connection Theme Icon
That evening Aunty Uju’s two “friends” visit—she knows they only like her because of The General, but she finds them entertaining—and they discuss a party where there will be many “serious big men.” Uju declares that she doesn’t want to go, as she doesn’t want to meet a new man. After her friends leave, Uju apologizes to Ifemelu. Ifemelu suddenly feels more mature than her aunt, and wishes she could make Uju see how blind she’s being about The General. Later The General sends a cake along with an apology.
Aunty Uju’s friends are more like the typical female socialites of Lagos—always looking for a new man who might have more wealth or prestige than their current one. Aunty Uju disrupts the status quo by refusing to look for a new man. Her feelings are real love, not just excitement and materialistic lust.
Themes
Romantic Love Theme Icon
Separation vs. Connection Theme Icon
Cultural Criticism Theme Icon
Soon Aunty Uju gets pregnant. Ifemelu’s mother is distraught, as the pregnancy shatters her created idea of The General as Uju’s “mentor.” Uju says that she will keep the baby, and that The General will take care of his child. The General is indeed pleased about the pregnancy, and he provides for Aunty Uju to have the baby in America. She hears that his wife found out about the pregnancy as well, and was furious.
Ifemelu’s mother’s purposeful disconnection from reality is destroyed by the pregnancy, as it leaves no doubt that The General was not Aunty Uju’s “mentor,” but in fact her lover. The General seems to have real feelings for Aunty Uju as well, as he is pleased about the baby.
Themes
Romantic Love Theme Icon
Separation vs. Connection Theme Icon
Aunty Uju has the baby, a boy named Dike. She gives him her own surname instead of The General’s. Ifemelu’s mother is now disgusted with The General, and Ifemelu thinks of how fervently her mother used to pray for Uju’s “mentor.” The General and Aunty Uju visit with the baby, and both of them seem very happy.
Ifemelu watches the adults around her being hypocritical or purposefully ignorant and acting foolish. All of this sharpens her perceptiveness regarding flaws or injustices. That perceptiveness becomes an important part of her identity and later leads to her successful blog.
Themes
Identity Theme Icon
Romantic Love Theme Icon
A week after Dike’s first birthday The General dies in a plane crash. It is rumored that the Head of State engineered it, fearing that the officers on the plane were planning a coup. When Aunty Uju hears the news she can’t believe it, and then she starts to weep. Immediately some of The General’s relatives show up at the house, demanding that Aunty Uju give up all her possessions, and calling her a “prostitute.” Aunty Uju calls her friends and they tell her to leave immediately, taking everything she can. She decides to take Dike and go to America, as she has an American visa. It all seems like a blur to Ifemelu.
There are more allusions to government corruption, and here it actually ends in assassination at the highest levels of government—the Head of State having a general killed. This is during Nigeria’s years of military rule, when there were many violent coups. Aunty Uju is heartbroken about The General’s death, but must immediately recognize how precarious her situation was the whole time.
Themes
Romantic Love Theme Icon
Cultural Criticism Theme Icon