Americanah

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Themes and Colors
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Romantic Love Theme Icon
Separation vs. Connection Theme Icon
Cultural Criticism Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Americanah, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

While Americanah is a tale of individual characters, it is also a sweeping analysis and critique of race and racism in America, England, and Nigeria, and the novel is peppered with Adichie’s biting observations on the subject. In Nigeria, Ifemelu doesn’t really think of herself as black. There is still a racial hierarchy in Nigerian culture, however, as light-skinned or mixed-race people are considered more attractive, and people use products to make their skin lighter…

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Identity is an important theme in the novel, as the plot follows Ifemelu and Obinze growing up and finding their place in the world. Because of their life situations, identity as a person is inextricably linked to racial and national identity for both these main characters. When they are teenagers Ifemelu is already smart and outspoken, and Obinze is calm and thoughtful, and as they grow up these qualities are then affected by outside cultural…

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The central plot tying Americanah together is the romantic relationship between Ifemelu and Obinze. They have a kind of idealized teenage love as they find each other in school and become incredibly close, but they are then separated when Ifemelu goes to America. Ifemelu cuts off contact with Obinze during her period of depression, and this silence goes on for years. During this time each character has their own romantic experiences: Ifemelu dates Curt

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A more metaphorical theme that spans the novel is the idea of separation versus connection. This involves personal misunderstandings, physical distances, and cultural and racial divides. The most obvious separation that defines the plot is when Ifemelu and Obinze are physically separated by thousands of miles, with Ifemelu going to America and Obinze staying in Nigeria and then going to England. This then leads to the personal separation between the two when Ifemelu breaks off…

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As with the themes of racism and identity, Americanah allows Adichie to observe and critique the cultures of Nigeria, America, and England through scenes that are sometimes humorous and sometimes tragic. In Nigeria (particularly Lagos), Adichie focuses on the culture of corruption and materialism, where most people get rich through fraud or corruption, officials expect bribes, and women date or marry a man based on his wealth and prestige. Everyone is expected to grovel before…

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