Americanah

Americanah Chapter 40 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Blaine ultimately forgives Ifemelu, but their relationship is different after that. Ifemelu still loves Blaine, but now sees him as “a person far away” from herself, and there is no more passion in their romance. They do find themselves bonding over a new passion, however: Barack Obama.
Ifemelu can now even visualize the separation between herself and Blaine, although they are still technically together. Instead of focusing on each other, they now find common ground in Obama’s candidacy.
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Ifemelu was skeptical about Obama at first, but then she read Obama’s book, Dreams from My Father, which Blaine had read and left on the bookshelf. When Blaine came home the next day, she said, “If only the man who wrote this book could be the next president of America.” They realized then that they shared a new hope and passion.
Blaine and Ifemelu find a new form of connection in their shared passion for an outside cause—the hope for progress and greater racial equality that came with Obama’s race for president.
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Ifemelu is constantly nervous that Obama will be killed, or that some scandal will emerge about him. She reads online chat rooms about him and cries at the many racist slurs thrown at him. Ifemelu becomes a fan of Michelle Obama too, and comforts herself and Blaine with the fact that if Michelle married Barack, he “can’t be that bad.”
Ifemelu has lots of experience with internet comments by now, but she becomes personally sensitive about the hateful things said about Obama, as they show all the spiteful racism still lurking in American society.
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Ifemelu gets the Princeton fellowship she had applied for. She is to live at Princeton, use their library, and give a talk at the end of the year. Ifemelu is excited about it, but decides not to move to Princeton until she and Blaine have seen Barack Obama through all the way to the election. All of Blaine’s friends except for one support Obama, and Ifemelu no longer feels as out of place among them.
The shared passion for Obama also helps Ifemelu feel like less of an outsider among Blaine’s academic and activist friends, now that they all have a powerful common interest. Ifemelu reaches a new level of success in America with the fellowship, and becomes a kind of academic herself.
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They all discuss how different demographics are assumed to vote for Obama or Hillary Clinton: blacks for Obama and women for Hillary, but no one mentions black women. One friend says that if Obama wins, “he will no longer be black, just as Oprah is no longer black.” Blaine says that real progress will have been made when an average black man from the South can be voted president. Everyone agrees, and Ifemelu is again encouraged by how much they all agree about this, and how they are “true believers.”
This is similar to Ifemelu’s blog post about “blacks and poor whites.” “Blacks and women” is another phrase used to lump some groups together and erase others. This conversation also echoes Ifemelu’s post about Obama as the “magic negro”: somehow a larger-than-life or fictional character instead of just a human who happens to be black.
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Blaine and Ifemelu have sex for the first time in weeks on the day that Obama becomes the Democratic Party presidential nominee. They go to hear him speak, and are encouraged by the joy and faith in the crowd. Later they worry when footage appears of Obama’s pastor harshly criticizing America for its racism. Obama then gives a speech smoothing everything over and effectively closing any conversation about race while he is running. Blaine is disappointed, but his friends and Ifemelu know that Obama has to do this to have any chance of winning.
Blaine and Ifemelu’s romantic relationship is now explicitly linked to Obama’s political career, as their shared joy in his success leads them to find new passion for each other. Just as Ifemelu couldn’t say anything too blunt or critical in her diversity talks, so Obama can’t risk alienating his white voters by talking too much about racism and making them feel bad about themselves.
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Blaine says that Shan has been having a “nervous breakdown” about her book not getting any attention. When Ifemelu had last seen her, she had tried to bring up Obama, but Shan said she wasn’t following the election. She only complained more about her book and a writers’ festival she had spoken at.
Shan seems to lose some of her manipulative power in the face of Ifemelu’s new passion and connection regarding Obama. Shan remains self-absorbed and distant, and avoids that sense of optimistic community.
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On election day, Ifemelu, Blaine, and Blaine’s friends are all extremely nervous. They gather together to watch the news. When it becomes clear that Obama is going to win, everyone starts crying. Ifemelu gets a text from Dike saying “I can’t believe it. My president is black like me.” As Obama appears with his family to accept his victory, Ifemelu suddenly feels that America is a very beautiful place.
Here Adichie offers us an inspirational moment, as Obama’s victory means there is the possibility of progress in race relations in America, and more personally it means intimate connections between people based on a shared conviction. Dike gets some affirmation for his self-worth.
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The chapter ends with a blog post about “The White Friend Who Gets It.” This is a shout-out to the all-too-few white people who can see through the racist euphemisms many white people use, like “playing the race card” or claiming that slavery ended long ago, and so its legacy must be over too.
This blog post is still critical of racism in everyday society, but it mostly focuses on hope and gratitude—reaching out to white friends and allies and adding to the sense of hope and connection built up in this chapter.
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