Americanah

Americanah Chapter 51 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Ifemelu goes to the bank, worried about her money because Bank of America has repeatedly warned her that Nigeria is a “high-risk country.” While there, she thinks she sees Obinze again and panics. It turns out to only be a stranger, but when she gets back in her car and calms down she finally calls him. He answers, and they impulsively decide to meet up at a bookstore right away.
Ifemelu is still acting like a foreigner, in terms of banking at least, seeing Nigeria as a scary place for her accounts—although this is partly valid because of the prevalence of fraud there. Ifemelu and Obinze finally are about to reconnect after so many years.
Themes
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Romantic Love Theme Icon
Separation vs. Connection Theme Icon
Cultural Criticism Theme Icon
They meet and there seems to be a “caving of the blue sky” before they embrace. Ifemelu talks awkwardly but Obinze remains calm. They go inside and sit down. Obinze turns off his phones and asks about Dike and Aunty Uju. Obinze and Ifemelu talk about Nigeria, and there is a nervousness but easy intimacy in their conversation. Ifemelu says that relationships in Lagos are “depressingly transactional,” and Obinze says that not all are.
This is the vital moment of reunion, and it feels both significant and powerful. They are both different and older now, but find their intimacy and easy sense of connection still there. Obinze implies that their relationship is something purer than the materialistic ones Ifemelu has observed in Lagos.
Themes
Romantic Love Theme Icon
Separation vs. Connection Theme Icon
Cultural Criticism Theme Icon
They start to flirt, and Ifemelu asks Obinze about his new status as a rich man. Obinze complains about how undignified most Nigerians are in the face of money, and how everyone is expected to flatter and praise him. As they talk, Ifemelu is reminded of all the things she had loved about Obinze. Obinze then asks about how Ifemelu’s blog, and how she has grown and changed. Ifemelu talks about how she feels snobbish now in her taste. She finds most Nigerian houses to be ugly now.
Part of Ifemelu and Obinze’s connection is how observant and intelligent they both are—they immediately start critiquing aspects of Nigerian culture and how they themselves have been changed by the West, all points Adichie has brought up before.
Themes
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Romantic Love Theme Icon
Separation vs. Connection Theme Icon
Cultural Criticism Theme Icon
Obinze reveals that he has visited America a few times, and isn’t as infatuated with it as he once was. Ifemelu can’t help feeling bad that he had been there without her knowing. They approach talking about the past, but both seem afraid, not wanting to break this fragile new intimacy between them. They talk about what friends they still keep in touch with. Obinze says that Emenike finally contacted him again only once he heard that Obinze was rich.
Their interpersonal dynamic feels immediately close, but as soon as any real aspect of their past or present lives is mentioned it risks bringing up feelings of pain and isolation. They are both cautious but also eager. We learn that Emenike changed his attitude towards Obinze only after Obinze made enough money.
Themes
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Romantic Love Theme Icon
Separation vs. Connection Theme Icon
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Obinze says that he has to go, and they embrace and part ways. Immediately Obinze texts Ifemelu and asks to have lunch tomorrow, and she accepts. They don’t mention Obinze’s wife and child. Obinze comes to Ifemelu’s apartment the next day. He compliments her new blog. He starts discussing the difference in Europe in Africa regarding architecture—how one fetishizes its past, and the other wants everything to look modern—and he says it’s “refreshing to have an intelligent person to talk to.” Ifemelu wonders if this is a reference to Kosi, and it irritates her.
Infatuated with each other and with their instant connection, Ifemelu and Obinze start creating a kind of cocoon for themselves, not mentioning Obinze’s wife or their old breakup. They discuss what Adichie has brought up before—how in the West old things are considered more beautiful, while it is the opposite in Africa.
Themes
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Romantic Love Theme Icon
Separation vs. Connection Theme Icon
Cultural Criticism Theme Icon
They look at the peacocks, and discuss literature, and Obinze says that he does what is expected of rich people, and pays school fees for children in his home village and his mother’s village. They stand by the bookshelf and start to kiss. Obinze asks Ifemelu why she suddenly cut off contact in America. She sits down and tells him about the tennis coach, and how she hated herself and felt that she had betrayed Obinze. Obinze is silent for a long time, and then says he wishes Ifemelu would have told him, so she wouldn’t have to be so alone. Ifemelu starts to cry, and Obinze takes her hand. She feels safe.
This is one of the most powerful moments of the book, when Ifemelu and Obinze truly reconnect and discover their old love still pure and unbroken. Ifemelu finally shares the secret that had been weighing her down for years, and they both feel as if a missing part of themselves has been restored. Obinze feels uncomfortable in his role as a “big man,” but he does most of the things expected of him.
Themes
Identity Theme Icon
Romantic Love Theme Icon
Separation vs. Connection Theme Icon
Cultural Criticism Theme Icon