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 and Blaine, while Obinze marries Kosi. Even while Obinze and Ifemelu are separated, their romantic lives remain the central plot focus, particularly as Ifemelu deals with racial and cultural issues in her romantic relationships. With this Adichie not only creates tension and an interesting plot, but also delivers social commentary through an individual and emotional lens.
Apart from this central relationship, Adichie examines other kinds of romantic relationships as well, like Kimberly’s idolization of her narcissistic husband Don, Aunty Uju becoming the devoted mistress of The General, and many of the women of Lagos dating and marrying for money alone. Most of the novel’s romantic relationships are portrayed as somehow unhealthy or lacking, and the contrast to this is the kind of pure, romantic love and connection between Ifemelu and Obinze. The novel ends without them reaching any definite conclusion, but it does at least end on a hopeful note, implying that Ifemelu and Obinze’s love might be able to rise above the world of materialistic, one-sided, or unhealthy relationships.
Romantic Love ThemeTracker
Romantic Love Quotes in Americanah
But Obinze said little, and Kayode was left to carry the conversation, his voice getting boisterous, and from time to time he glanced at Obinze, as though to urge him on. Ifemelu was not sure when something happened, but in those moments, as Kayode talked, something strange happened. A quickening inside her, a dawning. She realized, quite suddenly, that she wanted to breathe the same air as Obinze.
She rested her head against his and felt, for the first time, what she would often feel with him: a self-affection. He made her like herself. With him, she was at ease; her skin felt as though it was her right size.
Later that day she would send an e-mail to Obinze’s Hotmail address: Ceiling, I don’t even know how to start. I ran into Kayode today at the mall. Saying sorry for my silence sounds stupid even to me but I am so sorry and I feel so stupid. I will tell you everything that happened. I have missed you and I miss you. And he would not reply.
“I booked the Swedish massage for you,” Curt said.
“Thank you,” she said. Then, in a lower voice, she added, to make up for her peevishness, “You are such a sweetheart.”
“I don’t want to be a sweetheart. I want to be the fucking love of your life,” Curt said with a force that startled her.
He was making fun of his wife, but Obinze knew, from the muted awe in his tone, that it was mockery colored by respect, mockery of what he believed, despite himself, to be inherently superior. Obinze had remembered how Kayode had often said about Emenike in secondary school: He can read all the books he wants but the bush is still in his blood.
The only reason you say that race was not an issue is because you wish it was not. We all wish it was not. But it’s a lie. I came from a country where race was not an issue; I did not think of myself as black and I only became black when I came to America. When you are black in America and you fall in love with a white person, race doesn’t matter when you’re alone together because it’s just you and your love. But the minute you step outside, race matters. But we don’t talk about it. We don’t even tell our white partners the small things that piss us off and the things we wish they understood better, because we’re worried they will say we’re overreacting, or we’re being too sensitive.
The simplest solution to the problem of race in America? Romantic love. Not friendship. Not the kind of safe, shallow love where the objective is that both people remain comfortable. But real deep romantic love, the kind that twists you and wrings you out and makes you breathe through the nostrils of your beloved. And because that real deep romantic love is so rare, and because American society is set up to make it even rarer between American Black and American White, the problem of race in America will never be solved.
“Yes. She approached me, but their budget was too small for me. That girl never understood the first rule of life in this Lagos. You do not marry the man you love. You marry the man who can best maintain you.”
Finally, he said, “I can’t imagine how bad you must have felt, and how alone. You should have told me. I so wish you had told me.”
She heard his words like a melody and she felt herself breathing unevenly, gulping at the air. She would not cry, it was ridiculous to cry after so long, but her eyes were filling with tears and there was a boulder in her chest and a stinging in her throat. The tears felt itchy. She made no sound. He took her hand in his, both clasped on the table, and between them a silence grew, an ancient silence that they both knew. She was inside this silence and she was safe.
Once she had told him, “The thing about cross-cultural relationships is that you spend so much time explaining. My ex-boyfriends and I spent a lot of time explaining. I sometimes wondered whether we would even have anything at all to say to each other if we were from the same place,” and it pleased him to hear that, because it gave his relationship with her a depth, a lack of trifling novelty. They were from the same place and they still had a lot to say to each other.
The pain of his absence did not decrease with time; it seemed instead to sink in deeper each day, to rouse in her even clearer memories. Still, she was at peace: to be home, to be writing her blog, to have discovered Lagos again. She had, finally, spun herself fully into being.