The Thing Around Your Neck

by

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Thing Around Your Neck can help.

The Thing Around Your Neck Characters

Nnamabia

In "Cell One," Nnamabia is the handsome, endlessly charming, but troubled 20-year-old son of Mother and Father, and the older brother to the Cell One narrator. He becomes involved in violent cult activity… read analysis of Nnamabia

Nkem

In "Imitation," Nkem is a Nigerian woman living in Philadelphia with her children and her housegirl, Amaechi. Her husband, Obiora, is a “Big Man” in Nigeria. When Nkem and Obiora first got married… read analysis of Nkem

Chika

In "A Private Experience," Chika is a young Igbo Christian medical student. She and her sister, Nnedi, end up in the middle of a violent riot between Hausa Muslims and Igbo Christians while visiting… read analysis of Chika

Professor James Nwoye

In "Ghosts," James is an elderly retired Nsukka professor. His wife, Ebere, died as a result of "fake drugs," which are expired medications that don't work. In the 1960s, James fought for the state… read analysis of Professor James Nwoye

Kamara

In "On Monday of Last Week," Kamara is Tobechi's young wife. After five years of marriage, during which Kamara stayed in Nigeria while Tobechi drove a taxi in Philadelphia, she was able to join… read analysis of Kamara
Get the entire The Thing Around Your Neck LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Thing Around Your Neck PDF

Ujunwa

In "Jumping Monkey Hill," Ujunwa is a Nigerian woman who attends the writers' conference at Jumping Monkey Hill. She is annoyed when Edward and Isabel make assumptions about her family or her beliefs, and deals… read analysis of Ujunwa

Akunna

In "The Thing Around Your Neck," Akunna wins the "American visa lottery" and gets a green card to go to America. She's very independent and refuses her uncle's sexual advances, instead taking a job in… read analysis of Akunna

The American Embassy Narrator

This unnamed narrator of the story "The American Embassy" is a grieving mother attempting to obtain an asylum visa from the American embassy. She's overcome with grief for her son, Ugonna, who was shot… read analysis of The American Embassy Narrator

Ukamaka

In "The Shivering," Ukamaka is a graduate student at Princeton who's trying to piece her life back together after a sudden breakup with her boyfriend, Udenna. Ukamaka spent the three years she and Udenna… read analysis of Ukamaka

Chinaza

In "The Arrangers of Marriage," Chinaza's aunt and uncle arrange her marriage to Ofodile, a doctor in America. Their marriage is supposed to be a good thing, but Chinaza soon becomes homesick and disillusioned… read analysis of Chinaza

Nwamgba

Nwamgba's story in "The Headstrong Historian" begins in the late 19th century, when she marries Obierika for love. She's headstrong and loyal to her husband, and fears his greedy cousins. She adores her son, Anikwenwaread analysis of Nwamgba

Grace / Afamefuna

In "The Headstrong Historian," Grace/Afamefuna is the daughter of Anikwenwa and Mgbeke, and she seems to possess her grandfather Obierika's soul. Though Anikwenwa insists that Grace receive a Western and Christian education, Grace… read analysis of Grace / Afamefuna

Cell One Narrator

This unnamed female narrator of the story "Cell One" is the younger sister of Nnamabia. She watches Nnamabia get away with all manner of minor crimes and doesn't trust that he's not a cult… read analysis of Cell One Narrator

Mother

In "Cell One," The unnamed mother of Nnamabia and the Cell One narrator, Mother is beautiful, light-skinned, and believes her son can do no wrong. When Nnamabia was a child, she either covered up… read analysis of Mother

Father

In "Cell One," The unnamed father of Nnamabia and the Cell One narrator, Father is a professor at Nsukka campus. Though he knows that his son is a thief and involved in gang activity… read analysis of Father

Obiora

In "Imitation," Obiora is Nkem's husband and a “Big Man” in Nigeria, as well as an avid collector of imitation tribal masks. He visits Nkem and their children in the summer and spends… read analysis of Obiora

The Woman

In "A Private Experience," the woman is an unnamed Hausa Muslim woman who sells onions in the market in Kano. She helps Chika find safety when a riot breaks out between Hausa Muslims and Igbo… read analysis of The Woman

Ikenna Okoro

In "Ghosts," Ikenna was an activist and a friend of James Nwoye at Nsukka in the 1960s. He fought for progressive issues and was extremely passionate about his work. He was, however, disappointingly unattractive. James… read analysis of Ikenna Okoro

Neil

In "On Monday of Last Week," Neil is Josh's father, Tracy's husband, and Kamara's employer. He's obsessive about Josh's diet and spends most of his time worrying about strangers in the neighborhood… read analysis of Neil

Josh

In "On Monday of Last Week," Josh is Neil and Tracy's seven-year-old biracial son. He's precocious and academically advanced for his age. Though he obviously adores Tracy when he sees her, he is fully… read analysis of Josh

Tracy

In "On Monday of Last Week," Tracy is an African-American artist. She works alone in the basement of the home she shares with her husband Neil, and seldom sees her son Josh. She… read analysis of Tracy

The Senegalese

In "Jumping Monkey Hill," the Senegalese is a young francophone woman attending the writers' conference at Jumping Monkey Hill. She's the youngest attendee and writes an autobiographical story about coming out to her parents as… read analysis of The Senegalese

Edward

In "Jumping Monkey Hill," Edward is a British man who received a degree from Oxford in African Literature. He runs the writers' conference at Jumping Monkey Hill and seeks to discover stories that speak to… read analysis of Edward

The boy

In "The Thing Around Your Neck," The boy is an wealthy university student who pursues Akunna. He loves to travel and see the "real people" of different countries, which to him means the poor… read analysis of The boy

The man behind her

In "The American Embassy," this man stands behind the embassy narrator in line at the American embassy. He attempts, unsuccessfully, to engage her in conversation. Though he praises the editors of the democratic press (and… read analysis of The man behind her

Chinedu

In "The Shivering," Chinedu is a gay Nigerian man living in Princeton student housing to evade his impending deportation notice from the US government. He's a devout Pentecostal Christian, and like Ukamaka, he dated… read analysis of Chinedu

Udenna

In "The Shivering," Udenna was Ukamaka's boyfriend. He broke up with her in an ice cream shop by insisting their relationship was "staid." He was exacting and controlling; Ukamaka talks about how he constantly… read analysis of Udenna

Ofodile

In "The Arrangers of Marriage," Ofodile is Chinaza's husband. He's studying to be a doctor in New York and believes that the only way to get ahead is to fully assimilate into American culture… read analysis of Ofodile

Nia

In "The Arrangers of Marriage," Nia is a neighbor in Ofodile and Chinaza's apartment building. Chinaza thinks she dresses like a prostitute, but Nia runs a hair salon. She tells Chinaza she changed her… read analysis of Nia

Tomorrow is Too Far Narrator

As a child, this unnamed narrator of the story "Tomorrow is Too Far fell in love with her cousin Dozie and was resentful of her older brother, Nonso. Because the narrator is female and… read analysis of Tomorrow is Too Far Narrator

Dozie

In "Tomorrow is Too Far," Dozie is the cousin of the tomorrow narrator and Nonso. Dozie won't carry on Grandmama's family name, so even though he's older than Nonso, Grandmama ignores Dozie. He's… read analysis of Dozie

Grandmama

In "Tomorrow is Too Far," Grandmama's grandchildren, Nonso, the tomorrow narrator, and Dozie visit her in Nigeria every summer. Grandmama makes sure that Nonso gets first dibs on food and gets the most… read analysis of Grandmama

Anikwenwa

In "The Headstrong Historian," Anikwenwa is Obierika and Nwamgba's son. He learns English at a Catholic mission school and though he hates it at first, he comes to fully embrace British culture and the… read analysis of Anikwenwa
Minor Characters
Amaechi
In "Imitation," Amaechi is Nkem's housegirl. She and Nkem are friends, although it's a somewhat tense and complicated friendship given their madam/housegirl relationship. Amaechi is loyal to Nkem, but she also knows that Obiora keeps girlfriends and believes that it's natural for men to conduct relationships outside their marriages.
Nnedi
In "A Private Experience," Nnedi is Chika's sister; she disappears in the riot in Kano. Nnedi is described as an activist and someone who's always willing to explain current events from a scholarly and theoretical perspective. She's dismissive of religion.
Ebere
In "Ghosts," Ebere is James Nwoye's late wife. While James never says outright what illness she had, she died after receiving "fake drugs." She visits him as a ghost to moisturize his skin.
Tobechi
In "On Monday of Last Week," Tobechi is Kamara's husband. He's a manager at Burger King and brings small gifts for Kamara when he comes home. Tobechi doesn't notice Kamara's depression or that things like his American accent make her uncomfortable.
The Ugandan
In "Jumping Monkey Hill," the Ugandan is the leader of the writers' workshop at Jumping Monkey Hill. He won the Lipton African Writers' Prize the year before the conference, and he tries to impress Edward. Ujunwa doesn't like him, and he's often excluded from the other participants' activities.
Isabel
In "Jumping Monkey Hill," Isabel accompanies her husband, Edward, to the writers' conference at Jumping Monkey Hill. She's a slight woman who runs anti-poaching campaigns. She regularly asks rude questions of Ujunwa in particular, but she doesn't understand that she's being rude.
Ugonna
In "The American Embassy," Ugonna is the dead four-year-old son of the embassy narrator. He was full of life and provided his mother with purpose and an identity as his mother. Ugonna is killed by men looking for his father, the narrator's husband.
Husband
In "The American Embassy," The embassy narrator's husband is a reporter for The New Nigeria, a democratic paper. He prioritizes his work over his wife and his son, Ugonna, and writes articles that anger the government by exposing government corruption. He flees to Benin.
Nonso
In "Tomorrow is Too Far," Nonso is the tomorrow narrator's older brother. Unlike their cousin Dozie, Nonso will carry on the family name, so Grandmama and the narrator's mother give Nonso all their attention. He dies when the narrator plays a trick on him.
Obierika
In "The Headstrong Historian," Obierika is Nwamgba's husband. He's loyal to Nwamgba and is a very powerful man in the village, but his cousins murder him. His soul returns to earth in his granddaughter, Grace.
Mgbeke
In "The Headstrong Historian," Mgbeke is Anikwenwa's wife. She's a Nigerian woman, but she converts to Christianity and does her best to please her husband. Mgbeke refuses to stand up for herself and is very powerless to assert her wants and needs.
Okafo and Okoye
In "The Headstrong Historian," Okafo and Okoye are cousins of Obierika, who take advantage of him and end up poisoning him. Nwamgba hates them and brings a court case against them.
Ayaju
In "The Headstrong Historian," Ayaju is Nwamgba’s friend. She is descended from slaves and goes on trading journeys. She brings news of the arrival of white men and their guns.
Father Patrick
In the story "Shiver," Father Patrick is the priest at the Catholic church that Ukamaka attends. He gives Ukamaka advice after Udenna breaks up with her.