The Thing Around Your Neck

by

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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Nkem Character Analysis

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, Nkem was so thrilled to marry him that she never questioned him or advocated for anything she wanted, and she continues to do this throughout their marriage. She begins to find her voice when she learns that Obiora has a girlfriend living in their home in Lagos, though she realizes she's always known that Obiora has lovers. She loves the optimism of America and wants her children to grow up not knowing the poverty that she experienced as a child in Nigeria.

Nkem Quotes in The Thing Around Your Neck

The The Thing Around Your Neck quotes below are all either spoken by Nkem or refer to Nkem. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Women, Marriage, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Anchor Books edition of The Thing Around Your Neck published in 2009.
Imitation Quotes

And although Nkem knew many Nigerian couples who lived together, all year, she said nothing.

Related Characters: Nkem, Obiora
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:

"You got a great house, ma'am," he'd said, with that curious American smile that meant he believed he, too, could have something like it someday. It is one of the things she has come to love about America, the abundance of unreasonable hope.

Related Characters: Nkem
Related Symbols: Cars
Page Number: 26
Explanation and Analysis:

...America does not recognize Big Men. Nobody says "Sir! Sir!" to them in America. Nobody rushes to dust their seats before they sit down.

Related Characters: Nkem
Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:
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Nkem Character Timeline in The Thing Around Your Neck

The timeline below shows where the character Nkem appears in The Thing Around Your Neck. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Imitation
Women, Marriage, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Stories and Representation  Theme Icon
Family and Lies Theme Icon
Nkem stares at the Benin mask on her mantel as she listens to her friend tell... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
The story jumps backwards in time to when Nkem first came to America, pregnant with her first child. The house was fresh and her... (full context)
Women, Marriage, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Family and Lies Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
Obiora stayed with Nkem for a few months. After that, Nkem explained to her curious neighbors that Obiora lived... (full context)
Women, Marriage, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Family and Lies Theme Icon
Back in the present, Nkem touches the Benin mask and remembers what Obiora has said about it: the masks were... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
Nkem wonders what Obiora will bring when he returns to her next week. She checks the... (full context)
Women, Marriage, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
When Nkem first came to America, she was excited to join the club of wives whose rich... (full context)
Women, Marriage, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Family and Lies Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
For the first two years, Obiora visited monthly and Nkem and the children went to Nigeria for Christmas. When Obiora got government contracts for work,... (full context)
Women, Marriage, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Family and Lies Theme Icon
Colonialism and Violence Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
Nkem walks upstairs to the bathroom and studies herself in the mirror. She thinks about how... (full context)
Women, Marriage, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Family and Lies Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
Nkem calls her housegirl Amaechi to clean up the hair. Amaechi is distraught that Nkem cut... (full context)
Women, Marriage, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Family and Lies Theme Icon
Later that night, Obiora calls. He asks Nkem about the children and then has to hang up to take a call from the... (full context)
Women, Marriage, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
Obiora, though, took Nkem to dinner and told her she'd learn to love the wine. She made herself like... (full context)
Women, Marriage, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Family and Lies Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
Nkem sits in the kitchen and watches Amaechi slice potatoes. Amaechi laughs that her mother used... (full context)
Women, Marriage, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Family and Lies Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
Nkem thinks about Amaechi's arrival in America. She tells Amaechi that Obiora has a girlfriend in... (full context)
Women, Marriage, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Family and Lies Theme Icon
Amaechi says that Nkem will discuss the matter with Obiora, and he'll ask his girlfriend to move out. She... (full context)
Family and Lies Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
After Nkem puts the children to bed, she dials the house in Lagos. A new houseboy answers... (full context)
Women, Marriage, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Family and Lies Theme Icon
As Nkem and the children drive to the airport, she thinks that she hasn't waxed her pubic... (full context)
Women, Marriage, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Family and Lies Theme Icon
That night, Nkem studies the first original piece of art Obiora has ever brought. He's excited about it,... (full context)
Women, Marriage, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Colonialism and Violence Theme Icon
Obiora says that long hair is better on a Big Man's wife. Nkem watches him stretch and thinks about how she used to shower with him and perform... (full context)
Women, Marriage, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Family and Lies Theme Icon
In the shower, Nkem says that they need to find a school for the children in Lagos. Obiora stares... (full context)