The Thing Around Your Neck

by

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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Professor James Nwoye Character Analysis

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 of Biafra and believed that it would emerge victorious. Now, as an old man, James doesn't speak about the horrors of the war or the death of his first daughter during the war. He takes comfort in the fact that Ebere's ghost visits him, and he worries that his American grandson hasn't learned Igbo. When he encounters Ikenna, an old friend he believed was dead, he remembers Ikenna's passion for fighting for what was right, though James now seems content with simply living his life and not fighting corruption.

Professor James Nwoye Quotes in The Thing Around Your Neck

The The Thing Around Your Neck quotes below are all either spoken by Professor James Nwoye or refer to Professor James Nwoye. 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.
Ghosts Quotes

But I am a Western-educated man, a retired mathematics professor of seventy-one, and I am supposed to have armed myself with enough science to laugh indulgently at the ways of my people.

Related Characters: Professor James Nwoye (speaker), Ikenna Okoro
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:

Perhaps... I would not need to worry about our grandson who does not speak Igbo, who, the last time he visited, did not understand why he was expected to say "Good afternoon" to strangers, because in his world one has to justify simple courtesies.

Related Characters: Professor James Nwoye (speaker)
Page Number: 67
Explanation and Analysis:
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Professor James Nwoye Character Timeline in The Thing Around Your Neck

The timeline below shows where the character Professor James Nwoye appears in The Thing Around Your Neck. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Ghosts
Stories and Representation  Theme Icon
Colonialism and Violence Theme Icon
The narrator, Professor James Nwoye, says that today he saw Ikenna Okoro, who was rumored to be dead. He... (full context)
Colonialism and Violence Theme Icon
The clerk explains to James that the money hasn't come in. James tells the reader that this is standard. Men... (full context)
Stories and Representation  Theme Icon
Colonialism and Violence Theme Icon
At another man's prodding, James buys some fruit and nuts from the men. He thinks they all need moisturizer, and... (full context)
Colonialism and Violence Theme Icon
James and Ikenna shake hands and hug tentatively. James explains to the reader that he and... (full context)
Family and Lies Theme Icon
Colonialism and Violence Theme Icon
James asks Ikenna if he's alive. He tells the reader that he saw Ikenna on the... (full context)
Stories and Representation  Theme Icon
Family and Lies Theme Icon
Colonialism and Violence Theme Icon
...confirms that he's alive and explains that he left Biafra the month after the evacuation. James feels disgust for the "sabos" (saboteurs) who betrayed the Biafran cause for the opportunity to... (full context)
Family and Lies Theme Icon
Colonialism and Violence Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
James explains to the reader that he and Ebere had briefly returned to Nsukka in 1970,... (full context)
Stories and Representation  Theme Icon
Colonialism and Violence Theme Icon
...remained politically active in support of Biafra in Europe and organized a number of rallies. James thinks that this speech sounds like one Ikenna has given to many people. (full context)
Family and Lies Theme Icon
Colonialism and Violence Theme Icon
Ikenna asks about a poet and professor who died in the war. James confirms that he died, but says that he was brave enough to fight. James hopes... (full context)
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Stories and Representation  Theme Icon
Family and Lies Theme Icon
James asks how life is in Sweden, and Ikenna answers that he retired the year before... (full context)
Family and Lies Theme Icon
Colonialism and Violence Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
James wishes he could tell his daughter that Ebere visits, but thinks that if he does,... (full context)
Stories and Representation  Theme Icon
Family and Lies Theme Icon
Colonialism and Violence Theme Icon
...the university’s Staff Club is like an empty shell of what it once was, and James says that none of the professors are teaching and that the university has turned into... (full context)
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Colonialism and Violence Theme Icon
Ikenna adds that he was just reading about "fake drugs," which James explains to the reader is the practice of selling expired medicine. James is suspicious of... (full context)
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James tells Ikenna that he's resting, and he tells the reader about the friends he visits... (full context)
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James asks Ikenna to come back to his house. Ikenna vaguely agrees, but James knows he... (full context)
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Colonialism and Violence Theme Icon
James wonders why he never heard that Ikenna didn't die. He says that nobody ever talks... (full context)