Ideas of Feminism Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Novels
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie born on 15 September 1977) is a Nigerian novelist, writer of short stories and nonfiction. In this essay I am going to deeply investigate how are women represented in a particular way in six of Chimamanda Adichie’s short stories and why this is essential for the stories.
In these stories, we see women both in the United States and in Nigeria portrayed similarly and we can identify patterns in the actions of this social group. Many of the stories in The Thing Around Your Neck focus on fraught relationships between men and women. Precisely, Adichie scrutinizes the roles that women occupy within their birth families and in their romantic relationships.
It is interesting to note that this book was published and written between 2003-2009, and as a reader it is shocking to see how Adichie portrays the role of women in the Nigerian culture which is a totally different thing to what we live. As I read the short stories I could not even imagine how would women be represented that way in my own culture, it got me thinking how is there still an extremely retrograde thought in a society that is not that far away from my reality.
This stories occupy the literary period of the contemporary African diaspora, “The American Embassy” is always a good example to approach when referring to the African exodus. This short story talks about a Nigerian woman living in Lagos (city of Nigeria) who is at the American embassy and wants to move to the U. S. His husband had already left because he was being chased down by General Abacha due to his political opinion. This story’s setting is all in the American embassy in Lagos.
At one point of the story, when the unnamed narrator is at the line to get the american visa, the man behind her tells her that asylum visas are hard to obtain. She asks him if he reads The New Nigeria. He does, and he praises the bravery of the editors. The narrator thinks that the editors are selfish, not brave, and remembers her husband skipping a family trip to conduct an important interview. When they returned from their respective trips, they spoke to each other only about Ugonna, which is most of what they talked about anyway.
The narrator describes a family dynamic in which while her husband cares only for his work and she puts a great deal of importance on the family itself; this also impacts even more on her about the death of her son. While there’s no indication that her husband is cheating, this dynamic echoes the other marriages described in the book. Though the narrator finds comfort and a sense of identity in motherhood and her marriage, they don’t necessarily make her happy.
A lot of people may say that this would be a “classical” family in where the man works and the women takes care of the children. Nevertheless, in my opinion, making this a stereotypical image is just wrong since you are repressing the women and obligating them not to work in a way. Also, in these particular cases like in this family, the parents work and still do not give as much of importance to their kids and even less to their wives. Additionally, it is interesting to observe how at starters every women actually accept this as if it would be fine since they are so immersed in the culture, they just want to follow things as they are for them not to look ungrateful. However, further on in this essay I will explore this argument more in depth.
Likewise, another good example to show clear evidence of the inferior role of women in relationships is in “The Arrangers of Marriage”. This short story, as indicated in the title, focuses on how the marriages were chosen for women and narrates one specific case of this.
The text talks about this woman, Chinaza, who’s aunt and uncle arrange her marriage to Ofodile, a doctor in the U.S. At one given moment of the story, when it snows for the first time, Chinaza stays home all day and watches it fall. When Ofodile comes home that night, she asks about her work permit and he slowly explains that he married a woman to get his green card, and the woman is now ‘making trouble.’ Chinaza is shocked to hear that Ofodile was married, but he says it’s just what people do in America. Chinaza insists that she had the right to know before they got married. Ofodile’s admission raises the question of whether China’s aunt and uncle knew about his American marriage when they arranged Chinaza’s marriage. Ofodile asserts his power by refusing to acknowledge that he’s betrayed his wife’s trust.
Ofodile asks why it matters, and says that Chinaza wouldn’t say no to her aunt and uncle, who arranged the marriage.
After this, Chinaza asks Ofodile why did he marry her, to what he answers that he wanted a Nigerian wife and thought she was a virgin. He thought her light skin would help his children, since lighter black people are treated better in America.
This suggests more than anything that he views Chinaza as an object to show off and something that will benefit him alone. Moreover, it is interesting how Ofodile wants to become fully American, probably to be more accepted in the society. In consequence to this, he makes Chinaza act American, even when he made her cook, he bought her a book about American food while the only thing she wanted to was to connect herself to Nigeria and to her past culture, however sadly, she was with a man that wanted exactly the opposite and he had more power in the relationship. These are the things that make Adichie´s literature strikingly powerful to the reader. For instance, when Chinaza says “hello” to him in Igbo and he suppresses her to say it in english.
Despite that I have approached to the “why?” part all throughout the essay, I just wanted to clarify the argument I briefly discussed about how women accepted that they were inferior to men in relationships. Actually, why I think Chimamanda portrays this social group in a particular way, apart from her writing style and her particular tone in her stories stories, is for women to read and feel they can act about this patriarchal attitude of men in relationships and actually do something to change it. And my explanation for this is that most of the short stories follow this pattern: the women narration reveals so little about the protagonists inner lives that we begin to feel even a little uncomfortably (like not asking for her opinion or not even naming her name once in all the story); nonetheless, in the majority of the stories women finally reveal their true identity by confronting that stereotypical men who is present in most cases. Like Nia, Chinaza’s neighbour, who finally convinces Chinaza that she should leave Ofodile, while it probably did not even cross Chinaza’s mind because that would simply not be accepted by society.
So, I can safely conclude that Adichie’s feminist posture is well represented giving amazing and extremely valid arguments through beautiful short stories.
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