Americanah Major Character Analysis

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Americanah

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Americanah Major Character Analysis

Ifemelu

Ifemelu is the novel’s main protagonist. Nigerian-born, she travels to America for college, founds a well-respected blog on race relations, receives a prestigious fellowship at Princeton, and then returns to Nigeria to begin again.

One of Ifemelu’s defining characteristics is her outspokenness. Even as a child, she was “surly” (55) and as a teenager, is unable to keep silent when a thought enters her head. She tells people plainly what she thinks of them, be it sanctimonious women at her church, Aunty Uju, or Obinze. When she first meets Obinze, he tells her that, “‘You looked like the kind of person who will do something because you want to, and not because everyone else is doing it” (73).  Ifemelu deeply values independence and her personal success, and is horrified each time Uju uproots her life for a man.

As seen in each of Ifemelu’s romantic relationships, she possesses certain self-destructive tendencies and feelings of restlessness. She destroys her relationship with Obinze by cutting off all contact, ashamed of her own sexual exploitation. She cheats on Curt with a man she does not even like. She abandons Blaine at a time he needs her, and later breaks up with him to return to Nigeria, alone. “‘Why?’” (8) Blaine asks her, and Ifemelu seems annoyed that he would demand a reason. She has no reason to give. “‘t some level you don’t think you deserve happiness’” (357), Ginika tells her.

Ifemelu is a keen observer of life, noting the differences between America and Nigeria, between Curt and Blaine, between African immigrants and native-born black Americans. She channels these insights into her popular race blog and finds that others appreciate her thoughts. Her insights are biting and honest, as she is, and her inability to hide behind euphemism and political correctness is refreshing to her readers. However, the dark side of Ifemelu’s honest insight is a corrosive tendency towards judgment. Throughout the novel, Ifemelu surveys the world and finds the vast majority wanting. Curt is too optimistic, Blaine too concerned with academia. One white woman says offensive things; another white woman is offensive for apologizing…

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