For tonight’s reading assignment, I’m going to live-blog my reactions as I read Chapter 3, and I’ll add more detailed ~analysis~ at the end. The time is now 8:00 and I just finished my Spongebob mac and cheese, so let’s get started.
8:07 PM: Aisha says, “They want marry me. But I am not Igbo!,” and Ifemelu comments, “Aisha’s eyes glittered; the woman had to be a little mentally unstable” (Adichie 48). Aisha is clearly dragging her boyfriend down to the shop and insisting that the only reason he won’t marry her is because she’s not Igbo as some sort of weird denial defense mechanism. She insists she is African, not American, but as discussed in the previous post, is trying to act as if she was American. I think Aisha is experiencing some culture shock and having difficulty figuring out who she is and who she wants to be, and possibly feels stuck in between African and American society while not really belonging in either.
8:15 PM: I feel like Ifemelu’s mother’s experience with religion mimics the kind of identity confusion that Ifemelu observed with African women in America in chapter one and also the class differences and isolation felt by Obinze in chapter two. She feels stuck in between religions, jumping around too quickly, as the hairdressers were stuck between African and American cultures and Obinze feels like an outsider in his social and economic class.
8:18 PM: But I also feel that when Ifemelu’s mother settles down in the rich people’s church, she is contradicting Obinze’s rhetoric on class division and almost having an opposite experience to Obinze: she feels like she belongs in a class she is not a part of and Obinze feels like he does not belong in a class that he is a part of.
8:28 PM: This chapter has some contradicting aspects of Nigerian gender roles. For instance, on page 61, Sister Ibinabo shames a girl in Ifemelu’s Sunday class for wearing tight pants the week before. She says, “Everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial. Any girl that wears tight trousers wants to commit the sin of temptation. It is best to avoid it.” This passage clearly demonstrates a patriarchal lean in the society and alludes to dress code controversies occurring today; the main argument being that is not a girl’s job to hide her legs and shoulders, but a boy’s to control himself. Aunty Uju acts as another example of male dominance. She dreamt of becoming a doctor but seemingly has had to put herself in an abusive, or at least unwilling, relationship with The General to do so. This is not directly stated in the novel but Uju approaches The General about a job position and he tells her, “I like you. I want to take care of you,” and buys her a house and car (56). Ifemelu’s mother seems distressed about Uju’s situation and is clearly concerned for her. However, despite both of these instances demonstrating male dominance, Ifemelu’s father loses his job after refusing to call his new female boss “Mummy.” This alludes that women in Nigeria can be successful on their own and hold authority over male employees.
8:57 PM: It’s interesting how Uju takes an almost paternal role for Ifemelu in childhood (or what would be considered paternal in American society—involved, supportive, and emotional), mediating between Ifemelu and her mother. Ifemelu’s father remains more distant and provides for the family, another example of the differing male roles in American and Nigerian society.
This chapter’s focus on gender and sexism can be seen as an extension of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and its statements on the inferiority of women in Nigerian society in the time period (published in 1958, set in early European colonization around 1900). One man would hold many wives and women were confined to the household, largely cooking, cleaning, raising children, and otherwise catering to men. Adichie in Americanah insinuates that some of this patriarchy is perpetuated—Ifemelu’s mother says she wishes Ifemelu was a boy so that her troublemaking would be more accepted, as well as in the instances listed above—but also that some of it has dissipated. Women are allowed opportunities they would only have dreamed of years earlier. Uju is a good example of how these two points meet: she is successful in her medical career but only through dependence on a man. Her narrative concerns me as to what Ifemelu’s life will be like once she returns to Nigeria; will she be able to make it on her own or will she need to rely on a man?