One of the things I appreciate most about The Thing Around Your Neck is that it provides insight into the lives of Nigerians outside of Nigeria. All of the other novels we have read this year focus on the effects that outside forces have on Nigerians. These things have been everything from colonialism and globalization, to the spread of religion or culture clashes between ethnic groups. What makes The Thing Around Your Neck so compelling in light of the other literature we have read this semester, is the fact that we are exposed to characters who have uprooted from their homes in Nigeria and are trying to live in the West. We see this scenario in “Imitation,” “On Monday of Last Week,” “The Thing Around Your Neck,” “The Shivering,” and even – to an extent – in “Jumping Monkey Hill.”
By taking the characters out of Nigeria the question of identity is further complicated. In every novel we’ve read this summer characters struggle with the question of identity. Among others we’ve seen Olanna struggle with the constraints of her class, Elvis and Okonkwo with their “manhood,” and Bolanle with concept of self-worth. What I found interesting about the characters who have been moved outside of Nigeria in The Thing Around Your Neck is that they all seem to identify more with their “Nigerian-ness” through facing the extreme cultural differences of the west. This isn’t to say that the characters, necessarily, rebel against Western society, but instead that they can be seen clinging to their heritage more than they would perhaps do if they were still living in Nigeria. It makes me think of a concept we discussed in another one of my classes – the best way of creating communal cooperation is providing a common enemy. I think in Adichie’s stories we see Western culture serving the same purpose. Someone mentioned, last class, that its ironic that having listened to “The Danger of the Single Story,” the Americans in The Thing Around Your Neck are presented in one way. Though I agree with this statement, I think that the reason this is done is so that Adichie can paint these various pictures of Nigerians. The Americans are the “common enemy” of sorts that allows for the multiple stories of the Nigerians to be contrasted against.