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Character development in Americanah


In Americanah, characters such as Ifemelu and Obinze undergo significant development. Ifemelu evolves from a young Nigerian immigrant into a confident blogger who critiques American society, while Obinze's experiences in the UK and Nigeria shape his perspectives on identity and success. Their journeys highlight themes of race, immigration, and the search for belonging.

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How does Ifemelu evolve as a dynamic character in Americanah?

In very simple terms, a dynamic character is one that changes over the course of a novel or play. Often such change is quite significant and forces the relevant character to look at the world in a completely different way.

Using this definition, Ifemelu in Americanah is certainly a dynamic character. She goes from being someone determined to take a shot at the American Dream to becoming completely cynical about it. Over time, she comes to believe that the American Dream is nothing more than a lie, a belief that she expresses in her blog dealing with issues of race in the United States.

Originally, Ifemelu had attended a college in Pennsylvania in the hope of making it in America. But due to her many negative experiences of being a non-American Black woman—breaking up with a racially insensitive white American man, being paid by a sleazy tennis coach to have sex with him, the almost impossible demands placed upon her at college—she's come to believe that the American Dream is nothing more than a sham.

Even so, it's quite a long time before Ifemelu becomes so thoroughly disillusioned with life in the United States that she packs up and leaves for Nigeria. But when she does eventually decide to go, it's a reflection of the enormous internal changes that have come upon her during her time in America.

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How do Ifemelu, Obinze, and Aunty Uju develop as characters in Americanah?

The quality that unites these three Adichie characters might best be defined as "grit." Each of these characters is singular in their talent, idealism, and hope. They all have talents, such as writing or medicine, and are able to maintain momentum and motivation even though they are all brought incredibly low at varying points in Americanah.

Aunty Uju has much to offer and continues to push forward despite not being sufficiently valued in either Nigeria or America. She uses the financial security of depending on powerful men to protect herself and her son. It is not surprising that she is a character who is most constant in Ifemelu's life.

Obinze is also nearly destroyed by his time in England, as his hopes and dignity undergo incredible abuse. Rather than living the life he dreamed of, he is forced to clean toilets and to live as a disrespected immigrant, where his intelligence and gentleness have no value. Similarly, due to poverty, Ifemelu is brought low in Philadelphia and is almost forced into taking up sex work. She is forced to confront her blackness, and therefore her perceived inferiority, in America. From this assault on her dignity as a unique human, she constructs a successful blog that brings her closer to her initial ambitions and, ultimately, back to Obinze and Nigeria.

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