Themes

Americanization

Americanization is one of the biggest themes in Americanah. In the context of the novel, America itself is a symbol of hope, wealth, social and economic mobility, and, ultimately, disappointment, as Ifemelu learns that the American Dream is a lie and that the advantages she enjoys there often come at a great price. Her Americanization is slow but distinct, and she gradually picks up the slang, adapts to her surroundings (for better or worse), and adopts American politics. Her views on gender and race change because of this, and her blog is devoted to exploring the issue of race as a non-American black in America. She's called Americanah when she returns to Nigeria, having picked up a blunt, American way of speaking and of addressing problems. She resists this label, but it's obvious to the reader that Ifemelu's years in America have changed her.

Education

Education is an important theme in the novel. It dictates where and when characters move and shapes their futures in unexpected ways. Obinze and Ifemelu, for instance, apply to Nsukka University after his mother falls ill, but frequent strikes on the part of Nsukka University's professors lead Ifemelu to leave Nigeria and pursue her education in America, where crushing student loans cause her to take a "job" with an unpleasant tennis coach who pays her for sex. Ifemelu's relationship with the American education system is complicated, because it both subjects her to moments of racism and prejudice and enables her to pursue a career as a blogger (her fellowship at Princeton is a great example of this). In the end, a good education isn't always enough, as evidenced by Obinze's failure to get a visa. The novel makes it clear that luck and chance sometimes play as big a role in life as education.

Family

Americanah's main characters are all devoted to their families. Ifemelu has a difficult childhood, and as a result she grows closer to Aunty Uju than to her mother and father. Obinze, meanwhile, is raised by a single working mother and later goes on to marry and become a father. In each of these families, the parents raise their children on their own, accepting little help from others. In contrast, Kimberly's family in America relies on Ifemelu as a nanny, and Kimberly herself has less of a hand in the day to day lives of her children. That isn't to say that any of these family structures is better than the others, however. Each family is complicated in its own way. Obinze's marriage, for instance, is merely...

(The entire section is 998 words.)