Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

You are here

Third Update

hsymonds's picture

My biggest accomplishment on this project since last Tuesday is that I have listened to/read the resources that Anne recommended to me. It is interesting to consider Adichie's take on feminism in relation to her novel Americanah, which is often very feminist but which also frustrated me at times by focusing so much on Ifemelu's interactions with men. Thus, I was a little surprised that Adichie criticized Beyonce for her own focus on men. This has certainly provided some insight into the book, but I am not sure how much will make it into my paper.

Unfortunately, I do not yet have an outline, but I will work on that Wednesday and Thursday. I have (I think, maybe) decided on a more specific topic for my essay. I would like to examine Americanah as a sort of myth or fairy tale, and discuss how it uses that structure to critique the myths surrounding Africa, America, immigration, and race. Much of this will probably relate to Ifemelu's position as both the main character in the story and an observer outside of the story and outside of the cultures in which she lives, which enables her to analyze them from a distance--or at least, this seems to be how she imagines herself. Even as I write this, I'm not sure that I quite agree with what I'm saying; I do mean to say something along those lines, but I don't yet know how to articulate it. I think I'll also talk about Dike as a character growing up between two cultures, and trying to figure out where he belongs in each one. In a previous post I had talked about Ifemelu and Aunty Uju and their relationships with men; in a reading of the book as a fairy tale, this could be seen as a search for a "prince charming," which strikes me as an especially helpful way to look at Obinze.

I had talked about bringing in a text from my French class; I believe the most relevant ones would be Le Ventre de l'Atlantique and L'Enigme du retour. Both involve an expatriate who returns to the country where they were born. In the first one, the expatriate is a woman who, similar to Ifemelu, knows a lot more about the other characters than one would expect her to in real life. Both novels confront the struggles of living in exile and the struggles of returning "home" and trying to decide where home is.

As I said, I will develop something resembling an outline by Thursday, and I will write a first draft this weekend, with the goal of finishing the final draft by Wednesday.


Anne Dalke's picture

so we can talk more about this when we meet tomorrow morning, but i'm quite intrigued by the notion of your reading Americanah as a fairy tale, esp. as one that replies archetypal patterns of male-female relationships.

how much do you know about fairy tale motifs? are you familiar, for example, with Bruno Bettelheim's "Reflections: The Uses of Enchantment." The New Yorker (December 8, 1975): 50-114. or do you have another analysis of how fairy tales work in mind, to draw from and build on in your analysis of how Americanah is operating?

looking forward to hearing more!