Review of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's The Thing Around Your Neck

Updated on February 11, 2018
Asteriaa profile image

Working towards a Bachelor of Arts, Asteriaa writes articles on modern history, art theory, religion, mythology, and analyses of texts.

Source

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie,

The Thing Around Your Neck

4th Estate

ISBN: 9780007305988

$9.99/ 300 pages in print/ eBook

Winner of the MacArthur "genius grant", Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian fictional writer who is renowned for commenting on the immigration, relationship, and religious and political struggles of Nigerian people. Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun, The Thing Around Your Neck, and Americanah fearlessly commented on controversial topics such as General Abacha’s government (1993-1998), the Biafran war (1967-1970), and the Christian-Muslim violence in Nigeria. Her exploration of Nigerian lives serves as an excellent example for creative writers who want to write compelling short stories.

Source

The Thing Around Your Neck lives up to Adichie’s reputation by mixing genres such as fiction, romance and Bildungsroman to create twelve gripping short stories set in the nineteenth century to modern day Nigeria, and the United States. Styles utilised include third-person, first-person, and second-person narration in past, present, and future tenses. The Thing Around Your Neck predominately revolves around Nigerian women who struggle with their relationships, religious and political violence and adjusting t the Western culture.

‘A Private Experience’ follows Chika who hides from a riot in a house with a pregnant Hausa Muslim woman. While the present shows Chika calmly chatting and medically examining the woman, the narrator uses future tense to capture the violence outside, “later, Chika will learn that, as she and the woman are speaking, Hausa Muslims are hacking down Igbo Christians with machetes, clubbing them with stones” (Adichie 2016, p. 62). This story is an open window into the political and religious conflicts between Igbo Christians and Hausa Muslims in Nigeria.

Imitation follows Nkem, who moved to a suburb near Philadelphia years before after marrying a rich man. Now, Nkem not only finds out about her husband’s mistress, she realises he moved her into her old house in Lagos. Following the erosion of a long-distance relationship, the story explores the pressures of immigration, unfulfillment of marriage and follows the reclamation of Nkem’s cultural identity.

The Thing Around Your Neck short story uses second-person narration to place the reader in the shoes of a struggling immigrant. After winning the American visa lottery, Akunna moves in with her uncle in America in search of the American dream, “…they told you: In a month, you will have a big car. Soon, a big house” (Adichie 2016, p. 157). Instead, she ends up facing sexual harassment, poverty, loneliness, and exploitation in the workplace.

Adichie on the cover of Ms. Magazine in 2014

Although this is the first time I had read her work, it is clear why Adichie was awarded multiple awards for her previous books. Her ability to capture the lives of Nigerians culturally-shocks readers who are unaware of the issues they face. Instances of cheating, violence, racism, death, political strife, sexual harassment, police brutality, and poverty are normalised in the protagonists’ world to effectively shock the audience. This, along with her stylistic choices and characterisation, demonstrates why her book should be read by short story writers.

For example, the juggle between the present and future tense evocatively comments on the political conflict A Private Experience. Adichie points out the hypocrisy of the Igbo Christian and Hausa Muslim conflict by contrasting the violence with the characters’ bonding moment, “…she will see other bodies, many burned… it will strike her that she cannot tell if the partially burned man is Igbo or Hausa” (Adichie 2016, p. 74). By providing information characters do not know in the present, such as how Chika will never find her sister again, Adichie shows how a writer can torment readers with foresight.

Adichie insightfully comments on the political climate of Nigeria, “explaining that riots do not happen in a vacuum, that religion and ethnicity are often politicised because the ruler is safe if the hungry ruled are killing one another” (Adichie 2016, p. 67). Instead of this conflict being resolved, it is presented as another moment for news outlets to exploit,

Later, Chika will read in the Guardian that "the reactionary Hausa-speaking Muslims in the North have a history of violence against non-Muslims", and in the middle of her grief, she will stop to remember that she examined the nipples and experienced the gentleness of a woman who is Hausa and Muslim

— Adichie 2016, p. 75

Adichie’s showcases how creative writers can keep the audience from reaching a cathartic release by leaving conflicts unresolved. This style evocatively engages the reader and leaves them with discomfort that forces them to sympathise with the injustice Nigerians deal with.

Adichie’s ability to put her experiences into her stories brings an undeniable sense of realism and authenticity to her characters. Being an immigrant herself, Adichie uses her experiences to put the reader into the shoes of a struggling immigrant in The Things Around Your Neck. She then successfully spotlights the struggles of immigrants by contrasting the expectation of Western society with reality. Thus, her book is an excellent example of how writers can use personal experiences to explore themes and create multidimensional characters readers will empathise with.

The danger of a single story | Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Her ability to portray character development through symbolism is also a commendable strength in The Thing Around Your Neck. The symbolism of hair in Imitation demonstrates how Nkem conformed to Western beauty standards for her husband by cutting it the way he likes, “long hair is more graceful on a Big Man’s (rich man’s) wife” (Adichie 2016, p. 57). Nkem regains control over her identity by cutting her hair the way she likes and deciding to move back to Lagos. The disappointment of Nkem’s relationship becomes a moment of Bildungsroman. The way symbolism illustrates Nkem’s transformation into an independent woman portrays how short story writers can develop their characters.

In summation, the way Adichie fearlessly exposes the audience to the struggles of Nigerians in a raw and evocative manner serves as an example for how creative writers can write gripping short stories. For these reasons, I give this book a 4.5 out of 5 stars.


First-time critical reviewer, Simran Singh is a student at Griffith University studying towards a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Creative Writing.

Chimamanda Adichie: Beauty Does Not Solve Problems

Reference List

Adichie, Chimamanda 2003, Purple Hibiscus, Harper Perennia, New York.

Adichie, Chimamanda 2006, Half of a Yellow Sun, Knopf, New York.

Adichie, Chimamanda 2013, Americanah, Knopf, New York.

Adichie, Chimamanda 2016, The Thing Around Your Neck, 4th Estate, London. eBook version, retrieved 16 January 2018, from iBooks.

Irvine, Lindesay 2008, Adichie wins a $500,000 'genius grant', The Guardian, London, viewed 18 January 2018, <https://www.theguardian.com/books/2008/sep/24/fiction.awardsandprizes>

Narayan, Andreena 2010, Christian-Muslim violence in Nigeria warrants probe, rights group says, CNN, Downtown Atlanta, Georgia, viewed 18 January 2018, <http://edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/africa/01/23/nigeria.massacre.probe/index.html>

Shariatmadari, David 2012, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: religious leaders must help end Nigeria violence, The Guardian, London, viewed 18 January 2018, <https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/jan/13/chimamanda-ngozi-adichie-nigeria-leaders>

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://owlcation.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)