An Analysis for “The Thing Around Your Neck”

The most prominent device used in “The Thing Around Your Neck” would be contrast. This was portrayed through the narrator and her boyfriend Juan as Juan displays immense interest in African poetry. However, the narrator asserts that “white people who liked Africa too much and those who liked Africa too little were the same – condescending”. As emphasized previously in the text, the narrator was brought up in Africa. These characters represent people from the African and the Western culture, so the underlying difference between the African and Western perspectives are thus highlighted. These differing perspectives insinuate possible misconceptions individuals obtain when unfamiliarity of cultures exist. While Juan may be genuinely attracted to African poetry, the narrator perceives such interest as offensive to her culture, displayed through the adjective “condescending”. A possible approach to cultural assimilation is perceived as an offense to racial equality. This eventually distorts one’s perception of self-identity and leads to the conformity to cultural stereotypes.

This is further enhanced through the means of allusion: “asking you out with him because your name rhymed with hakuna matata and The Lion King was the only maudlin movie he’d ever liked.” Adichie alludes to The Lion King, which was ironically produced through an American institute – Disney. Again, the differences between cultures are stressed and the apprehension towards the unfamiliar culture is displayed in the quote: “You didn’t know what The Lion King was”. Additionally, the use of the second person pronoun suggests the loss of identity of the narrator that occurred as a result of the distortion of self-identity forced upon her. Through this allusion, Adichie accentuates possible misconceptions people obtain towards another culture as a result of widespread stereotypes generated by Westerners.

Instances of symbolism are also presented in the text such as the extra-virgin olive oil: “His eyes were the color of extra-virgin olive oil, a greenish gold. Extra-virgin olive oil was the only thing you loved, you truly loved, in America.” Olive oils can be interpreted as an underlying symbol in Christianity that represent authority and glory. However, such authority and glory are concealed through Juan’s extra-virgin eyes. Another illustration of symbolism would be the figure of professor Cobbledick. The professor is portrayed as an ignorant, racially exclusive adult, who “didn’t have the expression of a person who thought himself better than the people knew about”. These authorial choices convey how misconceptions occur in both directions, towards both cultures, meaning conformity is also present  in both cultures. Similar misconceptions that misshape perceptions of identity is also seen in Donnelly’s cartoon, but with a focus on genders instead.

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