“A Private Experience” is a short story by Adichie from The Thing Around Your Neck, which tackles the overarching concept of restriction due to societal standards, gender roles, and representations. This short story focuses on representations and is about a Christian and Muslim woman forming a bond in midst of a riot between their religions. I’ll be focusing on pages 43 to 44 when the two characters first meet.

“I’m a Human Being” is a political cartoon by Liza Donnelly, who often deals with political and cultural themes. This cartoon deals with race and violence, illustrating a black citizen and a white police officer both at gunpoint and thinking how they are just human beings.

I’ll be looking at how personal perceptions are the cause of conflict between different ethnoreligious groups.

 

1. Beginning with the short story, Adichie characterizes contrasting figures to create a sense of division beyond having different religious labels. She does this by illustrating their socioeconomic status.

  • Chika, the Christian women, “dropped the oranges and my handbag […] the handbag was Burberry, an original one that her mother had bought on a recent trip to London” (43)
  • Unnamed Muslim women “lost her necklace” and Chika imagines it being “plastic beads threaded on a piece of string” (43).
    • Judgment of others based on own perceptions is already established, even though Chika only just met the women. She assumes the Muslim woman is of a lower socioeconomic status than herself, as the woman wears plastic bead necklaces, while she carries original designer handbags. This subjective belief prompts readers to assume that Chika came to such a conclusion under the influence of society, parallel to how societal beliefs and the media are such profound forces of influence in the contemporary world.

2. Other than socioeconomic status, the contrast in face structure and attire furthers this divide.

  • Chika can tell the women’s a Northerner from “the narrowness of her face, the unfamiliar rise of her cheekbones” and “the long, flimsy pink and black scarf, with the garish prettiness of cheap things” (44).
    • The adjective “unfamiliar” is important because it reveals how Chika, and presumably, many others, are not knowledgeable of other cultures. This explains why Chika so blatantly believed the women are not wealthy, perhaps a stereotype obtained from the media.
    • In the following quote, “garish prettiness” is an oxymoron, where “garish” has a negative connotation as opposed to pretty. The oxymoron fuels the religious divide and the irony of two dichotomic characters being able to find common ground.

3. Despite religious, physical, and surface-level differences, Chika and the unnamed women were able to form a deeper bond.

  • Exchanges like “thank you for calling me” and “this place safe”, create a sense of trust and alliance between the two characters.
  • But “As [Chika] and the women are speaking, Hausa Muslims are hacking down Igbo Christians with machetes, clubbing them with stones” (43).
    • The diction “machetes” reflects how undeveloped the society is. Likewise, “clubbing them with stones” allude to stoning from ancient times. Both illustrating a barbaric scene.
    • The juxtaposition between peaceful vs violence demonstrates how peaceful interaction is still possible between conflicting religions. As shown by the women telling Chika “this place safe,” reveals religion is not the issue, but rather tainted and biased perceptions from ignorance are what sparks conflict and violence.

So, the unraveling riot between Christians and Muslims suggests how society views differences in socioeconomic status, appearances, and religion are reasons to start a conflict. But through Chika and the unnamed character’s bond, Adichie highlights how they are women, human, and equals.

 

My non-literary text is the political cartoon, “I’m a human being.” This is an example of conflict between different ethnicities.

  1. Beginning with the illustration, Donnelly uses racial representations for contrast.
  • To first show racial differences, Donnelly colors one figure dark-skinned with a round nose and the other light-skinned with a pointed nose. Additionally, their attire contrasts. On the left is a black civilian, as he’s wearing casual clothes like jeans and a crewneck. While on the right, is a white police officer, dressed in full uniform with an armed belt and hat.
    • Together, they represent race and racial roles in society that are parallel to perceptions of colored people being inferior to their white counterparts, and white supremacy. Donnelly uses stark contrast to show polarity and how the perception of being different is enough reason to start a conflict.
    • Looking at their body language, they mirror each other’s rigid stance, as they point their guns at each other, illustrating the aforementioned conflict.
  1. Moving onto the thought bubble, the text contradicts to the captured image, as the two figures are portrayed as similar rather than different.
  • “I’m a human being” is a simple sentence and has a clear message. The exclamation point transforms this otherwise monotonous sentence into a plea, almost a cry for mercy in an accusatory tone.
    • It’s hypocritical since both figures direct their guns towards the other. It reveals selfishness but also their acknowledgment that shooting someone is inhumane.
  • With the text being internal dialogue and the faces carrying no emotions, we know the figures are unaware of what the other is thinking.
  • This reveals to readers how Donnelly is directing the message towards her audience, communicating that we are all human. And us being human makes us equals, despite societal and surface-level perceptions of us being different.
  1. The background is the white background which creates an imbalance in graphic weight and an emptiness.
  • The figures become the focal point, as they are placed in the foreground, and the only visual elements that are colored
  • Conversely, the background is blank. The setting is ambiguous and vague, demonstrating how there’s no tangible evidence and valid reason for violence. The conflict is all in the figures’ head, a personal perception, and a belief shaped by society.

In conclusion, whether they are opinions formed based on religion and socioeconomic status as seen in “A Private Experience,” or beliefs determined by the color of your skin and the status you hold, seen in “I’m Being a Human,” they are just labels created by society and personal perceptions, made to cause conflict. Through both works, Adichie and Donnelly tackle the shared humanity concept, revealing how we should not see others as individuals or members of various groups, but simply as human beings.