Americanah Summary and Analysis of Parts 5 - 7


In Part 5, the shortest part at roughly ten pages long, the narration skips back to Obinze while he awaited an email reply from Ifemelu. She emailed him back four days later but was vague about her plans and feelings regarding moving back to Nigeria. After looking up Blaine and Ifemelu online for a while, he wrote Ifemelu a long email about the death of his mother. He was still grieving deeply from the loss of his mother, and reflected with dark humor about a fight that broke out at her funeral over the caterers stealing some meat. Ifemelu replied just an hour later, writing that she was crying, giving him a few more details about her time with Aunty Uju and Dike in a difficult situation, and calling him Ceiling once again. He emailed her back, happy to think of his mother through her eyes and curious as to whether she would come back Americanized in the ways he had seen recently. He sent her a reply that ended with "It's strange how I have felt, with every major event that has occurred in my life, that you were the only person who would understand" (460), which he regretted later and even considered sending another email to apologize for. He began to write to her about his time in England, using it as a way to reflect as well, and after a while she responded with a note about Dike's suicide attempt and also said she intended to postpone her return home.

Obinze thought about this email in the car on his way to visit a nursery school with Kosi to decide where their daughter would go. They met up with one of Kosi's friends whose son went there, a woman named Isioma who criticized the school's lack of rigor in its mathematics curriculum and their Western portrayal of Christmas in a school play. Twice, Kosi noticed that Obinze's mind was elsewhere. Back at home, Obinze read through all the archives of Ifemelu's blog, focusing especially on the posts that referenced her romantic partners.

Part 6 returns to Ifemelu at Aunty Uju's house. She slept on the floor of Dike's room for the first few nights, thinking obsessively of him taking the pills while trying to interact with him normally during the days. She mentioned to Aunty Uju that she thought her refusal to classify him as either African or black gave him a troubled sense of identity, which Aunty Uju pushed back on, saying "His suicide attempt was from depression... It's a clinical disease. Many teenagers suffer from it" (470). As weeks passed, Ifemelu passed from total guilt and fear into acceptance that Dike might want to spend time with his friends or would be okay for a few minutes in the bathroom alone. She asked him what he wanted for his birthday and took him to Miami at his suggestion. As they laid by the pool, she looked at the hair on Dike’s chest and thought sadly about his transformation into an adult. He told her that she should go to Nigeria and she suggested that he visit her there.

Part 7 opens at the moment Ifemelu arrived back in Lagos, Nigeria. She was “assaulted” (475) by sights, sounds, smells, and differences - from everyone having a cell phone to her brain simply having adjusted to some American ways of speech and life. Her friend Ranyinudo picked her up from the airport wearing a bridesmaid’s dress because she had come straight from a wedding. She told Ifemelu that she also met a man at the wedding ceremony when the bridesmaids were made to wait outside during mass because of their dresses’ indecency. Ranyinudo lived in a fairly small apartment and Ifemelu could barely hear her say that there had been no power for a week over the sound of many generators. They ate chicken stew and rice and drank malt while gossiping about old friends. Ifemelu thought that if she hadn’t left Nigeria, her life would probably have been a lot like Ranyinudo’s: a curvy body, a job at an advertising company, a one-bedroom flat, dating a man who could pay for her to travel. They talked a little more about Ranyinudo’s man, Don, and then turned off the generators to sleep, causing Ifemelu to comment on the humidity and Ranyinudo to poke fun at her for having become an “Americanah” (481).

Ifemelu applied for the job of features editor for the Nigerian magazine Zoe, lying on her resume that she had worked as a staff writer for a magazine before. The owner was a woman named Aunty Onenu who invited Ifemelu to her home and gave her the job. The woman was youthful-looking and Ifemelu found the home visit and Aunty Onenu's focus on her being American unprofessional. Ifemelu had a lot of ideas for improving the magazine, which Ranyinudo pointed out she was only able to voice because she came from America. Ranyinudo also called out Ifemelu's American nature in thinking the house was ugly and not noticing the huge, expensive generator that "a true Lagosian" (485) would have immediately focused on. She rented a small apartment in Ikoyi and paid two years of rent in advance. She soon had repairmen come to fix the problems with the air conditioning, paint, and tiles, yelling at the man laying her tiles poorly in a way she didn't think possible for her. She also spent a good deal of time with her parents in her childhood apartment. She told her friends that Blaine was coming to join her in Lagos soon and did not contact Obinze, biding her time. She visited with her friend Tochi who had become incredibly fat and Westernized. Another friend, Priye, had become "hardened" (491) and a successful wedding planner.

In Chapter 47, Ifemelu describes her coworkers at Zoe. Esther, the receptionist, wore neat, second-hand clothes, invited everyone to her church, and added a "ma" (494) in her speech to Ifemelu to signify respect. Doris was the other editor at Zoe who went to Temple University in the US, was a vegetarian, spoke with a "teenage American accent that made sentences sound like questions" (495), and tried to portray herself through dress and makeup as "original" (495). Zemaye was the final person working at the office, a "nubile" (497) woman who quarreled constantly with Doris, especially about the temperature of the room since Zemaye had lived in Nigeria her whole life and didn't approve of using the air conditioner to make the office so cold. Ifemelu sided with Zemaye in the argument, showing her allegiance, but later she and Doris laughed together at the way people from Nigeria speak English. Though Zemaye suggested it to be argumentative, Doris informed Ifemelu about a meeting of people who recently moved back to Nigeria from abroad called the "Nigerpolitan Club" (499). When Doris left, Zemaye asked Ifemelu about why she cared about race and why "only black people... are criminals over there" (500), an idea she got from watching American TV.

Ifemelu decided to attend a Nigerpolitan meeting, which was outside beside a pool at a house in Osborne Estate. The people were chic, drank champagne from paper cups, and talked about conferences and maintaining natural hair when even salons in Africa tried to convince people to relax it. They listed "things they missed about America" (502) and tried to be vegetarian in a country not built to accommodate their new, Western tastes. Finally, they started to discuss "Nollywood" (504), with Ifemelu standing up for Nollywood, and the night ended with a man named Fred asking Ifemelu out.

Ifemelu realized while laughing on a speedboat that she finally felt at home again in Nigeria. With this comfort, however, was a restlessness. At Zoe, she settled into her position interviewing society women and attending events. She talked to Ranyinudo, Priye, and Zemaye, met Don briefly in a strange encounter in which he hit on her, and continued thinking she saw Obinze everywhere but did not contact him. At work, Ifemelu tried to push boundaries by slipping criticism of the women she interviewed into her articles but Aunty Onenu and Doris did not approve. Ifemelu found out that Esther was taking medicine for typhoid, which Doris provided for her because she saw her looking sick, and Ifemelu felt guilty for not noticing herself. When Ifemelu found out that, on top of this, there were no names written on the bottles Esther had been provided by the hospital, she started to dream up a new blog about Nigeria. The girls also scolded Esther for too much fasting and tithing to her church, complaints Esther repeatedly accepted with a smile. The girls laughed about Esther's ideas about "what spirit [they each] have"; Zemaye said that Esther told her she had "the spirit of seductiveness" (515). They went back to work and as Ifemelu left the office after a fight with Doris, Esther told her that she has "the spirit of husband-repelling" (517).

Dike came to visit Ifemelu in Lagos "a day after she put up her blog and a week after she resigned" (519). Her first few posts were an article about Priye's wedding planning, a post guest-written by Zemaye about body language, and a piece about the Nigerpolitan Club. The comments on the blog were mixed but this controversy brought in more visitors. Ranyinudo got angry about Ifemelu alluding to her in a post and Ifemelu had to apologize for being judgmental; Ranyinudo told her that her problem was "emotional frustration" (522) and begged her to "Go and find Obinze, please" (522). However, Ifemelu protested that she needed to lose weight first. Dike helped Ifemelu moderate the comments on her blog and got used to life in Nigeria slowly, learning how to turn the generator on and meeting Ranyinudo's cousins. One day, he asked about his father and Ifemelu took him to the house at the Dolphin Estate. On the way home, she let him drive. Soon, though, she had to send him back to America. In her worry, a comment that Ranyinudo made about suicide as "very foreign behavior" got Ifemelu very angry and she vowed not to tell anyone else about it.

Ifemelu saw a man she thought was Obinze at the bank and this prompted her to finally call him. She told him she was about to buy a book and they met at the bookshop. They hugged, commented on one another's looks, and Obinze switched off both of his phones. Once they were served some juice, they began to talk about Nigeria and the things they had forgotten while abroad - mostly about the way that people deal with money. They also talked about the ways in which they have changed, speaking in a way that was both critical and kindly familiar. He told her that he finally fell out of love with America once he was able to pay the money for a visa to go. Eventually they parted, but as soon as they left Obinze texted Ifemelu about having lunch the next day.

He came to her house the next day and told her that he spent all morning reading her new blog. She showed him the house next door with the peacocks and Obinze talked about how even wealthy Nigerians don't want antique-looking things or houses like in the West since their money was not old enough. He told Ifemelu that it's "refreshing to have an intelligent person to talk to" which she took as a reference to his wife and disliked. He offered to be her investor, but she declined. He got a call and spoke angrily in Igbo for a while; when he came back, he told Ifemelu about how he paid the school fees for at least a hundred children from his village. When they went inside, they talked about books and then they started to kiss. Ifemelu told him that she didn't have condoms and, though he responded playfully, he suddenly turned serious and asked her about why she cut off contact with him. At the dining table, Ifemelu told him the story of the tennis coach. Finally, he told her that she must have felt really alone and that he wished she had told him. Ifemelu tried not to cry and held his hand on the table, feeling safe. They started to go around together, playing table tennis at a private club on Victoria Island, going out to restaurants, and holding off on sleeping together, though they kissed goodbye every time they parted. When Ifemelu tried to bring up sex in a casual, ironic way, taunting him about cheating, Obinze got upset enough to leave her house and when he returned, they talked some more and then had sex together. They laid together a long time until Ifemelu fell asleep; in the morning, Obinze called to talk to her and asked if he could come back to see her.

Obinze and Ifemelu get into a new rhythm together and Ifemelu felt as head-over-heels in love as a teenager. Sometimes, Obinze stayed the night, but they rarely talked about his wife or his life outside of her. One day, while making spaghetti, Obinze wouldn't stop talking about his life. He told Ifemelu that he loved her and wanted to give their relationship dignity. He asked her to travel to Abuja with him for the weekend, but later told her that he thought he should go alone to think about things. Ifemelu called him a "fucking coward" (557) and then went to her house and confronted him there, telling him to "go to hell" (558) and locking him out of the bedroom.

In Chapter 54, Obinze narrates from Abuja where he met with a man named Edusco and was hit on by a woman. He went back and forth mentally about whether it was the right decision not to take Ifemelu with him. Edusco and Obinze haggled over a price and eventually Obinze got tired and gave Edusco the price he wanted. Edusco left and Obinze remained, thinking about the times when Ifemelu had told him about life and relationships in America, and the way he has tried to grasp her life abroad and almost make himself a part of it. At the airport on the way back to Lagos, Obinze thought about buying a ticket and flying somewhere else, and while he was feeling disgusted at himself for the thought of running away from his problems, his wife called to remind him of an engagement they have that evening. After hanging up, Obinze thought about the way Kosi said "Darling, we'll have a boy next time" (565) as soon as their daughter Buchi was born, which he thought was awful but also something taught to her by society. He thought back to their meeting and the beginning of their relationship, the way they courted easily, quickly lived together, and then married, with Kosi getting beautifully fuller hips and breasts as she grew into her role as a wife and mother.

Obinze also mentioned the fact that he asked Nigel, his friend from work in London, to work for him as his "white General Manager" (566), a life change Nigel so much approved of that he moved to Nigeria. Nigel adjusted to Nigerian life and started dating a woman named Ulrike who worked at the embassy. At dinner with Kosi and Obinze, she sulked and behaved as if the restaurant was unclean, causing Obinze to get fed up and go to the bathroom to call Ifemelu, who still wasn't taking his calls. At home that night, Kosi got close to Obinze in bed and he mentioned that she had been telling him she wanted to start "trying for [a] son" (568). He told her he's feeling sick, but in his mind he compared sex with Kosi to sex with Ifemelu. The next morning, he made Kosi eggs, played with Buchi, and then went back to their room and told Kosi, "I'm not happy, Kosi. I love somebody else. I want a divorce." Kosi stopped him from saying more and sank to her knees, not in prayer but to beg him to stay. Kosi revealed that she had known about him and Ifemelu, but she guilted Obinze, telling him that he had a responsibility to his family and that he would ruin his daughter's life if he left. He retreated to his study, not talking to Kosi anymore, but the next day she acted like they would all be going to their friend's child's christening party as normal, so they did. Kosi had them wear matching clothes and instructed their daughter to "Hold Daddy's hand" (574). At the party, he was taken to a special room full of men drinking, eating, and talking about money. The men accused Obinze of silence, but others protested that Obinze was always quiet because he was "a gentleman" (579), repeating this term many times. They pressed him with questions about business, and he texted Ifemelu and then exited the room, again excusing himself by saying he's sick. Outside the room, he told his friend Okwudiba that he wanted to marry Ifemelu, which Okwudiba called "white-people behavior"(582). When Obinze got back downstairs, his crying daughter reached for him.

One day not long after, Ifemelu saw the peacock next door dance and she took a picture for her blog, thinking of Obinze. She contemplated her grief at her recent loss of him in her life and thought about a commenter she believed was him writing "This is like poetry" (584) in response to a blog post about the government demolishing the shacks of hawkers. Though Ranyinudo had encouraged Ifemelu to get out and date, she continued living alone, writing blog posts and thinking of whether he would read them and what he would think. She called Blaine who was stilted with her and then called Curt who sounded genuinely happy. Finally, she agreed to go out with Fred, even having sex with him, but she didn't feel "what she wanted to feel" (587).

After seven months have passed, Obinze shows up at Ifemelu's door. He wrote her a long note and tells her that though he loves his daughter and wants to see her every day, something has been missing for him. But, he says, "Ifem, I'm chasing you. I'm going to chase you until you give this a chance" (588). The novel closes with Ifemelu calling him "Ceiling" (588) and inviting him in.


Obinze's priorities, as demonstrated through his actions, are increasingly important as questions of Obinze and Ifemelu's relationship build to a climax. Part 5 reveals a great deal about how Obinze feels even before Ifemelu's return to Nigeria through his emotional responses to her emails. When he receives a first, more guarded email from her, he responds with great fervor, telling her about the death of his mother and recounting his experience in London as if trying to bring her close to him and relive these experiences with her, causing him to be distracted and distant from his family as he awaits her response. Even more significant is his thoughts when he learns about Dike's suicide attempt, which makes him want to go to Ifemelu rather than focus on the fragility of childhood and the need to give attention to his own daughter.

When Ifemelu does return to Nigeria, her extended time away allows her to see it almost through foreign eyes. Adichie leans into this moment for the character, presenting the reader with vivid imagery of the sights, sounds, and smells of Lagos. Highly descriptive language like, "the sun-dazed haste, the yellow buses full of squashed limbs, the sweating hawkers racing after cars... the heaps of rubbish that rose on roadsides like a taunt" (475) helps readers from all over the world understand the differences between America and Nigeria and the ways in which Ifemelu herself has changed with reference to these places.

This newness also allows Ifemelu to focus on some of the ironies and anachronisms of Nigerian society in the 21st century. For example, her friend Ranyinudo comes to pick her up in a bridesmaid dress, having driven directly from a wedding. She tells Ifemelu lightly that she met a man at the wedding while waiting outside, and when Ifemelu asks about why she would have been outside during the wedding, she says that all the bridesmaids had to leave for mass because their dresses were "indecent"(477). As Ifemelu contemplates the irony of this push and pull of religious conservatism and global liberalism, of tradition and modernity, she must also wonder whether these changes have happened in Lagos or whether she herself as changed so much that she now recognizes the quirks and ironies of everyday Nigerian life.

Ifemelu's stint at Zoe magazine is not long-lived, but the cast of characters she meets through this job are an interesting snapshot of different kinds of Nigerian women. Aunty Onenu is a thoroughly Nigerian woman with all the trappings (including a big, quiet generator), Doris and Zemaye allow Ifemelu to see two different kinds of Nigerian women her age and make the choice of who she wants to associate herself with, and Esther's piousness reminds the reader of Ifemelu's mother during Ifemelu's childhood while showing how much status Ifemelu has gained since then with the secretary's use of "ma" (494). An interesting moment occurs when Esther assigns different "spirits" (515) to the girls in the office, giving Ifemelu "the spirit of husband-repelling" (517). This proclamation is made somewhat ironic when Ifemelu and Obinze pick up their old relationship, showing her not to repel romantic options but even to attract the husband of another woman.

While appearance through choices of hair and clothing as a means of presenting identity has been important to Ifemelu throughout the novel, in Part 7 the reader sees Kosi also make choices that show she believes appearance can demonstrate identity to others and perhaps even affect one's own feelings. Namely, after Obinze declares his love for Ifemelu and his desire for a divorce from Kosi, she lays out matching outfits for him, their daughter, and herself for a party the next day as a means of presenting a unified family to outsiders and to him. While this move is ultimately unsuccessful, Obinze does see the draw of a simple family life, especially for his daughter.