identify one of the characters and ask yourself how does the text make me feel about / understand this character?
Choose one (and only one) of the passages below from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel Americanah.
Passage 1: Page 6 (starting with the paragraph beginning “The ice-cream-eating man”) to page 8 (finishing with “the sound of an ending”)
Passage 2: Page 81 (starting with the paragraph beginning “Obinze told her, one morning after assembly”) to page 85 (finishing with “how much she wanted to remain there with them, in their rapture, forever”)
Passage 3: Page 155 (starting with the paragraph beginning “Ginika asked Ifemelu to stay with her, to save on rent” to p. 158 (finishing with “a forced and efficient bribing system” at the end of chapter 12)
Passage 4: Pages 159-162 (all of chapter 13, i.e. “At first, Ifemelu forgot” to “Somebody knew her”)
Passage 5: Page 163 (start of chapter 14, “And then there was Cristina Tomas”) to p. 166 (finishing with “And she was consoled by her new knowledge”)
Passage 6: Page 180 (starting with the paragraph beginning with “‘What a beautiful name,’ Kimberly said”) to page 185 (finishing with “such an empty expression, ‘keep her in mind’?)
Passage 7: Page 255 (start of chapter 20, “Ifemelu came to love Baltimore”) to page 261 (finishing with “and then back to her apartment”)
Read the passage carefully several times. During this reading and re-reading, identify one of the characters and ask yourself how does the text make me feel about / understand this character? and what elements of the text contribute to this feeling / understanding? Your ultimate answer to the first question will become your “thesis” for the written assignment, and your ultimate answers to the second question will become the evidence that you present in support of this thesis.
Organize your ideas into a short, written paper. Published essays in literary studies tend to consist of substantial, well-supported paragraphs that are each usually around one typed, double-spaced page (c. 300-500 words) long. On this model, at 400-500 words, your paper will most likely consist of one substantial paragraph or, at most, three shorter but very closely related paragraphs.
Cover of Americanah.
You should start by stating your thesis (the argument that you are making, for example: “Character X’s intense desire to help others is driven primarily by a need to feel worthy of love herself” or “The novel invites us to laugh at Character Y and perhaps pity her but also presents her as potentially dangerous”, etc.).
Then, present your support for this thesis. There are a number of ways that you might structure the support for your argument.
If you are making an argument about how our perceptions of a character change over the course of the passage, you may wish to walk your reader through details in the order that they appear in the text.
Or, if you are making an argument about multiple aspects of a character, you might first present all of the details that suggest one aspect before presenting all of the details that suggest another aspect.
Or, it might work best for you to show how the character is presented first through the character’s own words, then through the focalization of another character, etc.
There is no one-size-fits all structure, so you will need to think rigorously about how to best present your argument to a reader.
Quotations and Citations:
In presenting your analysis, you will need to quote specific details from the text. For the most part, words that you quote from the text should be put in quotation marks. If a quotation takes up more than three lines of your paper, rather than putting it in quotation marks, you should single-space it and inset it. Parenthetical citations should always follow quotations. For good examples, see how Abbott handles quotations in the analysis of Heathcliff’s character that ends “Story, plot, narration.” For the purposes of this assignment, there is no need to include a bibliography if you are only citing Americanah.