Clashes between Cultures in The Thing around Your Neck

This post will be discussing the answer to the question: Of the six short stories in your syllabus, which do you consider to be more effective in culture clash? Write a critical appreciation of this short story explaining your views. The answer is written by an enthusiastic writer Hasanki as her first blog post. We wish her all the best for her writing career and look forward to see more writing for our readers.

One’s culture is a reflecting mirror of his or her heritage and upbringing. Hence, when someone faces another unfamiliar culture, it creates a raft in his consciousness. However, the voyage through this raft is not smooth as the subject matter culture always leads to clashes. In that sense, the short story ‘The Thing Around Your Neck’ written by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie as the more effective story, which displays the culture clash considering some other stories such as Earnest Hemingway’s Cat in the Rain and Alice Walker’s Everyday Use, which are prescribed for A/L anthology.

According to the plots, the characters in the short stories prescribed encounter complexities in the cultures they deal with. In the short story The Thing Around Your Neck, Akunna is an African young girl who wins a Green Card Lottery to heed to America. She is very anticipated about her higher education in America. It is very pathetic that Akunna gets molested by the uncle who is a far relation of her and lives in America for a long time. Uncle points out that America’s culture is something related to the policy of give and take. Through his actions Adichie makes the first step to display the cultural incompatibility to Akunna relating her own African culture and America’s callous discordance. When comparing the American wife in Cat in the Rain with Akunna, she does not face such a terrible condition of hostility in Italians. Nevertheless, she has the conflict with her own marital relationship with her husband. Despite those conflict between husband and wife, she faces an important encounter with the hotel Padrone. Consequently, it is clearly proved that Akunna faces more mental agitation than the American wife suggesting that the incompatibilities between or among cultures sometimes can make clashes making the new-rooter hostile in the new setting.  

Moreover, culture includes the way or the style of living. The style of living includes fundamental needs like food, clothing and accessories of unique style according to the culture. These styles can be different from culture to another culture. When tested them in the same social container, they can be clashed into one and another. In the short story, another incident that Adichie vividly articulates culture clash faced by Akunna is the Young lover’s inability to digest Nigerian food. Thus this incident draws a juxtaposition whether they can live together in spite of their mismatch. Akunna feels a relief only when she meets the American Young lover, but ironically their food tastes and eating habits are quite contrasting. When drawing a rapport between Akunna and Dee in Everyday Use, Dee does not face such a mismatch with her husband or lover who is an Islamic Hakin.a.Barber. In fact, it is clearly demonstrated in the short story that their ideas and intensions are quite similar. Mama observes that, Dee and her partner share eye contacts when she speaks about the artifacts. Hence, again it is quite obvious that Akunna’s character affects the culture clash more than Dee who is also associated with a new culture.

In fact, Akunna observes that Americans throw away food and let them remain on plates in restaurant. Thus her stream of consciousness brings out the pathetic situation in Africa, the suffering without food and sanitary facilities. Furthermore, Adichie clearly shows the clash between Akunna and her Young lover even in their morals albeit the situation which the lover’s parents speak pathetically regarding how the boy was not obedient to them. Therefore, it remains a question to reader t to think further, when he does not even respect his parents, would he be able to love Akunna sincerely. Subsequently, herein Adichie points out how Akunna becomes a pathetic victim of culture clash. Dee and the American wife somehow manage the relationship with their partners but Akunna decides to go back to her mother country, remaining a vast gap between her and the American lover. If she really wanted to take care of her relationship, she would confirm her coming back. Therefore, the unclear end of the short story also demonstrates the deviated mind of Akunna. She is also unceratin of her return thus the mental agitation of Akunna, vividly implies the vast cultural incompatibility she faced in America.

Out of the selected short stories, Adichie shows the culture clash more effectively in her work Thing Around Your Neck via Akunna’s character as she could not be rooted inside the new culture due to the complexities and incompatibilities between African and American culture. The other characters in the short stories too face with cultural clashes but find a way to bridge them and sustain. Hence, the short story The Thing around your Neck can be taken as a better sample of cultural clashes and its consequences.        


About the Writer:

This post is written by Hasanki Kasthuriarachchi who is an undergraduate at University of Colombo. She has done her advanced level examination in language stream and a self motivated character who likes to improve herself. 

What do you think about the culture theme in the short story – The Thing around your Neck? Please kindly add a comment below. Share the post if you find it useful to others.

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