Cell One

This study guide will help you analyze the short story “Cell One” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. You can also find a summary of the text, as well as inspiration for interpreting it.

Presentation of the text

Title: “Cell One” (2007)  
Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie  
Genre: Short story

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (b. 1977) is a Nigerian writer. Her most famous novels are Half of a Yellow Sun and Americanah. The short story “Cell One” was published in the collection The Thing Around Your Neck. Adichie’s feminist perspective has gained her worldwide recognition.


Here, you can read an extract from our study guide:

Social setting

The social setting of “Cell One” explores a variety of issues, including corruption, influenced also by class differences, and Western influences in Nigerian society. 

The story explores the issue of corruption. When Nnamabia is arrested, his parents bribe the policemen every day to make sure that their son receives better treatment: “My mother bribed the policemen at the desk with money, and with jollof rice and meat, and they allowed Nnamabia to come out of his cell and sit on a bench under a mango tree with us”. However, they cannot bribe the policemen when Nnamabia wants to share his rice with the old man: “he sneered in my father’s face and said that he could well lose his job for letting even Nnamabia out and yet now we were asking for another person”. 

The narrator’s stories suggest that corruption is deeply rooted in the police and could be linked to class and economic differences. She talks about their visit being delayed for an hour because of the family’s refusal to bribe the police one day. She also talks about how her cousin was singled out and verbally abused by the police because she owned two cell phones: “they (…) asked her for so much money that she had knelt on the ground in the rain begging them to let her go”. Also, the old man is arrested because the police could not arrest his son. The narrator suggests that such practices are common. Even Nnamabia’s arrest is problematic, as it is not certain he is a cult member.

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Cell One

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