Themes and message

Coming of age

One of the main themes explored in the short story “Cell One” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is the theme of coming of age or personal growth. The theme is illustrated by Nnamabia, who has a coming of age experience while he is imprisoned. 

The beginning of the story presents Nnamabia as an over-confident and arrogant young man whose desire to be popular makes him steal from his own family. The narrator describes Nnamabia as “the kind of ladies’ man who was also a guy’s guy”, meaning he knew how to be well-liked by everybody. Throughout his childhood and teenage years, Nnamabia’s parents find excuses for his questionable behavior until he is imprisoned. 

In jail, Nnamabia begins by displaying a confident and ironic attitude, but he soon changes when he observes the injustice suffered by an innocent old man. The mistreatment of the o...

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