The Thing Around Your Neck

This study guide will help you analyze the text “The Thing Around Your Neck” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. We will show you examples of elements in the text that will be relevant for your analysis. In these notes, we will focus on summary, structure, characters, setting, narrator and point of view, language, and themes.

Presentation of the text

Title: “The Thing Around Your Neck”
Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Published in: “Prospect” 99 (magazine)
Date of Publication: 2009
Genre: Short Story

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (b. 1977) is a Nigerian writer who writes in English. She was born as part of the Igbo people and she studied medicine at the University of Nigeria, but moved to the United States, where she eventually studied at Eastern Connecticut State University, Johns Hopkins University, and Yale. She currently spends her time writing and giving lectures regarding feminism or cultural differences. The short story “The Thing Around Your Neck” is part of a short-story collection with the same name, in which she explores the many facets of the Nigerian identity.


Below, you can read an excerpt from our study guide: 


The most important metaphor in the story, which is also present in the title, is “the thing around your neck”. This is first mentioned when Akunna begins to experience her inner conflict brought on by culture shock. She feels unable to adapt to the new environment, which she finds difficult to understand. She also feels isolated from her relatives back home because she cannot meet their demands. If she wrote to them, she would have to tell them that life in America is not what they expected. “The thing around her neck” is, therefore, the pressure of all the expectations, old and new. When Akunna feels physically connected to her boyfriend, the weight of expectations and inability to adjust lets down slightly: “The thing that wrapped itself around your neck, that nearly choked you before you fell asleep, started to loosen, to let go.” This suggests that the relationship with a person who loves her for who she is might help her adjust to her new environment more easily and possibly resolve her inner conflict. However, her boyfriend proves unable to provide this for her.

Akunna compares her boyfriend’s eyes with the color of extra-virgin olive oil, which is also “the only thing you loved, truly loved in America”. This shows that for Akunna, her boyfriend is the only thing she loves about the new world she finds herself in. Extra-virgin olive oil is also a more expensive and refined kind of oil. Therefore, this could also be a reference to her boyfriend’s upper-class status and privileged background. 

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The Thing Around Your Neck

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