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By Grace Kingsbury, VI Form
HER(short)story: Silenced Women in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Stories
Chimamanda Adichie’s book of short stories, The Thing Around Your Neck, follows African men and women and attempts to explain the ties between the genders. The short story “Jumping Monkey Hill” describes the conflict that a Nigerian writer, Ujunwa, faces during a writing retreat in Cape Town. The head of the writing retreat, Edward, repeatedly ogles her body and makes sexual comments to Ujunwa such as “I’d rather like you to lay down for me” (Adichie 106). The story “The Thing Around Your Neck” depicts a woman who receives a visa to live in American with her uncle. Her uncle sexually assaults her during her stay with him, so she runs away for a fresh start in Connecticut. Besides the obvious gender and race similarities between these two main characters, both women are sexually harassed in their stories. Adichie’s normalization of sexual harassment in “Jumping Monkey Hill” and “The Thing Around Your Neck” reflects the existing culture of silencing women through the unresponsive and accepting women, the bystanders, and Adichie’s cursory acknowledgment of the events.
By creating characters that do not respond to sexual harassment, Adichie demonstrates how women minimize their assault to ignore it more easily. Ujunwa in “Jumping Monkey Hill” “laugh[s]” in response to Edward’s comment “because it was funny and witty… when [one] really thought about it” (Adichie 106). She convinces herself that it is funny to diminish the pain that his comment causes her. In “The Thing Around Your Neck,” the woman “lock[s] [herself] in the bathroom closet, and the next morning” she runs away from home, in response to her uncle’s assault (Adichie 116). This represents the woman physically running away from confrontation with her uncle by putting as much distance between her and the event as possible and refusing to stand up for herself. In both of these instances, the women avoid the conflict of sexual harassment by opting to ignore the problem. By ignoring sexual harassment and sexual assault, the women facilitate further offense because they give their abusers room to repeat their actions.(more…)