Concepts of Home and Belonging and their meaning in the postcolonial fiction "The Thing Around Your Neck" and "The Arrangers of Marriage" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Term Paper 2014 16 Pages

English Language and Literature Studies - Literature



1. Main thesis statement and introduction

2. Basic postcolonial concepts: home and belonging
2.1 Concept of home
2.2 Concept of belonging

3. Analysis of The Thing Around Your Neck 1 and The Arrangers of Marriage 2
3.1 Reference of home and belonging to migration
3.2 Home and belonging in the short story The Thing Around Your Neck
3.3 Home and belonging in the short story The Arrangers of Marriage

4. Conclusion

5. Bibliography

1. Main thesis statement and introduction

Through the narration, the depiction of the protagonists and the diction The Thing Around your neck and The Arrangers of Marriage by Chimamande Ngozi Adichie foreground the importance of home and belonging as main aspects of Postcolonial Studies.

In terms of Postcolonial Studies The Thing Around Your Neck and The Arrangers of Marriage by Adichie are interesting stories to analyse because both are connected to history, migration, the search for identity and the consequences of displacement. Adichie as a typical postcolonial writer provides her stories with realistic characters facing identity struggles as well as inner and outer bondages.

Due to relocation and heteronomy in the context of imperialism and colonialism and the current development of increasing migration home and belonging were and are important determinants in life.

2. Basic postcolonial concepts: home and belonging

To distiguish between the two concepts home and belonging is difficult because at some point they meet each other and are linked together by the question of identity. Every person but especially peolpe who immigrate or move to another place for some time are facing questions of identity. Where do i come from? Where do i belong? What is my heritage? Where are my roots? Where do i feel at home? The answers to those questions enrich our lives by giving a fixed ground or basis from which one can shape the own life. Without the consciousness of a background there is no building of a future.

Just as terms like “homeland”, “identity” and “rooting”, the concepts of home and belonging are basic concepts in Postcolonial Studies. Although Hedetoft and Hyort combine the two concepts by saying “´home is where we feel we belong´”3 it is interesting to look at them seperately and try to distiguish.

2.1 Concept of home

An historical observation of the term home shows that it even existed before people settled down and built settlements. It represented important livlihood like material property but also belongings like wives and family. In a religious and existential sense home is “the center of the world” or “the center of the real” which means that it gives a sense to life and keeps things together.4

Analysing the definitions of several people it becomes obvious that home consists of many different aspects, can mean a lot of things and that there is no explicit and universal definition.

“Home is where the heart is, where my family and friends are. It is not restricted to a certain place.” (female German student, 19 years old)

“At home is where you like to go, where you feel well and you have your best friends. That could be a flat or house but also a whole city or country. When you do not feel well in a foreign surrounding you want to go home.” (male German student, 24 years old) “Home can change according to employment, place of study, ” (male German employee, 29 years old)

“Focus of all elements of life in childhood and youth.” (male German employee, 49 years old) “Home is the place where my parents and the most important people in my life are. It is the place where i grew up and the place where i always love to return to.” (female Slovakian student, 24 years old)

“Home is where i can be myself and where i am accepted that way.” (female German student, 24 years old)

“For me home is the familiar smell of the washing powder or washed laundry.” (female highschool graduate, 19 years old)

“Home is a dwelling primarily characterised by ancestral inhabitance.” (male Cameroonian employee, 28 years old)

“Home is where i spent most of my time.” (male German student, 23 years old)

“For me home is everywhere i am comfortable and fell appendent, where there are people that i know well and can trust. You can have many homes, maybe even in different countries and cultures.” (female German student, 19 years old)5

Although there are some differences like home as a fixed place or home as a major space, there are also many aspects that are confirm through all the definitions. Home is something steady, something that has great impact on personal well-being and has a deep emotional importance as it is associated with family and close friends. As it comes to parents and ancestors the background and ones roots play a big role according to the question of home. Parents are those people a child is attached to right at the beginning and where it wants to go you?

when it is homesick.

John McLead illustrates it like this: “The concept of ´home´ often performs an important function in our lives. It can act as a valuable means of orientation by giving us a sense of our place in the world. It tells us where we organated from and where we belong.” (John McLead [2000] 210)

In this sense home is a part of belonging.

Although a new home could be discovered again and again through life, once one got home it is totally clear what the home is and there is no other place or space with the same meaning until a new home develops.6

Verlyn Klinkenborg emphasises how personal and subjective home is when he says that home is “...a place we can never see with stranger´s eyes...” (Verlyn Klinkenborg [2012] ). Ones experiences, roots and associations with home enrich the term with unique personal importance and individual emotional property.

By arranging and analysing an interrogation of 40 interviewees Beate Mitzscherlich wanted to catch and investigate a wide range of different associations, individual processes and subjective strategies connected with the term “Heimat”7. In Mitzscherlich´s opinion to search, to get or to have home is an active and individual process and something that is done by oneself. It is a unique surrounding coined by the connection between social, cultural, regional, political and other circumstances. As a result of her research Mitzscherlich determined ten categories of home: 1. Home as familial childhood surrounding, 2. Home as man-made environment, 3. Home as current network, 4. Home as experience and condition of feeling, 5. Home as inner concept, 6. Home as political and ideological construction, 7. Home as folklore, 8. Home as experience of loss, 9. Home and outland, 10. Home and deversity. These categories could be combined in six dimension of home: Home in connection with subjective experiences, as current living environment, as expierence of agreement, as projection of the future, as ideology and as problem.8

It becomes obvious that home is highly subjective and that it could also have a negative connotation dependent on the individual. No matter if temporary or permanent in most cases home is highly connected with people, with something positive, basic and with well-being as it can be seen in the statements of the interviewees listed on page 2 and all the other definitions and essays which try to grasp the broad cocept of home.

2.2 Concept of belonging

Just as home one can discover different types of belonging. The following statements9 show that belonging can be seen as connection to people, places or things, a feeling of security and support, integration and acceptance as a natural part of a social, religious, political, cultural or economic group and any temporary or permanent relationship.

“Belonging is something physical that is owned.” (male Cameroonian employee, 28 years old)

- physical belonging

“That could be everything. Belonging to a club, an association, family, circle of friends, Belonging means to have something in common with other people.” (male German student, 24 years old)

- collective belonging, a common ground

“What or whom i belong to no matter how far away i am.” (male German employee, 29 years old)

- not bound to distance

“As an adult belonging is the focus of all elements of life.” (male German employee, 49 years old)

- purpose in life

“Belonging is a wanted or unwanted common ground.” (female high-school graduate, 19 years old)

- positiv and negativ connotation

“A network of people who are important in my life and keep me grounded.” (female German student, 23 years old)

- belonging as secureness

“I belong to those who are closest to me: my familiy, my boyfriend but also my heritage.” (female German student, 19 years old)

- familial belonging, personal belonging, heritable belonging

Examining heritage related to belonging more closely it comes to roots and how they influence our personal and familial belonging. Our identity -national, ethnical, cultural- is necessarily linked to background and therefore heritage because identity develops out of it. This means that in some way a person always belongs to his or her beginning/origin. This belonging can last for a long time or easily change during life and periods of life. Belonging is charged emotionally when people state belonging with words like “...those who are closest to me...”10 or “...people who ... keep me grounded.”11 and stands for collectivity and secureness.

In this sense, belonging is a notion replete with organicist meaning and romantic images. It is a foundational, existential, ´thick´ notion. In the sense that it circumscribes feelings of ´homeness´ (as well as homesickness), it is also a significant determinant of identity, that elusive but still real psychosociological state of being in sync with oneself under given exteral conditions. (Ulf Hedetoft, Mette Hyort[2002] vii)

Just as Hedetoft and Hyort mention belonging is something broad and coins everyday life when we miss the place, the people or other things we belong to. The fact that belonging is an important part of identity stated by Hedetoft and Hyort however must be added by the note that in opposite to belonging identity “...is sometimes perceived as a property that cannot be easily changed or replaced over time, ...” (Sarah Albiez, Nelly Castro, Lara Jüssen, Eva Youkhana [2011] 14-15). Especially when broaching the issue of migration, slavery and multicultural relations this must be taken into account.

In literature there can be found several distinctions and categories trying to define belonging more precise.

On the one hand there is the category of “collective belongings” (Sarah Albiez, Nelly Castro, Lara Jüssen, Eva Youkhana [2011] 13) that imply a group thinking like belonging to an ethnos or club, association, family or a circle of friends as it was mentioned by one of the interviewees on page 4. There is a clear line between the ones inside and the ones outside the group and its absolutely clear who has the right requirements to be part of it.


1 Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2009), pages 137-152.

2 Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2009), pages 200-222.

3 Ulf Hedetoft, Mette Hyort (2002), page vii.

4 Rosa Lori Teubner Guerra (2014), pages 60-61.

5 Selected answers from 15 interviewees. Question adressed to the interviewees: What does “home” mean for

6 Verlyn Klinkenborg (2012)

7 “Heimat” (German) = “home”, “home country” (BE); no selective translation existent

8 Rosa Lori Teubner-Guerra (2014), pages 75-77, 83.

9 Selected answers from 15 interviewees. Question adressed to the interviewees: What does “belonging” (Zugehörigkeit) mean for you?

10 Selected answers from 15 interviewees. Question adressed to the interviewees: What does “belonging” (Zugehörigkeit) mean for you?

11 Selected answers from 15 interviewees. Question adressed to the interviewees: What does “belonging” (Zugehörigkeit) mean for you?


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concepts home belonging thing around your neck arrangers marriage chimamanda ngozi adichie




Title: Concepts of Home and Belonging and their meaning in the postcolonial fiction "The Thing Around Your Neck" and "The Arrangers of Marriage" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie