Happily, ever after is not a fairy tale. It’s a choice. ~ Fawn Weaver. In the short story “Imitation” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the author talks about Nkhem, a woman from poor family background in Nigeria, living a wealthy and secure life in America. She was married to a wealthy man and was living a happy life until she finds out from her friend that her husband is keeping a girlfriend back home in Nigeria. This is where her internal wars start as she stares at the Benin masks got by her husband and wonders if the people who had the originals were happy at that time. This story also describes about the important conversation between Nkhem and Amaechi, the housekeeper, where Nkhem asks for advice to Amaechi on what she would do if her husband had affair with somebody else.
The author also describers the struggle of Nkhem whether to move on in her life or to stay back with her husband as well as wanting the best for her children. Therefore, Nkhem has a difficult decision to make as she struggles between two worlds and at the same time she speaks up for herself and changing her exterior looks resembling independence following her relationship to Amaechi. The author describes the masks as not being an original, but a copy and talks about how people have settled for good imitations as it is impossible to find the original. (23). As her friend tells about her husband’s girlfriend on the phone, she imagines by staring at the mask the people who have the originals being unhappy. The author describing the use of masks in the imagination of Nkhem shows that she has been imitating and taking up lies to feed her unpleasant truth of her husband cheating on her.
This also shows how lonely Nkhem is, despite living a high-status life in America. She is living in a long-distance relationship with her husband who visits her once in a year for two months. She alone has the responsibility of her children. She, at that time, realizes how unhappy she was in her married life even though she was happy to be part of the league of rich Nigerian who lived in America, when she first married to Obiora and came to the United States to live her American life. When the author talks about Nkhem wondering what her husband will bring for her when he comes to America next week tells about Nkhem being hopeless about her American dream and her married life, despite having health and status. When one time, Obiora stayed in America for few months, Nkhem had to explain to her neighbors about them living far away from each other’s due to business, Obiora laughed at the neighbors. Nkhem did not say anything on this behavior even though she knew about the Nigerian couples who stayed together all year.
Although, at that time, she realized something inappropriate on her marriage, she puts it off by her husband humorous take on things rather than voicing her opinions. Nkhem not able to tell her opinions explains that she is not an active participant in her marriage but rather as a woman taken as the status symbol by the middle-aged man. In this story, Adichi portrays that importance of companions in life from the conversation between Nkhem and Amaechi.
Expressing her feeling towards Amaechi strengthens the sense of equality and friendship between two women. Even though Amaechi is the mistress of the house, Nkem thinks herself more related to Amaechi than her husband as they both are from same family background. The conversation between them illustrates as sisters as Nkhem asks Amaechi if she thinks Obiora has girlfriends. However, Amaechi falls back to her status of a mistress as she says “It is not my place, madam.”(35). Nkhem is also well aware of this situation. Amaechi also tells that extra marital relationship is expected with rich men but tells Nkhem that she is still lucky to be married to Obiora and living in America and there are some things better left unknown.
In addition to this, Nkhem cutting her hair signifies that she wants to speak up for herself and gains independence. When Obiora comments that he liked her original hair, it demonstrates that Obiora does not like change. He wants her wife just to listen to him and do whatever he says. In conclusion, Adhichi sketches the picture of herself living the life she did not want and she realized only after she found out about her husband affairs through her friend. She begined to understand that she was not happy in her life and she needs to be independent and find her happiness.
When she told Obiora that she needs to find children school in Lagos and ask him when he hired the new houseboy, that’s when she found her victory and taking control of her life and marriage. This story outlines the life of a woman who was living a life which she thought was her dream life, but later understood where she really stands after she finds about her husband infidelity and consequently gains her confidence and chose to speak up for herself.