The Socio-psychological Aspects Of Immigration In The Thing Around Your Neck

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“After you won the American visa lottery, your uncles and aunts and cousins told you, in a month you will have a big car. Soon, a big house. But don’t buy a gun like those Americans”. Imagine you get your visa done, set up, and established. After that, you get to travel to America to start a new life in the hopes of accomplishing something, witness change, or learn more about your new location. A clean slate if you will. Live life and follow the American Dream. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is an author who was born in Nigeria and moved to the US to write stories and give lectures such as Half a Yellow Sun, Purple Hibiscus, and The Danger of a Single Story. The American society has gone through great changes throughout recent years such as industrialization, technology, education, urbanization and even immigration. Immigration is an act of traveling to live in a certain area permanently. Every act of doing something comes from a reason. A lot of immigrant wanted to come to the US for their own cause. The United States passed the Immigration Act of 1924, which allows limited number of immigrants to enter the United States Immigrants have reasons to migrate from one place to another. Till this day, people are translocating to places where they want to go to. When a person moves from their old place to a new one, there are some challenges that they deal with to survive. Adichie short story “The Thing Around Your Neck” is about the transnational migration of the narrator’s perspective. Immigrants have the idea of migrating from one place to another, but some of them do have a hard time getting used to the place or adapting to the environment due to their personal nurture experiences from where they came from.

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Assimilation is a part of adaption, which an individual to receive new information and try to make it correlate to the old information they have already learned. The information that people already understand are called schemas. People receive these schemas throughout their life though experiences. Jean Piaget is a cognitive development psychologist who was born in Swiss and focuses on human development from childhood to adulthood. Jean Piaget touches upon how a person’s mind develops when growing up. Sensorimotor stage (0-2 years) is when a child starts to explore the world with objects and sensory uses. Preoperational stage (2-6 years) is when a person uses word and images that they learned from their nurture perspective (personal experiences) Concrete Operational stage (7-12 years) is when a person’s mind develops logistically and Formal Operational stage (12 years-adult) is when a person can reason and use common sense. These cognitive developing stages are the building blocks for a person’s schemas. They are the growing stages of a person’s mind so that an individual can understand, interpret and reason what is going on around them. Sugandha Marwaha, Prevalence of Principles of Piaget’s Theory Among 4-7-year-old Children and their Correlation with IQ, states, “Cognitive development is a major area of human development and was extensively studied by Jean Piaget. He proposed that the development of intellectual abilities occurs in a series of relatively distinct stages and that a child’s way of thinking and viewing the world is different at different stages” (Marwaha para. 1). Cognitive means a person’s mind is receiving, processing, and recalling information and trying to understand though your thoughts, senses, and experience. As an individual grows older, their mind starts to growth because of their experiences and surroundings.

Some immigrants have a hard time to assimilate to the new information that the learn from the environmental aspect. People already have in mind what they have been taught or what the already experience based on their nature and nurture aspect. Rachael Durham and Claudia Galindo’s article “Immigration, Childhood and Adolescence” talks about the economic, social, and cultural aspects of immigration. In the article, it states some theories of assimilation. Both Dunham and Galindo state: “classical theories of assimilation define assimilation as the acquisition of the receiving country’s cultural values and historical memories. Adherents to this perspective argue that immigrants, regardless of place of origin or characteristics, inevitably become assimilated into American society…the segmented assimilation theory, developed by Alejandro Portes and Min Zhou (1993), emphasizes that immigrants from different origins assimilate into distinct sectors of U.S. society”. The two theories here in the article are classical assimilation theory, which defines what assimilation is and segmented assimilation theory, which illustrates how there are different concepts for immigrants to understand in the United States such as economy, education, government, religion, family, etc. These are different main types of agents of socialization within a certain place but more importantly, what describes who you are and what you have learned as you grow up and develop. K. Lee Lerner, Immigrants Shunning the Idea of Assimilation, states: “The assimilation of immigrants into American culture and society has been the general standard by which foreign persons have become a part of the American mainstream. The process of assimilation is not by a fixed method, nor does it follow a distinct path. Assimilation was traditionally assumed as desirable by both the existing American society as well as by immigrant persons themselves. For the Americans, immigrant assimilation meant that the newcomers would adopt American ways and adhere to what are broadly described as American values. For the immigrant, the melting pot was the environment where the opportunities for economic, educational, and social advancement were greatest”. The quote from Lerner’s article describes what immigrant must face in American society. The must go through new ways of life which will be difficult to modify or adapt toward what they already know based on their existing schemas.

Accommodation comes from assimilation. Accommodation is when the existing knowledge (schema) that a person knows does not work, so a person needs to either leave the environment or change or modify their own selves to adapt to the environment. Accommodation is another important aspect for human adaption sociology. George Cvetkovich, Cognitive Accommodation, Language, and Social Responsibility, states Interpersonal accommodation is a basic characteristic of social interaction. Briefly, accommodation can be defined as changes in the production, organization, or mode of interaction which occur in line with perceptions of the characteristics of the other person; the message, or the situation”. This quote from the article illustrates that accommodation is one of the basic aspects that takes place in social interaction. It is an important cognitive way to interact and try to adjust to the environment.

Adichie’s short story, The Thing Around Your Neck, is about the narrator traveling from Nigeria to America to start a new life by going to school, working, etc. The narrator in this story is an immigrant who is trying to accommodate throughout the story. Adichie quotes, “The rock, for instance, would work if you could grind things with it, or wear it. He laughed long and hard, but you did not laugh. You realized that in his life, he could buy presents that were just presents and nothing else. When he started to buy you shoes and clothes and books, you asked him not to, you didn’t want any presents at all”. The narrator describes that she does not want to accept the gifts because the she may be experiencing too much materials for the first time which makes her not comfortable with American cultural materialism, this is a new experience for the narrator. There is another quote that deals with assimilation. Adichie says “You knew by people’s reactions that you were abnormal – the way the nasty ones were too nasty and the nice ones too nice. The old white women who muttered and glared at him, the black men who shook their heads at you, the black women whose eyes bemoaned your lack of self-esteem”. This quote describes the concern and overall situation of what the narrator is feeling left out in the crowd of people. Adichie also says, “You curled up in bed, pressed your knees tight to your chest and cried. He held you while you cried, smoothed your hair, and offered to go with you, back home to Nigeria. You said no, you needed to go alone” (Adichie para 40). In the end of the story, her mother wrote to her and told her that her father had passed away and she missed his funeral. The narrator was very unhappy in America and has given up on the American Dream to go back home to Lagos.

In conclusion, some immigrants are excited about traveling internationally, going to new places and seeing new faces, but it is hard to assimilate the new aspects around and to accommodate them into your own understanding of how well you are used to your own schema. This story is a perfect example of social psychological aspects in the agents of socialization. So when you get your American lottery ticket, always remember these psychological aspects of assimilation and accommodation.

Works Cited

  • ‘Immigrants Shunning the Idea of Assimilation.’ Family in Society: Essential Primary Sources, edited by K. Lee Lerner, et al., Gale, 2006, pp. 429-434. Gale eBooks, https://ezproxy.stevenson.edu:2406/apps/doc/CX2688300166/GVRL?u=vjc_main&sid=GVRL&xid=335f75e3. Accessed 12 Dec. 2019.
  • Galindo, Claudia, and Rachel E. Durham. ‘Immigration, Childhood And Adolescence.’ Encyclopedia of the Life Course and Human Development, edited by Deborah Carr, vol. 1: Childhood and Adolescence, Macmillan Reference USA, 2009, pp. 256-262. Gale eBooks, https://ezproxy.stevenson.edu:2406/apps/doc/CX3273000075/GVRL?u=vjc_main&sid=GVRL&xid=b159ec8e. Accessed 12 Dec. 2019.
  • Marwaha, Sugandha et al. “Prevalence of Principles of Piaget’s Theory Among 4-7-year-old Children and their Correlation with IQ.” Journal of clinical and diagnostic research: JCDR vol. 11,8 (2017): ZC111-ZC115. doi:10.7860/JCDR/2017/28435.10513
  • Cvetkovich, George. “Cognitive Accommodation, Language, and Social Responsibility.” Social Psychology, vol. 41, no. 2, 1978, pp. 149–155. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/3033574.
  • Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. “The Thing Around Your Neck”. ENG 152. (Aaron Chandler.) Stevenson University. https://writingaboutliteratureandculture.home.blog/2019/06/30/the-thing-around-your-neck-by-chimamanda-ngozi-adichie/ Accessed 10 Dec 2019.
  • Luebering J.E. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Britannica, Accessed 10 Dec 2019. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Chimamanda-Ngozi-Adichie
16 August 2021

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