This study guide will help you analyze the short story “Olikoye” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. You can also find a summary of the text, as well as inspiration for interpreting it and putting it into perspective.
Presentation of the text
Title: “Olikoye” (2015)
Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Genre: Short story
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (b. 1977) is a Nigerian author. She has written several short stories and novels including Purple Hibiscus (2003) and Americanah (2013). Her writing has earned her various literary awards and nominations. The short story “Olikoye” first appeared in the collection The Art of Saving a Life, for which global artists including writers, painters, filmmakers, and musicians were commissioned by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to create art that highlights the importance of immunization.
Excerpt from the study guide:
We then move to the story within the story when Sister Chioma asks about the child’s name. The narrator begins her account with an introduction that provides context and offers a clear reason for why she would name her child after the Nigerian Minister of Health:
at that time, other babies in our village in Edo were dying too. They got sick with watery shit and weak eyes. Some people said the diarrhea was punishment from God. […] babies died, and their tiny still bodies were wrapped in cloth and buried, and it seemed senseless that they had even been born at all.
This can be considered to foreshadow Olikoye’s intervention in the village and what a big impact he has on the community. Similarly, when Olikoye asks the narrator’s father how many of his children died, this shows that Olikoye is aware of this issue and foreshadows that he will work to ensure no more babies die of preventable causes.
The story does not arrive at a traditional climax. Instead, the story within a story provides context and background for the narrator’s choice of name for her first child. The ending of the story returns to the main narrative as the narrator is waiting to give birth with Sister Chioma.