An analysis of the short story “The American Embassy” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie shows that the text has a non-chronological structure. The story is mainly told through flashbacks, which help readers understand the woman’s attitude and mixed feelings in the present.
The main character is the unnamed woman who queues outside the American embassy in Lagos in an attempt to obtain an asylum visa. Although she tries to stay focused and alert for the visa interview, the flashbacks to the events that happened during the past four days reveal her pain and personal tragedy.
The physical setting is Lagos in the late 1990s, a few years after the 1993 military coup d’état led by General Sani Abacha against the interim President Ernest Shonekan. The social setting mainly focuses on the relationship between the woman and her husband and, implicitly, on the issue of gender roles in modern Nigeria.
The events are told by a third-person narrator who presents the perspective of the main character. The flashbacks to the past reveal the woman’s thoughts and feelings and help contour the tragedy of seeing her four-year-old son getting killed by government agents.
The language helps illustrate the woman’s personal tragedy and her reluctance to transform her son’s death into an impersonal yet sensational story for her visa application. The woman does not talk much in the story, a feature that illustrates her pain and mixed feelings towards the visa interview.
A full analysis of the short story can be found on the following pages.