Tomorrow is Too Far by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
In Tomorrow is Too Far by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie we have the theme of memory, jealousy, patriarchy, escape, sibling rivalry, letting go and guilt. Taken from her The Thing Around Your Neck collection the story is narrated in the second person by a young, unnamed woman and from the beginning of the story the reader realises that Adichie may be exploring the theme of memory. The narrator throughout the story remembers her time, the last time as a child, that she was in Nigeria with her brother, cousin and Grandmama. It is a period in the narrator’s life that she felt jealous of her brother Nonso because he was her Grandmama’s favourite. Favourite because he would carry the family name forward. This may be important as it suggests the importance of patriarchy to the Grandmama. She has allowed for Nonso to be her favourite simply because he will continue the lineage of the family name. It will survive as long as Nonso lives. Unfortunately for the Grandmama, Nonso dies young after climbing the tree and falling.
It is also evident that Adichie is exploring the theme of guilt. Throughout the story the narrator is unable to let go of what has happened to Nonso even though it has been nearly twenty years since his passing. If anything as the story progresses there is a sense that the narrator and Dozie feel guilty about their actions or in Dozie’s case, his lack of action. He blindly followed the narrator’s lead when it came to teasing Nonso about climbing the tree. He didn’t say anything nor did he try to stop the narrator. The fact that the narrator lies to her mother about what happened to Nonso and blames her Grandmama is also interesting as it suggests that the narrator is not prepared to take responsibility for her actions. Though some readers might suggest that this is through fear. The narrator might be afraid to admit to others her role in Nonso’s death. All she wanted was to be recognized by her Grandmother. She after all did not imagine that Nonso might die. Yes she wanted to see him injured so that she would be the first to show her Grandmama that she was better than Nonso at climbing trees. If anything some could say that the narrator acted selfishly. Though again her young age has to be taken into consideration.
There may also be some symbolism in the story that might be important. The snake that the narrator tells Nonso is in the tree could serve to represent the narrator’s jealousy when it comes to Nonso. The trees themselves may represent the circle of life. Often in literature trees are seen to symbolize growth. From the beginning to the end and for Nonso it is the end. America could symbolize freedom for the narrator. It is only when she goes back to Nigeria or receives the phone call from Dozie, telling her that her Grandmama is dead, that the narrator feel any guilt about Nonso’s death and the role she has played in his death. The mother’s decision to divorce the narrator’s father and her subsequent departure to California to join a commune suggests the importance of an escape from reality for the narrator’s mother. She never seems to have properly dealt with Nonso’s death. The title of the story is also significant as it suggests that tomorrow, for the narrator, is too far away for her to deal with the guilt she feels about Nonso’s death.
The end of the story is interesting as Dozie never really mentions the past to the narrator. He never mentions the innocence of their games and only briefly mentions that he dreams of Nonso. This may be important as it is possible that Dozie is beginning to feel guilty about his role in Nonso’s death. Though again he does not raise the matter with the narrator. The narrator herself is only beginning to accept her role, though she has not admitted to anyone except herself. Which may be the point that Adichie is attempting to make. She may be suggesting that in life there are things that we all bury though do eventually admit to ourselves. The narrator’s next step is unclear. Whether she will tell anyone of try to discuss Nonso’s death with Dozie remains uncertain. Just as people might not like to discuss their own guilt with others. Life may continue as normal for the narrator when she returns to America and feels free from the past. A past that has opened up wounds for the narrator that she is unable to let go of.