People are always irritated when perceived as stereotypical representatives of a certain group instead of unique individuals. In her TED Talk, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie described several examples of such treatment and referred to it as “having a single story” about something (TED 00:02:50-00:02:58). In other words, a single story is Adichie’s metaphor for incomplete and limited characteristics of a person, object, or phenomenon that narrows one’s viewpoint on it and leads to misunderstandings and false perception.
The major reason behind stereotypes is the limited amount of information provided about the subject. Once one learns “another story” or another view of it, their attitude towards it changes. It either destroys or transforms a primitive, superficial, and stereotypical outlook into a fuller understanding of reality. In other words, instead of adopting existing stereotypes, one should always try to learn more about the subject and form one’s own opinion.
Adichie’s theory of a single story provides college students with a useful life lesson. It helps them to realize that it is not only important what one learns, but also how. Information search, obtaining, and assessment are valuable skills applicable to all life spheres. The theory of a single story may teach one that finding one story about something is not the final step for its real understanding.
Adichie managed to persuade me with her speech that was clear, logical, well-structured, and at the same time, emotional and very personal. All of her stories, full of her genuine thoughts, feelings, and experience, resonated with me. I realized that I had also found myself in similar situations as she described, and I think everyone within the audience did as well. The fact that this experience is universal makes this theory even more convincing for me.
In conclusion, Adichie demonstrated the way stereotypes are formed and transformed through a metaphor of a single story. If an individual has no access to another story or does not even bother to look for it, they would be trapped within the frame of a single, narrow viewpoint on the world. College students need to remember that and acquire vital skills in obtaining and working with information. Adichie managed to persuade me with her inspirational speech to always look for a broader view on things.
“The danger of a single story | Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.” YouTube, uploaded by TED, 2009, Web.