The Danger of a Single Story Commonlit Answers

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  • 11th Grade
  • Lexile: 1090

Source: The Danger of a Single Story by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Assessment Answer

QuestionAnswer
What is the central idea of the text?By only exposing ourselves to a single story, we run the risk of constructing overly-simplistic understandings of other people and places.
What connection does the author draw between British, American and African stories?British and American stories are more readily available across the world, while African writers and their stories are less accessible in other countries.
What is the author’s purpose in the textAdichie wants to show how important it is to acknowledge more than a single story in order to fully understand what you are unfamiliar with.
How do paragraphs 22-24 contribute to the development of ideas in the text?They demonstrate that anyone can fall victim to believing single stories.

How does the author use her personal experiences in then text to introduce and develop her main idea? Cite evidence from the text to support your response.

The author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, skillfully uses her personal experiences to introduce and develop her main idea, which revolves around the dangers of a single story in shaping our understanding of the world.

Here are some key ways she does this, supported by evidence from the text:

  1. Introduction of the Single Story Concept Through Childhood Experiences: Adichie begins by recounting her early reading and writing experiences. She notes, “I was also an early writer, and when I began to write, at about the age of seven, stories in pencil with crayon illustrations […] I wrote exactly the kinds of stories I was reading: All my characters were white and blue-eyed, they played in the snow, they ate apples” (Paragraph 1). This personal anecdote introduces the concept of the single story – how her exposure to Western literature as a child in Nigeria led her to create stories that did not reflect her own environment and experiences.
  2. The Shift in Perception with Exposure to African Literature: Adichie describes a pivotal moment in her life when she discovered African literature: “Now, things changed when I discovered African books. […] I realized that people like me, girls with skin the color of chocolate, whose kinky hair could not form ponytails, could also exist in literature” (Paragraph 10). This experience is crucial in developing her main idea, showing the profound impact that diverse stories can have on personal identity and perception of the world.
  3. Understanding the Impact of Single Stories in International Contexts: Adichie shares her experience with her American college roommate who had preconceived notions about Africa: “My American roommate was shocked by me. She asked where I had learned to speak English so well, and was confused when I said that Nigeria happened to have English as its official language” (Paragraph 15). This part of her narrative illustrates the widespread impact of the single story, extending beyond personal identity to influence cross-cultural interactions and perceptions.
  4. Reflecting on Personal Bias: In paragraphs 22-24, Adichie admits to her own susceptibility to the single story narrative during her visit to Mexico, revealing that despite her understanding and background, she was not immune to the pervasive nature of single stories. This self-reflection adds depth to her argument, demonstrating that the issue of the single story is a universal challenge, not just limited to one’s upbringing or cultural background.

Through these personal narratives, Adichie effectively illustrates her main idea about the power and danger of single stories in shaping our perceptions and understandings.

She uses her life experiences not only to introduce the concept but also to explore its various dimensions and implications, making a compelling case for the importance of seeking multiple, diverse stories in our understanding of the world.

Discussion Answers

In the transcript, the author discusses her college roommate’s assumptions about her and her life. What are the effects of prejudice? Describe a time when you, or someone you know, were the victim of a single story.

The effects of prejudice, as highlighted in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s transcript, are multifaceted and can have a profound impact on both individuals and groups. Prejudice, often stemming from a ‘single story’ narrative, leads to oversimplification and stereotyping of individuals based on limited information or exposure to only one aspect of their identity or culture.

This can result in several detrimental effects:

  1. Misunderstanding and Miscommunication: Prejudice can create barriers to effective communication and understanding. As Adichie describes her interaction with her American college roommate, the roommate’s assumptions about Africa and Africans, based on a single story, led to a series of misguided questions and expectations.
  2. Reduced Individuality and Complexity: Prejudice reduces individuals to a single narrative, ignoring the complexity and uniqueness of each person’s experience and identity. This can lead to feelings of alienation and a sense of being misunderstood or misrepresented.
  3. Discrimination and Social Inequality: Prejudicial attitudes can contribute to systemic discrimination and social inequalities. When certain groups are consistently stereotyped in negative ways, it can influence their treatment in various societal aspects, including employment, education, and legal systems.
  4. Internalized Negative Self-Perception: Continuous exposure to a single prejudiced story about one’s group can lead individuals to internalize these narratives, potentially affecting self-esteem and self-identity.

Regarding a personal experience, while I cannot share personal stories, I can provide a hypothetical example:

Imagine a student from a small rural town moving to a big city to attend university. They might face stereotypes from their urban peers, who assume they lack worldly experience or sophistication due to their rural upbringing.

This single story overlooks the richness of the student’s rural community, their individual experiences, and their unique perspectives. The student might feel underestimated and compelled to defend their background, which can be isolating and frustrating.

These examples illustrate the far-reaching effects of prejudice and the importance of challenging single stories to foster a more inclusive and understanding society.


In the transcript, the author discusses the power of diverse stories. How do we understand the world around us? How have the stories you’ve read shaped your understanding of the world and people who are different from you? Are there single stories in your reading, listening, or viewing that you could expand?

In the transcript, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie eloquently highlights the power of diverse stories in shaping our understanding of the world.

The way we understand the world around us is significantly influenced by the narratives we are exposed to through reading, media, personal interactions, and education.

Stories act as windows into experiences and perspectives different from our own, broadening our understanding and empathy.

The stories we read play a crucial role in shaping our perceptions:

  1. Expanding Worldviews: Reading about different cultures, histories, and personal experiences allows us to see the world from various viewpoints, expanding our understanding beyond our immediate environment.
  2. Challenging Stereotypes and Prejudices: Exposure to a wide range of stories can challenge preconceived notions and stereotypes we may hold about people who are different from us. It reveals the complexity and diversity within any group, preventing oversimplification.
  3. Fostering Empathy and Connection: Through stories, we vicariously experience the emotions, struggles, and joys of others, which can foster empathy and a sense of connection with people from different backgrounds.
  4. Encouraging Critical Thinking: Diverse narratives encourage us to think critically about our beliefs and assumptions, prompting us to question and reevaluate them in the light of new information.

Reflecting on my own exposure to stories, it’s clear that they have influenced my understanding of the world and people from diverse backgrounds. Stories from different cultures, for example, have helped in appreciating the richness of human experience and the universal themes that bind us, despite cultural differences.

However, there’s always room to expand and diversify the stories we engage with. It’s beneficial to actively seek out narratives that are underrepresented in mainstream media or that challenge our existing beliefs.

This could involve reading books by authors from different countries or backgrounds, watching films and documentaries that explore varied experiences, or listening to podcasts that delve into diverse topics.

Expanding the single stories in our reading, listening, or viewing habits is an ongoing process. It requires a conscious effort to seek out and engage with stories that differ from our own experiences and perspectives. This not only enriches our understanding of the world but also helps in building a more inclusive and empathetic society.


In the context of the text, what makes you who you are? Is it primarily the positive or negative life experiences that make you who you are? What are Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s views on the construction of one’s identity?

In the context of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s text, the construction of one’s identity is a complex process shaped by a multitude of factors, including both positive and negative life experiences. Adichie suggests that identity is formed through a tapestry of stories and experiences that one encounters throughout life.

From Adichie’s perspective, both positive and negative experiences contribute significantly to shaping who a person is. She emphasizes that focusing solely on negative or positive aspects can lead to a simplistic and incomplete understanding of a person’s identity.

This is evident in her discussion about the dangers of a single story, where she warns against defining individuals or cultures based solely on a limited set of experiences or narratives.

Adichie herself reflects on a range of experiences that have shaped her identity:

  1. Childhood Experiences and Early Influences: Adichie talks about her early reading habits and how they initially shaped her understanding of literature and storytelling. Her reading of Western children’s books, for instance, initially influenced her to write stories that did not reflect her own reality in Nigeria.
  2. Discovery of Diverse Narratives: The discovery of African literature was a turning point for Adichie, allowing her to see herself and her culture represented in literature. This expanded her understanding of what stories could be and influenced her own writing.
  3. Experiences of Stereotyping and Misunderstanding: Adichie’s experiences in the United States, such as the assumptions made by her college roommate, highlight how identity can be misconstrued when viewed through the lens of a single story. These experiences contribute to her understanding of the complexities of identity and the impact of cultural perceptions.
  4. Self-Reflection and Awareness: Adichie’s acknowledgment of her own susceptibility to the single story (as in her experience in Mexico) shows that identity is also shaped by self-reflection and the continuous process of learning and unlearning.

In summary, Adichie views identity as a multifaceted construct influenced by a wide range of stories and experiences. She advocates for acknowledging and embracing this complexity rather than reducing individuals or cultures to a single narrative. This approach allows for a more nuanced and authentic understanding of oneself and others.


In the transcript, the author discusses single stories. How does prejudice emerge? How do single stories contribute to the construction of prejudice? How can this be combated?

In the transcript, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie delves into the concept of single stories and how they contribute to the emergence of prejudice. Prejudice often arises from incomplete or one-dimensional narratives about a group, culture, or individual.

Single stories simplify complex human experiences and identities into a narrow, often stereotypical, narrative. This oversimplification can lead to the development of prejudiced views.

  1. Emergence of Prejudice from Single Stories: Prejudice emerges when people form opinions based on limited information or exposure to only one narrative about a group or individual. This is often due to a lack of exposure to diverse experiences or deliberate portrayal of certain groups in a specific light. When people only hear a single story about a particular group, they may come to believe that this story represents the entirety of that group’s experience or identity.
  2. Contribution of Single Stories to Prejudice: Single stories create and reinforce stereotypes. For example, if the only narrative a person is exposed to about a country is one of poverty and conflict, they may come to view all individuals from that country through this lens. This leads to overgeneralizations and misconceptions, which are key components of prejudiced thinking.
  3. Combatting Prejudice Through Multiple Stories: Combatting the effects of single stories and the resulting prejudice requires actively seeking out and engaging with multiple narratives. Exposure to diverse stories helps break down stereotypes by providing a more holistic, varied, and realistic understanding of others. This involves:
    • Seeking Diverse Sources: Actively looking for books, media, and educational materials that offer varied perspectives, particularly those from marginalized or underrepresented groups.
    • Critical Thinking: Questioning stereotypes and generalizations, and recognizing the complexity and diversity within any group.
    • Empathy and Openness: Engaging with different stories with empathy and an open mind, trying to understand the experiences and viewpoints of others.
    • Personal Interactions: Engaging in conversations and relationships with people from different backgrounds, which can challenge preconceived notions and provide firsthand understanding of diverse experiences.

Adichie’s exploration of single stories in the context of prejudice highlights the importance of storytelling and narrative diversity in shaping our understanding of the world and each other.

By embracing a multitude of stories, we can move towards a more inclusive and empathetic society.

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