Later, when she came to know of the letters he wrote to Congress about Darfur, the teenagers he tutored at the high school on Dixwell, the shelter he volunteered at, she thought of him as a person who did not have a normal spine but had, instead, a firm reed of goodness.

This description of Blaine comes from Chapter 34, not long after Blaine and Ifemelu meet for the second time at the blogging conference. Blaine is an activist at heart, someone who attempts to always strive for what is right or righteous, regardless of any discomfort or inconvenience it might cause. He spends his free time giving back to his community, tutoring and volunteering. He often makes choices not entirely based on what he likes but what he believes is right. Ifemelu admires this goodness in him, but it is not in her to emulate it.

He used that word, “lazy,” often, for his students who did not hand in work on time, black celebrities who were not politically active, ideas that did not match his own.

This quotation comes from Chapter 34, in introducing the first seeds of trouble in Ifemelu and Blaine’s relationship. Blaine’s sense of righteousness also has a shadow side in that he is also very judgmental of other people, especially those he considers Black like him who do not live with the same rigid morals. He uses the word “lazy” to describe some of Ifemelu’s writing because he feels she uses her blog to observe instead of educate. However, Ifemelu is neither a professor nor an activist. Blaine’s sense that he can remake Ifemelu’s writing style into something less “lazy” hints that he will ultimately not be a good match for her.

He expected her to feel what she did not know how to feel. There were things that existed for him that she could not penetrate.

This quotation appears in Chapter 34, when Blaine is upset that Ifemelu is not more angry at a white woman for touching her hair. Blaine approaches race issues as a Black American who has grown up with racist microaggressions. Having grown up in Nigeria, Ifemelu has never experienced these microaggressions before and doesn’t have the same frustration associated with them. Instead of seeing the complexity in the situation, rather, Blaine acts betrayed by Ifemelu not reacting like a Black American. He cannot fully accept Ifemelu as a Nigerian woman with a Nigerian woman’s perspective.