End or Beginning

In some cultures, death is not the end. Throughout the beginning of the Taiye Selasi’s Ghana Must Go, there is a lot of reference to death and different people passing on. I believe the author uses diction within the novel in order to get the audience to view death as not necessarily being the ‘end’ for someone right away. With diction, Selasi’s chose of words or phrases to describe events happening in the story can have various connotative meanings. In this instance, although death is associated with negative things, like sickness and it being the end of your life, Selasi uses this literary device to push the audience to look beyond those common associations.

The novel begins by stating, “Kweku dies barefoot on a Sunday before sunrise…he is on the threshold between sunroom and garden…” (3). Within this first section, the audience is immediately introduced to a character that is already dead. However, right after the first sentence of Kweku dying, the next one immediately jumps to him performing something only a living person would do, such as standing on a threshold. Not only does this suggest that Kweku is still alive from one angle of perspective, but it also hints at Kweku being able to do something like that in his death. Therefore, in choosing to place Kweku “on” the threshold “considering” whether or not to go back, Selasi has also challenged the audience to question whether Kweku is really dead, or if this is him beyond death. It is similar to how Kweku is set up for death a little later in the beginning section of the novel. “For he knows in a strange way, as the spiral comes to rest at wen everything dies, that he’s about to. He knows that he’s dying…but doesn’t notice” (21). In this instance, we see that Kweku is aware of his oncoming death, but does not notice it at the same time. The audience is able to relate to Kweku being that  it is not entirely clear whether his death in the very beginning of the novel is noticeable or not, being that he is still described as living right after.

Another example would be when he was a child he tells his sister that she is not going to die from what he now realized was treatable TB. Even though there is a lot of blood coming from her mouth, and her body is very weak, she still responds with a wide smile, and says that she will. “And had, with a smile on her hollowed-out face, with her hand in her brother’s his hand on her neck, wide eyes laughing, growing wide and colder as he’d stared at them,” (26). To describe her eyes and smile to be “growing” as though she were still alive makes it seem as though death did not stop her from continuing to communicate with her brother. Again, we see Selasi placing an action for the character to do right after the indication of their death. In doing so, she is playing with the idea of something beyond death that makes it possible to still seem alive.




Selasie, Taiye. Ghana Must Go, New York: Penguin, 2014, 1-160.



2 thoughts on “End or Beginning

  1. I wholeheartedly agree that Selasi is suggesting that death is not final. I like that you point to the first sentence of the book, and how it begins with Kweku’s death. To begin a book with something that is seemingly so final, or what many societies see as the climax, demonstrates just how indefinite death really is. Usually after the death, the story is finished, which we saw this in Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. Yet, in Ghana Must Go death is only the beginning; there is a whole other story to tell after the death. Not only is this more realistic in its reflection of life—as the death leave the living to continue living—but also hints back to Selasi’s argument regarding the durability of the “Afropolitans”. This means the fate of Kweku is not the fate of Olu, as we know, and Olu still has a story to tell which will simultaneously continue his father’s story, despite Kweku’s death.

  2. I agree. Death can be a continuation of life, and Selasie is very intentional in displaying this. This ties back to the idea of linearity in a novel; nothing is happening in “order” everything occurs at various cycles, nonetheless feeding into one another. Then if death is no end, where does life end, according to the text?

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