The Youngest Child on the Derailed Train

A family that is just as fractured as the narrative written about them, the Sai’s in Taiye Selasi’s Ghana Must Go are each learning how to rebuild the bridges between them following the death of their father, Kweku. In the opening section, flashbacks triggered by sensations during Kweku’s death (sight of his first wife’s statue, the feeling of grass on his feet, etc.) create the portrait of a family striving for success, and the pressures that such a pursuit puts on their relationships.

During the birth of their fourth child, later to be named Folasade, after her mother on accident, Kweku experiences a protectiveness and recognition of beauty that he had not at the birth of his other children (Selasi 17). Folasade (Sadie), was born ten weeks too early, and had been taken to the NICU, where her nurses believed she would not survive (Selasi 12). Born nine years after the twins, Taiwo and Kehinde, Sadie was unplanned and “impatient” to enter the world (Selasi 15). Kweku’s oldest son, Olu, believes that he will be able to save Sadie, because of the  childhood belief in one’s parents and Kweku’s reputation as a genius surgeon (Selasi 15).

Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:A_Local_Train_Leaving_Wressle_Station_-_geograph.org.uk_-_201366.jpg

Years later, Immediately following his wrongful termination from Brigham hospital in Boston, Kweku continues to perform the role of Surgeon and Bread-winner amongst his family, by pretending to leave for work every morning at the same time (Selasi 65). He repeats the motions of dressing for work, and calling Goodbye to his wife and children on the way out (Selasi 65). “‘Bye!’ they called back. Three contraltos, one bass, Sadie’s soprano “I love yooou!” just a second delayed, breezing only just barely out the closing front door like a latecomer jumping on an almost-missed train” (Selasi 65). By comparing Sadie’s love to a “latecomer jumping on an almost-missed train,” Selasi foreshadows the the impending departure of Kweku while creating the image of an unasked for connection. The train was already in motion, moving forwards towards its destination, and Sadie’s voice ran to catch it. The action is hers, as the train never intended to slow down. “Almost-missed” implies the urgency of the action, and releases the breath of  near-miss. The term “breezing” indicates a light and airiness to the words themselves. It is love without the weight and gravity of Kweku’s relationships with his other children. Her voice is the soprano, and therefore the higher, lighter, and more innocent of the chorus. This metaphor illustrates Sadie’s relationship with the rest of the family, while indicating her character from a young age.

The fact that Sadie does not say goodbye is also significant. The rest of the family creates a chorus with the word “Bye!” while Sadie states a reminder of her love for Kweku. There is innocence in the assumption that saying goodbye is not necessary. It indicates that she does not believe that her father would not come back. While they do not realize it at the time, the rest of the Sai children have the opportunity to say goodbye to their father, while Sadie never does.

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Selasi, Taiye. Ghana Must Go. New York, Penguin Books Inc, 2014.

2 thoughts on “The Youngest Child on the Derailed Train

  1. Your observations of the simile that depicts Kweku’s departure from his family as quickly boarding a moving train are insightful. I was particularly intrigued by the attention you bring to the way in which Sadie addresses her father as he leaves for the last time. I also found it interesting how she says “I love you” instead of saying “goodbye” to Kweku. As noted by you, this is a representation of Sadie’s innocence as the youngest child of the family. Furthermore, it’s interesting how, out of all the Sai children, she appears to feel the least amount of sadness upon hearing about his death as she questions if she should even feel pain over the passing of the “stranger” (Selasi 148). Perhaps it is because she knows Kweku the least as the youngest child or because of the fact that she never got to say goodbye to him and thus feels confused and/or hurt.

  2. Your close reading of the scene where Sadie calls after her father is very interesting, and put into context how different Sadie was from the rest of her family. It made me think of how she was set up as an abnormal character from the very beginning when we find out her mother acted strange when she was pregnant with her. Unlike with her other children Fola did not want anyone to know the gender of her child, or that she was pregnant at all (Selasi 13).

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