Being a Butterfly

Selasi’s Ghana Must Go is a brilliant and heartbreaking novel that follows the lives of an immigrant family. The death of Kweku Sai sparks a family reunion that brings the Sais together and unfolds the truths, transformations, and heartbreak. Selasi’s poetic style enhances the emotions the reader experiences throughout the text. Her use of repetition causes the story to slow down and allows the reader to connect with each character and story in this journey. Specifically, the visual repetition of a buttery fly becomes seemingly significant in the first part of the novel. The symbolic butterfly draws attention to important scenes in the story and provides significance to other aspects of Ghana Must Go. I am intrigued by this literary device Selasi uses in order to draw on the importance of death.

A butterfly in many contexts represents the power of transformation and life. In my personal understanding, a butterfly is associated with the soul, life, and transformation. The cycle a butterfly goes through demonstrates different stages of life that may not always be beautiful. This theme is illustrated throughout Ghana Must Go in several forms. One could argue the butterfly primarily represents transformation and change, however, I want to focus on this idea that the butterfly is a visual image Selasi uses to signify death.

The reoccurring image of the butterfly adds depth to the meaning of death in Ghana Must Go. Specifically, the scene in which Kweku sits by his mother in chapter ten displays the visual image and its significance. As Kweku grasps the idea that his mother has passed a butterfly, “black and blue (swordtail), just coming to rest, an almost neon shade of turquoise, black markings, white dots”, appears on her toe (Selasi 59). This scene acknowledges the relationship between the butterfly and death. It is an image that indicates the departure of the soul. The butterfly appears when his mother is gone. The butterfly is a symbol of a life taken. Again in chapter eleven, the image of the butterfly reappears. The beauty of the butterfly distracts Kweku from acknowledging his pain. The image of the butterfly here resembles the escaping of the soul. Kweku is physically feeling shortness of breath and pain in his chest and the butterfly is the image that reminds the reader of death.

In this scene, the butterfly works to also illustrate the difficulty Kweku faces with himself. Kweku desires to be a successful man who is able to provide for his family, however, he feels he cannot always do so. The butterfly thus can represent Kweku and his journey. Kweku is struggling, feeling trapped as to say he is in a cocoon. However, Kweku’s body does not have the strength to spread his metaphorical wings. It is said that a butterfly cannot appreciate its own beauty but brings beauty to those around it and Kweku’s death does that. The beauty of bringing together family and telling stories of migration and transformation through the death of a loved one creates a strong bond.

The butterfly illustrates death and Kweku’s death specifically gives further significance to the repeating image Selasi uses. The butterfly can resemble many underlying ideas within Ghana Must Go including hope, life, change, transformation. I am curious to see the ways in which other readers interpret the butterfly throughout the reading.

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.

B3

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

Looking to the Past to Move Forward

Grief is mind-shattering—the pain of it is unimaginable, and the only people who can understand it are those who are in the midst of grief with you. Grief is overwhelming, and the initial shock and rawness of pain often leaves its victim stupefied. Both these aspects of grief—its rawness and its ability to turn the world upside-down—can be seen in Taiye Selasi’s Ghana Must Go. Yet, despite its disorientating nature, grief in Ghana Must Go allows for a broken family to reunite, and forces them to glue the fragments of their shattered worlds back together, as it forces the family to relate to one another. Not a single member of the family, or in general those who experience grief, are initially capable of being articulate or objective in their attempts to comprehend their loss. The inarticulate and incomprehensive mentality of grief often moves in circular and repetitive, fleeting thoughts—similar to the fragmented sentences of Ghana Must Go. It is thus through Selasi’s use of short, fragmented sentences, and her circular progression throughout the narrative, where the nature of grief is expressed, and it becomes evident that it is, in fact, their grief which enables this family to once again come together.

The family in Taiye Selasi’s Ghana Must Go is all but destroyed, where one crack caused a splintering, which resulted in a full break in their familial bond. The text reads like individual streams of consciousness of its various characters, and the often used brief, list-like sentences are demonstrative of the characters’ confusion and attempts to grapple with their grief. One such example is within Olu’s constant repetition of how and why his father dies. He constantly reimagines it, “dead in a garden of cardiac arrest, basic coronary thrombosis, easy peasy, act fast, Kweku Sai, prodigal prodigy, a phenom, a failure” (Selasi 114). For Olu, time stopped the second he found that his father had died. He begins to move backwards in time, rethinking over past times with his father, using the facts in a list-like format, trying to comprehend the finality of the death he was absent for. For Selasi, using this repetition of how the death occurred and who it was who died, communicates the shear bewilderment of death that comes in grief.

Olu is not the only one who demonstrates this short, fragmented stream of repetitive consciousness, Taiwo, his sister, does as well. On reflection Taiwo thinks back to how her mother told stories of her father after he left them. She thinks “…short stories of snow, until they both fell asleep. Until the man was erased—from their stories and so their childhoods (which only existed as stories…) Not dead. Never dead. They never wished the man dead or pretended he was dead” (Selasi 38-39). Again it is in this repetition of the word “dead” and the short, broken explanations are Taiwo’s own attempts at making the intangibility of death somewhat tangible. It is through these brief, listed thoughts that Selasi is able to convey the pain of grief and the utter confusion it brings.

The family’s learning of Kweku’s sudden, unexpected passing forces them back into a world that they had long forgotten. Moreover, even as each family member has gone in their own direction, it is the grief and its chaos that enables them to reconnect. Selasi’s ability to convey the confusion of grief through a circular progression of thoughts and memories, through short, fragmented sentences is both reflective of grief, and demonstrative of a broken family attempting to reconnect. It is through their memories that they can do this, though. Thus, in the unfamiliarity of grief, which looks to the past to move forward, the family is able to relate solely in grief, ultimately allowing them to renew a bond that had been all but lost.

 

Blog Post 3

 

Works Cited

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

 

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.

 

B4

The Butterfly Effect

Source: emojipedia.org

If a simple butterfly can initiate a powerful tornado, what can stop it from leading a man to his death?  Whether you perceive it as an unrealistic concept or a natural inevitability, the Butterfly Effect Theory still attempts to explain how seemingly insignificant actions can propel a much more serious consequence.  In Part I of Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi, the literal figure of the butterfly finds itself featured in pivotal moments in Kweku’s life.  Specifically a ‘bright turquoise and black’ (63) butterfly, the creature first appears to Kweku in Chapter 10 as he sits by the cold body of his mother in his childhood home in Ghana, having missed her final moments of life.  In contrast, this turquoise and blue butterfly makes its second appearance in Chapter 11, as it appears to Kweku in his dream home in Ghana during his own final moments of life. Despite this imagery of mother and son, dead and dying under the seemingly indifferent watch of a butterfly, I contend that this does not mean the butterfly represents evil, Death incarnate, etc.  More than anything, I find the turquoise and black butterfly (a Swordfish to be exact) serves as a metaphor- to both the reader and to Kweku himself- of his mother’s death.

While Kweku spends most of his life repressing his pain, it is clear that the impact of his mother’s death marked a distinct shift in the way Kweku’s pain is internalized.  Before the butterfly has entered Kweku’s childhood home and he is only left alone with an infant Olu and the mother he never said goodbye to, Selasi writes, “His heart broke in one place.  The first break. He didn’t feel it,” (59). This reaction is then immediately paired with the ensuing arrival of the butterfly, “It fluttered around his mother’s foot, a lazy lap, then lifted off, flapping blithely toward the triangular dome and out the little window.  Gone,” This scene establishes the association of the turquoise and black butterfly with his mother’s death, and consequently, the first heart break Kweku experiences.  As evident by the second chapter of this novel, Kweku’s death by stroke was not something that could have been explained in logical, medical terms. He was healthy, and most importantly, trained in identifying a stroke and was capable of preventing it.  But as Olu concludes, he must have been “arrested” by something important (8). Ultimately, Chapter 11 reveals that the reemergence of the butterfly that appeared at the feet of his dead mother causes Kweku to freeze in his garden, preventing him from noticing that his body was betraying him.  And it is the action of this butterfly that propels the intensity of this moment, “he sees the thing, barely, bright turquoise and black.”, Selasi writes, “Just coming to rest on a blossom, bright pink. When it comes to him suddenly: the name, by her face. ‘Bougainvillaea,’ he hears her saying,” (63)  Hear, the reader observes a metaphorical interaction between Kweku’s two greatest heartbreaks unfold. Through compounding the heartbreak of his mother’s death (via the butterfly) with the heartbreak of losing Folasade (via the pink Bougainvillaea), the catalyst for Kweku’s death is explained. We learn that through the emergence of these traumas from deep within Kweku’s most repressed self, his death seems inevitable but nonetheless tragic.  This insight into his greatest pain and the true cause of his death (initiated by a butterfly’s wings, no less) allows the reader to develop a deeper understanding between the relationships Kweku had with his mother and ex-wife. While his attitudes and actions towards these women were highlighted by coldness and betrayal during his lifetime, his death reveals his regret was so salient, that a mere butterfly was capable of shattering the walls he built around his heartbreak.

Blog #4

Source:

Selasi, Taiye. Ghana Must Go. Penguin Books, 2014. pp. 8, 59, 63

A Child’s Foe, Favoritism

I’m convinced. Well, I’ve always known. Now I’m just consciously recognizing its pernicious existence: favoritism. But not your ordinary last-kid-picked-kickball sorta favoritism. Nope. Its the bred that rotted my teeth because I slid under my bed and chewed gum and ate candy in resentment. It’s the my-one-child-outta-five-is-my-ultimate-favorite sorta favoritism that drives middle children, like myself, askew. Because 9.95 times / 10 times, we aren’t the recipients. Inversely, our pampered siblings live an unimaginable lifestyle; a utopia of sorts.

Kehinde embraced the exclusivity that riding with his father (Kewku) implied. They were alone and Kweku was kind. Kweku, the dying, dead, dissolving father in Taiye Selasi’s Ghana Must Go (2014) resembles everything adjacent to kind. Passionate. Loving. Providing. Intelligent.

Hard-working. Etc. Never as gentle, nurturing, or vulnerable. Never kind. Until Kweku finds himself “shoved…to the sidewalk outside” of his former hospital of employment (79). There, physically tossed out, slightly embarrassed, Kweku finds Kehinde frazzled right beside him. Kehinde was “surprised to find the world…revolving” too (79). This moment, which Kehinde was partially privy to, altered the dynamics of the Sai family, and Kehinde was aware of these universal shifts.

Child Favoritism

After confronting his former employer, being thrown to the curb, and watching chaos spill into the ER, Kweku gathered his son and they headed for the car. While en route, Kweku “was burning with the desire to say something brilliant, something wise and overriding” (80). Finding nothing brilliant to say, Kweku settles with “I’m sorry you saw that,” in which Kehinde clarifies “[s]ight is subjective” (80). Finally heading home, Kweku “drove without looking, without needing to, from memory. Seeing instead of looking. He drove home by heart (my emphasis added, 81). A colloquial statement, “he drove home by heart” means Kweku navigated home by his-way-of-knowing. However, in this logic heart is anthropomorphized: it borrows the human quality of memory. No only can Kweku remember the way home, but his heart (a bodily extension) too recalls. If Kweku’s heart has memory, or the ability to remember, then must it have other human qualities? Next, Kehinde’s decree that “[s]ight is subjective,” succeeded by phrases complicating what it means to see, points to the heart as a vessel of sight: something to see through. The preceding line of my emphasized quote—“Seeing instead of looking”—privileges seeing over looking. Implying that seeing is more intimate than looking. Seeing is linked more with home; it’s deeper inside. What’s deep inside and associated with home? The HEART! Hence, Kweku’s heart is humanized more with the addition of sight. It can recall, therefore think, and now see. Kweku’s heart appears to be a metonym, not for himself but his son—Kehinde. Kehinde is Kweku’s heart.

The heart is an extension of Kweku. It symbolizes the whole of him. Likewise, Kehinde is an extension of Kweku, a biological one. A child carries the same biological make-up as their parents—gaining equal parts from each parent—making them annexes. Socio-culturally, a son is thought to model after his father: be like him in manner. Thus making him a replica. The biological meshed with the socio-cultural insists that a son is a literal extension of his father. Augmenting this point, by –linking home and heart—has a dual meaning. As a preposition, a way of knowing; an adverb, proximity to an object. Thus, Kweku could either be driving by knowledge of the way home, or he could be driving by (with/next to) his heart, Kehinde. Therefore, the conflation of both by and heart and their double meanings into this colloquial phrase, symbolizing familiarity and comfort, marks Kehinde as the favorite of Kweku. He is with him at his smallest and raises him up. Kehinde pumps life back into his doppelganger. Arriving home, Kehinde displays his “genius” painting to his father, and awards Kwefu by choosing him over Fola (82). The once downtrodden Kweku, out on the curb, now “laughed” and “giggled.” Kweku’s life been restored, by Kehinde, his heart.

Without Kehinde, Kweku would surely die. By virtue of the everyday-phrase, the father-son relationship is implied to hold great import. Kehinde becomes an appendix to Kweku; not only his son; maybe even him reincarnated, the vessel through which a piece of him took a liking to. Kehinde is Kweku’s favorite.

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

Father or Stranger: Sadie’s Stream of Consciousness

Amidst the flashbacks and actions in the present, the emotions and thoughts of characters burst forward onto the pages of Ghana Must Go like nonstop, powerful flowing rivers. This narrative technique, stream of consciousness, is one of the most intriguing aspects of Taiye Selasi’s novel as it directly delves into the psyches of multiple characters, exposing dark secrets and complicated histories. With little to no punctuation, the stream of consciousness abruptly gives the reader a vast amount of information that concerns a character’s thoughts and/or feelings on a certain matter of the story, such as a significant theme, plot point, or motivation. One of the most notable factors that is revealed through the stream of consciousness in Ghana Must Go is the family dynamics of the Sais, as demonstrated through the thought process of Sadie, the youngest child in the family.

Folasade Sai (known affectionately as Sadie) is the youngest daughter and child of Kweku Sai and Folasade Savage. While all of her older siblings are already all grown up, Sadie is the baby of the family, only twenty years old when first introduced during her birthday party in Part II of the novel. Being the youngest member of the family, Sadie thus remembers her father the least, as she was only a young child when he left. So when her older sister, Taiwo, calls and delivers the sad news of Kweku’s death, a barrage of mixed emotions in the form of a stream of consciousness erupts: “Did she know? Did she feel it? The loss of her father, the death of a man she had almost not known, who was gone before she was in grade school, a stranger? How could she have What could she claim to have lost? A memory. Someone else’s” (Selasi 148 – 9).

This passage reinforces the family dynamics of the Sais. We see that Sadie and Kweku were so distant from each other after his departure that she is unsure of whether or not she feels great sadness over his death. We see that, in addition to addressing Kweku as “her father”, he is also just “a man” and “a stranger” to Sadie. Furthermore, Sadie’s inability to explain her feelings clearly and decide on what loss she is experiencing as well as assigning her memories to “someone else” solidifies the rift that exists within the Sai family. It is a moment of great sadness for the audience with access to Sadie’s personal thoughts, but not a moment of sorrow for Sadie herself.

Sadie’s stream of consciousness thus allows the reader to get intimate with the private thoughts of Saide. By having access to a complex thought process that is not being shared with other characters within the novel, the reader is able to gain clear insight on Sadie’s perspective on the dynamics of her family, notbaly her strained relationship with her father. Being in the consciousness of Sadie also allows the reader to experience her own emotions alongside her, creating a connection that makes the story more layered, personal, and realistic as well as intriguing. With the stream of consciousness, Taiye Selasi therefore utilizes a literary device that overwhelms the reader with intense emotions and thought provoking concepts in a nonstop, nonlinear narrative fashion to capture the disoriented and tragic atmosphere of the split Sai family.

B3

Works Cited

Selasi, Taiye. Ghana Must Go. Penguin Books, 2014.

Starring in a Movie for an Audience of One

Never have the words “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players” been more true than in the mind of Kweku Sai from Ghana Must Go. Kweku lives his life constantly imagining a cameraman recording his every move. The use of this metaphor appears throughout Kweku’s story, showing how he wishes himself to be viewed. Kweku envisions a “bridge between two worlds,” believing that by returning to his home in Ghana with his American-born son, he would be building that bridge: “He imagined this moment every day in Pennsylvania, how his cameraman would film it, panning up to [his mother’s] face. Cue strings. Tears in mother’s eyes. Wonder, joy, amazement. The awe of the siblings. The jubilation. Cue drums” (Selasi 52-53). Kweku’s cameraman metaphor reveals how his familial relationships are negatively affected because his actions are of a self-centered nature, even when he believes them to be otherwise.

Through the metaphor of Kweku’s inner cameraman, the novel critiques the character’s desire to control his family relationships, and therefore to control his own story with himself as a hero. He has entire scenes envisioned in his mind, complete with “strings” and “drums” (52-3). The cameraman is not just a cameraman, but “his” cameraman. Although many of Kweku’s actions would appear to be out of love, for example his tiptoeing to avoid waking Ama (who is actually very difficult to wake) much of his choices are made because he believes them to be a good story. This self-occupied view affects familial relationships, because his attempts to care for his family are actually based in an idea of living up to an imagined standard. The metaphor shows that he is not reacting to the needs of others, but to what an imagined audience would think of his actions.

The cameraman scene in chapter 9 emphasises the point made by the rest of the chapter: Kweku chooses what he wants to believe about himself, but those ideas are often untrue. His relationships with others are affected by his denial of his true emotions. He thinks he loves Ama for one reason, when in reality he loves her for other reasons. He prefers to be the director of his own story, and therefore denies realities. The cameraman metaphor is presented as if it were real; the novel does not refer to the cameraman as imaginary, but instead purely as “his cameraman” (52). The metaphor is then crushed at the end of the chapter, with the line “This is how he planned it. But this isn’t how it happened” (53). By setting up an elongated scene, then quickly destroying the possibility for scene to actually occur, this small passage shows how Kweku is often disappointed (and disappointing to others) because his cameraman imagery does not line up with reality.

The “cameraman” metaphor shows how people will see what they want to see. Family dynamics are built upon communication, and responding to the thoughts and feelings of others. Through Kweku’s metaphor, it reveals that even when he is helping his family members, it is often to satisfy the need to perform for an audience. This builds a wall (to use another metaphor from the novel) between himself and his family members, not only with the ones who have estranged him, but also between himself and Ama. He defines his behavior by how he would like to be seen, which makes it difficult for the rest of his family to truly get to know him.

 

Works Cited

Selasi, Taiye. Ghana Must Go. Penguin Books, 2014.

Shakespeare, William, and David M. Bevington. The Complete Works of Shakespeare. Pearson, 2014.

Image courtesy of: https://www.joe.ie/uncategorized/video-nba-cameraman-tries-to-keep-it-together-after-foot-falls-asleep-378760

Do we all turn into our Parents?

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Or does it? Part one of Taiye Selasi’s novel, Ghana Must Go, narrates the complex personal relationships in the Sai family after the death of their estranged father. To tell their story, Selasi uses an intrusive narrator that delves into the inner thoughts and feelings of each character. This narrative style works to expose her characters’ emotional wounds and personal flaws to her readers. Within the first 2 chapters of the novel, Selasi sets up a parallel between the father of the family, Kweku, and his eldest son, Olu. Both Olu and Kweku are surgeons and in their sections of the novel, Selasi slips into clinical imagery which suits their medical minds. However, though these sections use similar diction, when taking a closer look at the structure of her sentences, the differences and strain underpinning the father-son relationship become clear.

In the second chapter of the novel, Selasi describes Olu finding processing the death of his absent father. Selasi writes, “…he’ll picture it- his father, there, dead in a garden, healthy male, fifty-seven, in remarkable shape, small-round biceps pushing up against the skin of his arms, small-round belly pushing out against the rib of his top…”(6). Selasi begins by using emotional, but terse phrases such as “his father”, “there”, and “dead in a garden”. The simplicity of these phrases demonstrate Olu’s unwillingness to engage with the emotional trauma of his father’s death. Just as these phrases do not take up significant space in his description, nor does he allow the event’s reality to take up space in his mind. As the passage progresses his thoughts shift into physical and clinical phrases such as “healthy male”, “fifty-seven”, and details such as “small-round bicep…small-round belly”. Though the physicality of these phrases suit his identity as a doctor, their medical nature communicate his deep dissociation and emotional repression in this moment. Instead of confronting the fact of his father’s death, Olu can focus only on the comfortable and clinical facts of the body.

Later on in the novel, Selasi flashes back to a moment when Kweku was under intense emotional stress- when his daughter was born prematurely. In this chapter, Selasi details Olu and Kweku walking together in the hospital the night of his daughter’s birth. From Kweku’s perspective Selasi writes, “He looked at Olu closely now, surprised by his height (and by other things he’d seen but never noticed before: the wide latissimus dorsi, the angular jawline, the Yoruba nose, Fola’s nose, broad and straight, the taut skin the same shade as his own and so smooth, baby’s bum, even know in adolescence)”(14). Kweku uses similar clinical language to describe his son’s body such as “latissimus dorsi, angular jawline” and “taught skin”. However, unlike Olu, Kweku’s emotional descriptions are interspersed throughout the clause. For example, he uses “Fola’s nose”, invoking his emotional relationship to his wife. Further, he describes Olu’s skin as “the same shade as his own and so smooth, baby’s bum”. Through identifying both parents in Olu’s features and using the word “baby’s bum” which associates Olu with childhood, Kweku’s identity as a father is highlighted. Though there is clearly strain on his relationship, as he has “never noticed” these traits, Kweku is not using his identity as a doctor to retreat from these realizations. Instead, his identity as a doctor and provider has wiped away the parental emotions that he is now grasping at.

Though Selasi’s word choice in these moments link these two characters as Docotors, her descriptions highlight essential differences between them. In both moments these characters’ are responding to intense emotions by falling back into their comfort zone of clinical knowledge. However, where for Olu it is a form of emotional dissociation, for Kweku his clinical knowledge is his natural state. Thus when emotions organically bubble up Kweku does not revile them, but rather grasps for them. Kweku’s sparse outward emotions communicate a future risk for Olu. Though disconnecting from emotions may have been a way to succeed for Kweku, it ultimately leaves him alone and estranged from his family. Therefore, Olu’s emotional retreat into clinical knowledge demonstrate a potentially dangerous outcome- abstracting himself so much from emotional connections that he ends up just like his father.

BP 3

Works Cited

Selasi, Taiye. Ghana Must Go. Penguin Books, 2013.