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

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.

Blog Prompt #3: Ghana Must Go (pp. 1-160)

Blog Post #3 Due: Tues 10/9, 12noon // Comments #5-6 Due: Tues 10/9, 11:59pm

Cover of Selasi's Ghana Must GoProvide a detailed close reading of one specific literary device from pp. 1-160 of Taiye Selasi’s Ghana Must Go. Given that this is a large portion of a novel, select a specific and focused literary device from a particular scene or chapter. Use the steps detailed below to develop a fluid and cohesive argument about the significance of this literary device to how we begin to understand either time, family dynamics, or specific relationship in the novel.

  1. Introduce (name/describe) the literary device you plan to analyze and frame a cohesive quote illustrating the selected literary device. Remember to provide enough context to situate your reader within the relevant section of the text.
  2. Describe what specific effects this device produces – remember, you will need to re-quote / reference specific portions of the text in this portion of your close reading.
  3. Explain how the device produce these effects – again, re-quote / reference the text as needed to illustrate your claims.
  4. Explain why these effects are significant. What do they convey about either time, family dynamics, or specific relationships in the novel.