In several ways the story of Elvis’s journey reminds me of the journey of the young hero Jamal in the movie Slumdog Millionaire.  Both youth were thrown into the straits of poverty after the deaths of their mothers.  Elvis and Jamal’s stories are unraveled as a series of childhood and adolescent flashbacks that slowly build up to the present day.  Each of them is lured into a community of crime and illegal activity in order to survive.  They both seek to break away from this and “move up in society”.  I believe their most significant similarity is in relation to their personalities.  Despite the criminal activity that they initially participate in, their actions exemplify generosity even when living in poverty.  Elvis gives to beggars.  Jamal gives a $100 bill to his childhood friend who is a blind street singer.  (Another similarity in both stories is the strong presence of street performers).   Both stories are draped with the influence of Western culture.  Jamal escapes poverty by winning on the Who Wants To Be Millionaire game show (an American invention).  Because I have embarrassingly limited knowledge of non-western literature and film, I wonder if the epical plot of the youthful protagonist trying to “make his way up the social latter” is a common theme, or if it is just a coincidence that I made a connection between a story set in India and a story set in Lagos, Nigeria.  To me, this plot feels very “western” in the sense that it suggests humans are in control of their own destinies, when traditional cultures are typically thought to be bound by some sort of cast system.  It is also not lost on me that Slumdog Millionaire, despite being set in India, is an American film.

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