The themes of beauty, ugliness, organization, and chaos are evident throughout the first part of Graceland. These themes reflect the organized chaos discussed in the articles we read earlier this week. In a passage at the end of chapter five, on his bus ride home “Elvis did not pay too much attention to the cars that in spite of their speed wove between each other like the careful threads of a tapestry. The motorways were the only means of getting across the series of towns that made up Lagos. Intent on reaching their own destinations, pedestrians dodged between the speeding vehicles as they crossed the motorways. It was dangerous, and every day at least ten people were killed trying to cross the road” (56). The cars weaving “between each other like the careful threads of a tapestry” implies a deliberate method to the motorways and traffic. Weaving together careful threads of a tapestry also suggests intricacy and accuracy. Weaving together threads of a tapestry can be elaborate and difficult, and yet it must also be done carefully and correctly or the tapestry will fall apart. However, the “speed” of the cars and their running over pedestrians attempting to cross the road suggests carelessness and disorganization. The comparison between the beauty and method of a carefully woven tapestry and the carelessness and horror of hitting and crushing bodies is indicative of the paradoxical organized chaos and ugly beauty of Lagos.
At the end of his bus ride, “Elvis could hardly wait for his stop and trudged home wearily, shoes ringing out on the walkways. It was late and much of Maroko was asleep, awash with moonlight. In the distance a woman sang in a sorrow-cracked voice that made him catch his breath, stop and look around. In that moment, it all looked so beautiful, like a sequence from one of the films he had seen. Then the silence was broken by the approach of menacing steps” (58). The beauty of a village flooded with moonlight, the sorrowful voice of a woman singing in the background is breathtaking for Elvis. Although he is in a hurry to get home, he must stop and admire the beauty of a sleeping Maroko. And yet, this beautiful moment is shattered abruptly by the danger of “menacing steps.” Although Lagos has its moments of beauty and peacefulness, it is simultaneously dangerous and ugly.