One of the most striking moments of Graceland’s final chapters was when Sunday confronts the Nigerian police as they begin the process of bulldozing their slum, Maroko. The slum-clearing of Maroko is not only important from a historical and sociological perspective (a process which has occurred in many new urban areas to remove the “eyesore” that are slums, but fail to address the affordable housing gap that caused them in the first place), but has highly symbolic relevance as well.
When the bulldozers rumble into Moroko, the true character of every resident is revealed. Comfort, whose morality and dedication to Sunday and his family has been in question for much of the novel, fights until almost the last moment to shake Sunday from his alcoholic stupor and save him from the bulldozer. Sunday, however, cannot be shaken by Comfort’s pleas, and is distracted by hallucinatory visions of Beatrice and his spirit totem, a fearsome leopard, when he should have fled the slum. In his last moments, Sunday attempts to push aside the pain and frustration he feels when confronted by Beatrice by dismissing her as ghost and trying to make her disappear. Yet in the end, he realizes what a waste he has made of his life since the murder of Godfrey, and decides to die like a man. In this way, Beatrice’s spirit and the stress of the slum-clearing force Sunday to tap into the honor and valor he has always claimed was part of the family name.
In his last moments, he lunges at a policeman in a desperate last push against authority. The policeman could easily be read as an embodiment of the systemic problems of Lagos and Nigerian politics which have driven Sunday and his family into the slums. Moreover, his death can be seen as the ultimate martyrdom in fighting the powers that repress the citizens of Lagos and create the tension that lies at the crux of the novel: the fight between loyalty to your homeland and a desire for a new start when the system has failed you over and over again.