For the presentation, I asked the class how a character changes through moving from the countryside to Lagos. We spent the majority of the class talking about the impact of the Lagos upon the identity of the characters (mainly Elvis) and the collective identity of the Nigerian citizen. However, one cannot ignore the impact of Lagos upon the family structure. This institution appears to suffer from the experience, leaving Nigerians seemingly stranded without social safety nets. Applying a Koolhaus lens though allows one to see that the change is not necessarily so negligent towards to the city dweller. 

Upon first glance, it appears these systems take massive blows. One can see this through a comparison between Elvis’s engagement of the family in rural and urban settings. Elvis’s family ties exist in a dichotomous state, divided between male and female family members. The men for the most part were cruel and domineering, especially when it came to the collective decision to murder Godfrey for the sake of family honor. These aspirations for the upholding of tradition and family name are voided by the very act of murder and the further dishonorable acts, committed mainly by Joseph and minutely by extension Sunday, who refuses to be a true father, when Elvis needed it. Where the men basically fail to be a functioning supporting family unit, the women in Elvis’s life pick up the slack. Strong bonds between Elvis and Oye imitate the link between Elvis and his mother Beatrice. Elvis experiences further support from Efua and Felicia, who appear to be like siblings. 

Initially, any semblance to a family system is completely erased. Sunday is a pathetic alcoholic, who berates Elvis still. The strong female supporters from the rural countryside are also nowhere to be found with Comfort acting as a source of great stress. 

Now apply a Koolhaus lens. 

Elvis blood ties are unraveled. That much is true. Yet, the King of De Beggars and Redemption replace these family roles in differing, but still supportive fashion. The two supporting characters exist on opposite sides of the spectrum, with the King being old, wise, and moralistic and Redemption being young, impulsive, and seemingly self-determined. In a way, the King is a father to Elvis, advising him and questioning his decisions in a respectful manner. Redemption is a brother, who despite being harsh and rough, is there to support Elvis and make him stronger. 

It is interesting to note that in the countryside, the female family members are most prominent; wherein Lagos, the male, but unrelated family members are the key determinants with Elvis. It is important too to note the impact that family has upon Elvis’s identity, as it is perhaps most responsible for his darkest times, as well as his most hopeful in some ways. 


About cregacho07

I am a senior in SIS. I love books and talking about them. I particularly like literature that concerns itself with the developing world I am enrolled in this course to fulfill my Lit minor requirements and to engage the work of prolific Nigerian writers with equally enthused people.

One response »

  1. kwhudkins says:

    These is a section of Graceland which I am a little disappointed we did not get to discuss, which explicitly shows the power family can have over identity in Nigeria. Even though this passage is almost to obvious to analyze, it carries a lot of power. Sunday tells Elvis about the families in Lagos who deform their children at birth so they may be more affective beggars (188). These families therefore determine their children’s fate from birth, thinking that they are in fact giving their children a leg up. This is a loaded few pages in the book, when Elvis reveals his rape to his father, when Sunday goes on about family name and when Elvis questions Godfrey’s end. However, these few lines about families who literally shape their children’s physical identity and their future really stuck with me. While Sunday did say this in a moment of passion, I believe that this information could actually give us a greater context with which to view how Elvis’ identity is shaped by family.

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