In Chris Abani’s book, Graceland, names are more than a thing to call a person. They are an identity. They are “selected with care by your family and given to you as a talisman”. The names of the characters are not only a description of who a person is (Elvis’ name, for example is no mistake, as he is an Elvis impersonator), but for many characters it describes their entire being. Throughout the novel, we are given a picture of Elvis’ father, Sunday. An abusive, drunken shell of a man, Sunday is often cruel to Elvis. He is rarely vulnerable, as he is at the end of Book One when he is talking to the ghost of Beatrice.
Leaning back in the chair, he laughed bitterly through his tears.
“Of course you don’t understand. You are a woman, how could you? Honor is a secondhand concept for you, earned through your husbands or sons. But for us… for us it is different,” he continued. “I had come too far to step down. People were looking at me; my honor was naked, and I had to clothe it.”
Sobs wracked his body and he fought to gain control. Meanwhile, the Temptations were “talkin’ bout my girl, my girl.”
Letting out this breath, he continued. “I know I lost. Dat is the consequence of war, Beatrice. Someone wins, anoder loses. But as long as de fight was with honor, both warriors can rest peacefully.”
Sunday’s name is of particular significance to me at this point. He is at the end of his rope, the end of a long life, the end of his week. He has experienced love, loss, intrigue and happiness, but now he is simply worn down. He is lazy, as one normally is on Sunday, drunk, and fed up with the events of the past and the hopelessness of the future. He is a man who has simply reached the end, and is waiting to move on. In this sense, Sunday’s name is not so much of a talisman as it is a plain understanding of his life as we see it. He is nearing the end.
For reference of the article title: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mE0YUsQr5Xk