american dream

“She reached into her bag and pulled out a postcard. Elvis took it and stared at it for a long time. It had four panels on the front. In one, the word “Vegas” was spelled out in lights…The third panel featured an Elvis impersonator, while the fourth was a photo of the Graceland chapel. This is an omen, he thought. This is it.” (167).

In this scene, Felicia tells Elvis that she is going to Vegas and that he should go with. Elvis looks at the postcard and considers it an “omen.” An omen is a prophetic sign, and Elvis believes that it is a sign that he should go and make a name for himself as a dancer in the United States. Elvis even continues to tell Felecia that he does not need to go to school because he will be able to become famous as a dancer in the United States. This scene is ironic because it reminds me of the earlier scene that I discussed in an earlier blog post in which Elvis discusses statistics. Elvis talks about how the statistics are wrong about Lagos and how they talk about all of the millionaires but do not mention the poverty. The statistics are skewed, and therefore people go to Lagos searching for jobs and a life that they will not find. I think that the same is happening here, but Elvis is on the other side of the statistic. Rather than knowing the truth, he hears that in America, he can make it as a famous dancer, and therefore, when he sees the Elvis impersonator on the postcard, he wants to go there. In America, it is not easy to make it as a dancer either, and impersonators are not usually respected for their profession. Despite these facts, Elvis believes the opposite. This is because of the idea of the American dream. People believe that going to America changes lives because anything is possible, yet there is plenty of poverty in America as well. Elvis does not know this because he does not see those statistics, just as people do not see the statistics about Lagos. Rather, Elvis sees the shiny postcard with the Elvis impersonator and assumes that it is a glorified profession and that he will be successful there.

I think that the image of the chapel on the postcard if also ironic. The name of the chapel is “Graceland” which is the name of the book. The named Graceland seems like a happy name. It seems like a name for something that is innocent and pure, due to the word “Grace” However, in both instances, this is not the case. The book is far from happy and pure, same with Elvis’s life in Lagos. Additionally, the chapel in Vegas is probably not pure or innocent either. Vegas chapels are known to be the opposite of that, and therefore it is ironic that Elvis sees this as a pure prophetic sign. Prophecies can be good or evil, and I find that in this case, it can be an evil one because it is tempting Elvis to a life that is not what it appears to be.

One thought on “american dream

  1. saradelnegro

    I think this makes a really good point. Of all people, I would have expected Elvis to think twice about thinking he could make it as a dancer in America based solely off of what he sees on a postcard. He himself acknowledges that the skewed statistics about Lagos give off a false image of the city to other people. He says the statistics are why people move to Lagos searching for work that isn’t actually there. Elvis clearly knows that statistics are not to be trusted, yet he immediately trusts the information on the postcard about Vegas. I think that this shows how easily people trust statistics because they are concrete facts and are considered a reliable source of information. But this shows that the statistics you see might not actually represent what they appear to. For example, just because Lagos has a large number of millionaires doesn’t mean that everyone is a millionaire, but many move to Lagos anyways because that statistic gives off the impression that Lagos is a wealthy and prosperous city. No one thinks to question statistics, but maybe we should.

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